The Silver Tassie
by Sean O'Casey

Sean O'Casey - The Silver Tassie

Broadcast: Friday 15th April 1966

"The Silver Tassie" is a tale of love and the bitter heroics of war. Set during the First World War, it attacks imperialist wars and the suffering that they cause.

The action opens in the Dublin tenement home of the Heegan family, where Harry, a soldier on leave, arrives a cocky, light-footed hero. He's just won a football championship and the coveted silver tassie. He has also scored the adoration of two women - the righteous and religious Susie Monican and not-quite upright Jessie Taite, whom Harry loves. The victory celebration is abbreviated because Harry and his company, including the hard-drinker brute Teddy Foran, who lives upstairs with his long-suffering wife, must return to the front, where their lives will change forever.

O'Casey described the play as "A generous handful of stones, aimed indiscriminately, with the aim of breaking a few windows. I don't think it makes a good play, but it's a remarkable one."

Adapted for radio by R.D. Smith from Sean O'Casey's fourth play, "The Silver Tassie". In 1928, W. B. Yeats had rejected "The Silver Tassie" to be performed at the Abbey Theatre where O'Casey's three previous plays premiered because the play was an attack on imperialist wars and the suffering they cause. The premier production was funded by Charles B. Cochran, who took only eighteen months to put it on stage. It premièred at the Apollo Theatre in the West End of London on 11th October 1929, but lasted for only 26 performances. It was directed by Raymond Massey, starred Charles Laughton, and with an Act II (battlefield somewhere in France) set design by Augustus John. George Bernard Shaw described "The Silver Tassie" in a letter to O'Casey: "What a hell of a play."

Its Irish première occured six years later on 12th August 1935 at the Abbey Theatre, directed by Arthur Shields, though it ran for only five performances. Despite being popular, the controversy it caused led to O'Casey's permanent departure from Ireland.

With Jim Norton [Harry Heegan], Barry Keegan [Teddy Foran], Elizabeth Morgan [Susie Monican], Brian O'Higgins [Sylvester Heegan], Harry Webster [Simon Norton], Mary O'Farrell [Mrs. Heegan], Marie Conme [Mrs. Foran], Eileen Colgan [Jessie Taite], Kevin Mchugh [Barney Bagnal], Stephen Thorne [The Croucher], Alan Lawrence [The Visitor], Harry Locke [Corporal], Leigh Crutchley [1st. Soldier], Norman Wynne [2nd. Soldier], Wolfe Morris [3rd. Soldier], John Hollis [4th. Soldier / Stretcher Bearer], John Dearth [Staff Wallah], Geoffrey Matthews [Stretcher Bearer], Allan McClelland [Stretcher Bearer / Surgeon Forby Maxwell], Sally Travers [Hospital Sister], Elizabeth Proud [Nun], Anthony Hall [Monk], Betty Huntley-Wright [Nun], and John Justin [Priest].

The music was specially composed and conducted by Frederick Marshall played by Ad hoc ensemble - Alec Whitaker (oboe) and Alf Edwards (consertina); Singers - Ambrosian Singers; Elizabeth Proud; Betty Huntley-Wright; John Justin; Anthony Hall. Music also includes 2'47" of Plainsong.

Produced by R.D. Smith

Re-broadcast on Sunday 13th February 2000 on BBC Radio 3: Sunday Play @ 7:30 p.m.

45 min.


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