Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey


The peacock said, 'What is the point of this silent beauty, if I am defeated by the sound of my own voice?' 'Your lot in life has been assigned by the decision of the Fates,' said Juno. 'You have been allotted beauty; the eagle, strength; the nightingale, harmony; the raven has been assigned prophetic signs, while unfavourable omens are assigned to the crow; and so each is content with his own particular gift.'

Do not strive for something that was not given to you, lest your disappointed expectations become mired in discontent (source: Aesop's Fables).

Juno and the Peacock, a searing, realistic drama about the everyday impact of the Irish Civil War that premiered on March 3, 1923 at the Abbey Theatre, was recognized as a classic instantly.

CAPTAIN BOYLE is "Captain" by virtue of a single trip made as a seaman on a collier bound from London to Liverpool. He is usually known to his neighbours, however, as the "paycock" on account of his strutting, consequential gait. He is a worthless toper and idler, but withal, possesses a certain rough eloquence of expression. He and his crony, Joxer, spend most of their time drinking in "pubs" or playing cards in the Boyle flat, where Joxer flatters him to his face and steals from behind his back. Boyle has nicknamed his wife "Juno" because she "was born and christened in June. I met her in June; we were married in June an' Johnny was born in June."

Publicity card for Juno and the PaycockThe son, Johnny, is a cripple and practically a nervous wreck due to a bullet received in the Easter Week Rebellion of 1916. His nervousness and irritability increase almost to mania when he learns through a newspaper that one of his former "Die-hard" comrades, Bobbie Tancred, has been killed because of information that Johnny has given the authorities.

The daughter, Mary, through reading has acquired a taste for better things, and longs for a different sort of life. She has discarded one suitor, Jerry Devine, a trades-union organizer, in favor of slick young Charles Bentham, a school teacher and law student. This, she feels, may be a step toward realizing her ambitions. Bentham tells the family that they are about to inherit a legacy from a relative. There can be no doubt about it, because he himself has drawn the will.

On the strength of their expectations, the Boyle family goes on a spending spree. They borrow from their neighbours and stretch their credit with the local tradesmen to the uttermost limit. Two months later both the Boyles and their creditors learn that the legacy is uncollectible due to Bentham's clumsiness in drafting the will. Thenceforward Bentham loses his interest in Mary, although she is shortly to bear his child. As if all this were not tragedy enough, the Irregular Mobilizers learn of Johnny's part in Bobbie Tancred's death and hurry him off to his doom for betrayal of a comrade. An hour later Mrs. Boyle is summoned by police to identify her son's body.

Through it all the Paycock and his friend Joxer remain gloriously drunk, and it is the Paycock who speaks the final words of the play: "The whole world's in a terrible state of chaos." (source Minute History of the Drama by Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935)

From The Stage of December 8, 1983, by Winnie Lees

Publicity card for Juno and the PaycockAs Sean O'Casey's most popular play, Juno and the Paycock has been performed many times, but it is hard to imagine a finer production than this new one from the Citizens' Theatre Company under director Giles Havergal.

Set in a slum tenement of 1924, the tragi-comedy of the Boyle family reflects the social, political and industrial climate of Dublin of the period.

Only the indomitable spirit of the mother "Juno" Boyle, holds together the family as she copes with a ne'er-do-well husband and their children's problems.

Sometimes Citizens plays are presented in a heightened dramatic style allowing little scope for naturalist acting, but here the players make maximum use of the chance Havergal gives them to create flesh-and-blood characters.

Ciarán Hinds, perfect as "Captain" Jack Boyle, the hard-drinking, loud-mouthed strutting peacock of the title, has a tremendous foil in Patrick Hannaway, playing his drinking pal, "Joxer" Daly - sly, malicious old reprobate with a glib quotation for every occasion.

These two provide the laughter with O'Casey releases the tensions in the tragic drama being unfolded.

At first glance rather too young and slightly built to be the ideal Juno, Johann Kirby reveals such inner strength that she quickly convinces as the archetypal slum mother, long-suffering but ever protective and stoical.

In Kenny Miller's effectively stark tenement setting, lighting designer Gerry Jenkinson provides Juno with a memorable final moment to an evening of magnificent theatre.

Directed by Giles Havergal
Designed by Kenny Miller
Lighting Designed by Gerry Jenkinson

Needle Nugent Laurance Rudic Captain Jack Boyle (the Paycock) Ciarán Hinds
Juno Boyle Johanna Kirby Johnny Boyle Lorcan Cranitch
Mary Boyle Charon Bourke Joxer Daly Patrick Hannaway
Mrs. Maisie Madigan Jane Bertish Mrs. Tancred Ida Schuster
Jerry Devine Ian Puleston-Davies Charles Bentham Jonathan Scott-Taylor
The Irregular Stewart Porter and Billy Garrett, Gerard McCabe, Alan McCulloch, David Monteath

Company/theatre: Glasgow Citizens Theatre
Run: 1983-10

Websites of general interest


The Citizens Company 1979-1985

Ciaran Hinds in Juno and The Paycock

The Production, photos John Vere Brown

Ciaran Hinds and Laurance Rudic in Juno and The PaycockJohanna Kirby in Juno and The Paycock

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