Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cheerio, Titan.

My acquaintance with George Bernard Shaw is cursory and anecdotal at best. His only two plays I’ve read are Saint Joan and Pygmalion, the latter because My Fair Lady fascinated me. Of the Irish and self-confessedly communist playwright, Sean O’Casey, I know next to naught. My abysmal ignorance happened to be brought to an end pleasurably last week when my copy of Cheerio, Titan by Elieen O’Casey magically resurfaced. I must have bought it at least four years back from Lotus Book House which sadly is no more. This thoroughly enchanting account of the friendship between GBS and O’Casey with fascinating photographs of the chief cast of characters and key locations is a compact 154-page hardcover volume published in 1989 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. The pivotal incidence in the narrative is the rejection of O’Casey’s anti-war play, The Silver Tassie, by WB Yeats and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 1928. The book title is taken from the last sentence of the letter GBS wrote to Sean expressing his admiration for and whole-hearted support of the play. Elieen O’Casey writes without guile and with total candour and sincerity. In her account, GBS stands out as charming, witty and human who befriended and defended Sean and admired Elieen to the extent of calling her to his death bed (she was practically the last friend to see him before he breathed his last). Try as I might I could not somehow warm up to Sean in spite of his steadfastly loyal wife’s best efforts to paint him in the most flattering colours – and my own weakness for left-leaning writers and artists. It’s a wonderful read all told, though.

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