John B Keane’s famous play “Sive” returns to the Abbey Theatre

Theatre lovers out there and fans of Ireland’s great literary tradition will no doubt be happy to hear the one of our most beloved writers John B Keane’s play “Sive” is currently playing at Dublin‘s famous Abbey Theatre (12th February – 12th April) over half a century after the theatre initially rejected it. “Sive” a tragic story about a beautiful young girl sold against her will in a match to an elderly farmer was written by the late John B Keane over 55 years ago in 1959 and was his second play and the one that helped to bring the talented playwright and writer to public consciousness back in the day and to the place where he is now noted as one of our greatest literary artists. 

Keane is well known to many of today both nationally and internationally for his 1965 play “The Field” which was made into a 1990 film of the same name directed by Irish film director Jim Sheridan and starred the late Irish actor Richard Harris who earned an Oscar nomination for his role. “Sive” was the late playwrights second play and the piece that initially brought him to nationwide attention. Alongside “The Field” and “Molly” it is one of his most famous and best received pieces. The fact that the present renewal is hosted in the Abbey Theatre is of significance as it was this theatre that rejected it outright at the start in 1959. It was only through the generous support of the local Listowel Drama Group who took it on, gave it life and brought it to public attention that the play took off and eventually propelled its then unknown author into literary history. “Sive” with it’s cutting portrayal that exposed a 1950’s Irish landscape and society marked by greed was one of Keane’s most shocking pieces and is one whose theme still bears relevance to today’s audience. A fact that makes the present renewal in the historic surrounds of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre a salivating prospect for many literary and theatre fans in the city.

The Abbey Theatre’s first major revival of Sive in over 20 years is a new production by award-winning director Conall Morrison.

The Abbey Theatre’s first major revival of Sive in over 20 years is a new production by award-winning director Conall Morrison.

Whilst “Sive” is currently playing in the capital, fans of Keane may note that many of his numerous plays often feature prominently in smaller and more local theatres throughout the country on a regular basis. For a proud Kerryman who wrote from his studio about his local pub in Listowel he always remained, despite his emerging national and international fame over the years, close to his rural Irish roots and family. But that may change as it now looks like we might see more of Keane’s many play in the capital as well as throughout the countryside as MCD Promotions working with his family is set to stage an annual John B Keane season at the Gaiety every summer. This upcoming May there will be a revival of Keane’s religious comedy Moll, which is a sort of spiritual predecessor to Father Ted, and tantalizingly we may eventually see the première of two never-produced Keane plays, Piseog and Vigilante in the future.

Whatever the plans for the upcoming summer, in the tempestuous climate of our current spring, when many of us are tempted by indoor activities and attractions across the nation, one can’t go wrong with a visit to one of the Dublin theatres on one’s visits and travels to the capital. So if you’re undertaking a literary tour of Ireland by sampling the arts and the culture, you may be enlivened and entertained with a lively retelling of one of Ireland’s classic plays at the Abbey Theatre this spring.

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