The Silver Tassie synopsis
Music by Mark-Anthony Turnage
Libretto by Amanda Holden after Sean O’Casey
First performed: 2000
The Heegans’ flat, Dublin, October 1915
Mrs Heegan and her husband, Sylvester, are waiting with Susie, a neighbour, for the return of their son Harry who’s playing in a football match. Harry’s on leave from active service and due to return to the front that evening. While Susie lovingly prepares Harry’s kit, Mrs Heegan goes out in search of her son. Sylvester recalls Harry’s many fine qualities. A religious fanatic, Susie reproaches Sylvester for his blasphemy.
Another neighbour, Mrs Foran, enters. Her husband, Teddy, is also due to return to the front with Harry. Placing a pan of food on the Heegans’ stove, she goes to look for Mrs Heegan. Susie and Sylvester continue to argue. Mrs Heegan and Mrs Foran return without Harry. Teddy Foran’s supper is burnt and his wife furiously rushes off to her own flat.
Sounds of breaking crockery and raised voices are heard from upstairs: Teddy is beating his wife. Trying to escape from him, Mrs Foran bursts into the Heegans’ flat and seeks their protection. Teddy follows her and there is a quarrel. He storms off to smash up his home.
Harry arrives, accompanied by Jessie, his girlfriend, and Barney, his best friend. He has won the cup – a silver tassie – for his team, and he and Barney enjoy reliving the victory. Before he, Barney and Teddy have to leave for the trenches, they enjoy a toast from the tassie.
At the front, close to a Red Cross station, November
From the horror of the trenches, the Croucher, a prophet of doom, ironically misquotes from the Old Testament. Soldiers wearily reflect on their situation. Stretcher-bearers carry casualties to the Red Cross station. The Corporal enters with parcels for the men, one of which contains a football. The soldiers immediately begin a game, but it is interrupted by news of an enemy attack.
A Dublin hospital ward, Spring 1918
Susie is now a nurse on the same ward where Harry is a patient. Wounded in action, he is paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Dr Maxwell flirts with Susie on his ward round before examining Harry, who is due to have an operation the next morning; however, Harry is sceptical about any improvement the operation might bring. Harry’s parents and the Forans visit him. Teddy’s eyes are bandaged: he has been blinded at the front. During the visit Harry discovers that Barney has been awarded the VC for saving his life. Harry’s girlfriend Jessie has come with the visitors to the hospital, but she will not come in despite Harry’s desperate calling to her. Susie returns and demands that the visitors leave at once. Alone with Susie, Harry’s frustration spills over into anger. Barney arrives with Harry’s ukulele and some flowers from Jessie.
The celebration dance at the football club, Summer 1919
Harry’s operation failed and he will remain paralysed for the rest of his life. He follows Barney and Jessie, whom he taunts. The Forans join the Heegans for a drink, during which comments are passed on Jessie’s and Susie’s behaviour. Harry is suddenly unwell and is attended by Dr Maxwell and Susie. He demands the tassie which he won for the club, drinks from it once again and vehemently rejects their sympathy. After everyone else has returned to the dance, Teddy goes over to Harry. Susie returns with Harry’s ukulele and he begins to accompany himself in a song, but soon breaks off. He picks up the silver tassie and wheels himself off into the garden, where he sees Barney and Jessie making love. The two men quarrel and a fight breaks out during which Harry is flung from his wheelchair. Dr Maxwell separates them and he and Susie lift Harry back into his wheelchair. Harry bids everyone a passionate farewell, flings the tassie to the floor and leaves with the blinded Teddy.
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