Will someone take Father McNabb to this plug, please?
The Star Turns
R SEAN O'CASEY should make the acquaintance of the White Priest of Haverstock Hill and add him to the Red Priest of the Politicians and the Brown Priest of the Poor, if " The Star Turns Red " is to be taken seriously as an argument. Fr. McNabb in his habit could walk straight on to the stage of the Unity Theatre, making it even more of " a people's theatre," built to serve as a means of dramatising their life and struggles. His lines would come to him automatically, and Red Jim would meet a challenge worthy of his mettle. In fact, I doubt whether he could be prevented from making such an appearance, if anyone were bold enough to take him to a stall.
It is Christmas Eve (presumably in Ireland), and the silver Star of Bethlehem watches over the city as the music of carols fills the air. In a workingclass home one son is a Red, the other a Saffron-Shirt Fascist. The peace of the holy season is to be disturbed by civil war, and one of the Red leaders, father of the Red son's girl, is shot by the Fascist son.
After an interlude, in which the author lets the Trade Union leaders have the full benefit of his savage contempt, the wake is held. In a superbly dramatic scene, the Church, the truly poor, maimed and blind, and the Reds process around the corpse, struggling for the keeping of the spirit.
In a final act the star turns red, and
everything. including the Brown Priest of the Poor, falls Into the Communist lap, as a noiseless, mimed battle Is fought., to be ended with the clenched fist. and the Internationale.
Tmost striking thing about the play is that O'Casey only recognises in it Catholicity as an effective enemy of Communism. This may be partly accidental, since the scene. is laid in Ireland. Even so, it is a lesson worth teaching on a London stage. Fascism is not taken seriously, except in so far as it receives the support of the Church, and the chief impression the Saffron Shirts leave on the mind is that they indulge in manners ever so slightly worse than those of the Red troopers. The forces of a Capitalist order are mocked in a ludicrous Lord Mayor, and only given real attention under their Trade Union disguise. The rich flit through in satin dresses, to be bundled away in a cellar out of cheer pity. The Church alone is left, and with comparative seriousness and honesty does O'Casey tackle the real foe.
Catholicity is given three advocates, the Red Priest, the Brown Priest and the down and outs. The Red Priest of the Politicians, tall, ascetic, and majestic in his scarlet robes, defends authority and order in argument and feeling reminiscent of Shaw's Inquisitor. He hardens his heart and narrows 'tis vision in order to be truly kind.
I don't think that the author has been too unfair in his presentation of one of the aspects of Catholicity, and real life representatives of this element are, at times, less intelligent., less noble and much less Christian than the Red Priest.
TBrown Priest of the Poor is less well drawn, though more likely to evoke the sympathy of a hostile audience. His heart is with the workers, but obedience drags him at the foot of the Red Priest. weakly mumbling Berum Novarant or Quadragesimo Ann-U. This is where Fr. McNabb should come in. The procession of down and outs, the real poor, cling to the Church lest their fate become yet more intolerable, finding spiritual consolation where all hope of earthly happiness has long since vanished.
But the down and outs, if they are not allowed to become very effective advocates of Christianity, more than serve their purpose in exposing the true nature of O'Casey's Communism. They are his test case-and he rejects and despises them. They are the living dead. of no interest to one for whom " life is everything and death is nought." Life, power, strength, birth, love, youththese are the elements of his Red creed; It is for these alone that the Star of Bethlehem turns red. It is the survival of the fittest, or rather the strongest, once again. All the fallacies of Liberalism, all the vices of Capitalism, all the ruthlessness of Fascism-here they are, resurrected for the glory of Red Jim and his Red troopers.
THE argument is self-revealing and, maybe, very out of date. Even Red romanticism can only ride on the crest of the wave. Under present conditions It is only fit for the stage, and a rare dramatic success it makes there, bravely played and produced by the amateurs who serve the Unity. It only needed "God Save The King" at the end to complete the evening, before we returned to the real heavens in which the Red Star of Russia shines by day and night.