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Sean O’Casey

By Garry O’Connor

The writer whose greatest creation was himself…

The character Sean O’Casey designed for himself became real and inhabitable – much greater than any of the great stage characters he carved out of his Dublin upbringing.

Born John Casey in Dublin, 1880, whilst his oldest siblings had been educated to the age of eighteen, before he was fourteen the future playwright had already been sent out to work.

As a young man he embraced Irish nationalism, learnt the language, and Gaelicised his name; it was almost time for Sean O’Casey to enter stage right.

It was during this time he began writing, but, unlike the satirical ballads that became staples for the rebels, it would be 1923 before one of his plays was publically performed.

The Shadow of a Gunman marked the beginning of his relationship with the Abbey Theatre, and before long he was being touted as J. M. Synge’s heir.

Like his creations, drawn from his own life and those of the people around him, O’Casey’s blunt honesty, his readiness to fight over his opinions, incurred measures of ill will.

Sean O’Casey’s life is as rich and layered as any play, yet in this skilfully crafted biography Garry O’Connor reveals the man behind the myth, and all his glorious contradictions.



Garry O’Connor is an English biographer, novelist and playwright. He has written for many newspapers and periodicals, including the Times, Mail, and Theatre Quarterly, and has had more than twenty works of fiction and non-fiction published, including The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Maggie Teyte, his grand-aunt, and Darlings of the Gods: One Year in the Lives of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. He is a former director at the Royal Shakespeare Company.


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