The culmination of the four year International Initiative at Indiana State University’s SummerStage is a production of "Sword Against the Sea" by the Irish poet and dramatist William Butler Yeats. It’s a fascinating piece of theatre. Adaptor Arthur Feinsod has brought together six of Yeats’ plays and poetry around the story of the mythic Irish hero Cuchulain. "Sword Against the Sea" is full of Yeats love and pride in Irish myth. Yeats was long a student of Irish myth and history. He felt that the Irish tales of the hero Cuchulain should rank with the epic Arthuriad of England or the Niebelungenlied of Germany.
The play is set around these tales of the mighty Cuchulain.. Cuchulain is an invincible fighter and lover, but he’s also very much a vulnerable man both emotionally and intellectually. Cuchulain is distracted from the well of immortality by the flight of a hawk. He is overwhelmed by spirits that his pride has him war against. In his full mature powers he is caught up by the consequences of his lusty youth. And finally in inevitable age Cuchulain’s enemies overcome him.
In addition to his love for things Irish, "Sword Against the Sea" reflects Yeats fascination with the formal drama of the Japanese Noh plays and the results of his lifelong experiments with the theatre. Yeats did bring poetry back into the theatre, but the cast’s diction is excellent and the language itself is wonderfully clear. In the production directed by Sam McCready at ISU’s SummerStage "Sword Against the Sea"is a stylized spectacle with wonderfully fantastic costumes and masks, chorus and dance. There’s plenty of variety as the most severe scenes may suddenly give way to joyful dance and grim activities may alternate with the comedy of a blind no-it-all and his bumbling chicken stealing companion.
"Sword Against the Sea" has two final performances in the IUS SummerStage repertoire, Tuesday the 19th and Friday the 22nd. From Terre Haute, the production will travel to the Yeats International Summer School in Ireland.
You can read this review and hear an interview with Sam McCready on the Arts Interviews page .