FOR three nights last week the Shrughawadda Players played to packed houses in St Eoghan’s Centre, Kilmoganny, highlighting the enduring appeal of John B Keane’s play, Many Yong Men of Twenty which centres around the ravages of immigration in the 1950s and is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in the 1960s.
The night belonged to Martin O’Shea who played the lead role of Danger Mullally. He was superb and was pivotal in bringing the best out of the rest of the cast. His timing was spot on and he got the best out of every line and nuance in the script.
Another major highlight was the performance of the stunning Roseanne Connolly as Peg Finnerty. She was breathtaking and her voice suited the part perfectly. The success of any production of this raucous comedy depends on the quality of the voice of Peg. And Kitty Curley played by Aoife O’Neill was hilarious in the role of the local fortune teller et al. The audience loved her, it must have been the black teeth. Eamon Murphy was excellent as the publican under constant duress from his sister Seelie (Joan Brennan) who struck terror into the rest of the cast when she came on stage.
Maurice (Pete Dunne) and Kevin (Mark Dunphy) were terrific as suitors for Peg. Gerry Carroll as father of immigrating brothers Kevin and Dinny was a demon and outed the savage nature of the hill farmer. Dinny’s English bride, Dot was a great laugh. It was a heart warming night that shows what can be done when a group of talented people get together and decide to put on shows for the local community and for no other reason. Let’s hope they keep going for many years to come. Director, Michael Dowling got everything just right and improvised beautifully because of problems with space. All the actors played their part and musical director Rebecca Murphy did a wonderful job choreographing everything. The music was superb and Olivia Dunne, who played the melodeon, complete with false moustache, was endearing
Even before the curtain went up you got a taste of what you were dealing with, when an elderly lady received a cup of tea and a biscuit from one of the backstage crew, I think it was from Sheila Doran and Suzie Hickey set the tone with her little speech before the play started. So to chairman of Shrughawadda Plyaers, Willie Kearney, (who played the TD, JJ Houlihan in the play like a Mafiosa Don), thank you.
It would be lovely to see this production of the play in the Watergate theatre in Kilkenny even it is for one night only to demonstrate how bad things were in the 1950s and to provide them with a great night’s entertainment.