IMAGINE BEING stranded with the legendary Joe Dolan in a rural pub in Co Cavan on the night his car breaks down. That is the fantasy scenario imagined in Padraic McIntyre’s The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down.
The play is an uproarious comedy-drama which has become a box office smash via its appearances at a string of regional venues over the last few months. The hit show now comes to the Town Hall Theatre on Friday February 25 and Saturday 26 and, whatever about the election vote-casting and vote-counting that might be going around then, this play is a surefire theatrical poll-topper.
A look at the show’s Facebook page reveals glowing online tributes from those who have seen it already, such as one Sinead Fee who enthused “Spent all of €18 going to see The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down in the Arts Centre in Mullingar last night, the guts of a two hour drive each way and couldn’t have a drink, I never laughed out loud so much in all my life! What a fantastic show as good and better than anything I’ve ever seen including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival...”
“I love coming out of a play/concert/show and just buzzing,” raved another more-than-satisfied punter, “and this show had the ingredients to do this in bucketfuls.”
The show has already been a sell-out success in Cavan (20 performances), Roscommon, Longford, Mullingar, Monaghan, and Leitrim and is a real tonic to beat the recession and election blues.
Indeed, it looks well on the way to becoming Ireland’s answer to Mamma Mia as discussions are busily proceeding about transferring it for a summer run to one of the major venues in Dublin.
The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down is set on a stormy St Stephen’s night in rural Cavan pub, the Glenaduff Inn, with regulars gathering to celebrate the 60th birthday party of local stalwart, The Horse Munley.
As the storm worsens and people head home a knock to the door brings the night’s entertainment to a whole new level as a certain showband singer makes an unexpected visit. The play features a host of colourful characters that audiences will easily identify with, each with his/her own story. As the play unfolds so too does the music and craic to provide a wonderful evening of theatrical entertainment.
The play is both written and directed by Padraic McIntyre and over an afternoon phonecall from his Cavan home, he described how he came to write it.
A native of Bailieboro, McIntyre trained as an actor at Cardiff’s Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
After working for a while in Britain, in 2004 he returned to his native Cavan where, along with Aaron Monaghan and Mary Hanley, he set up Livin’ Dred Theatre Company, based in Virginia’s Ramor Theatre.
To date Livin’ Dred has presented 13 plays, comprising both classics such as Conversations on a Homecoming and Beauty Queen of Leenane and new works like Michael Harding’s The Tinker’s Curse.
“I initially came home because my brother got leukaemia and I wanted to help out,” McIntyre recalls, “but I had also seen that trying to make it as an actor in England entailed getting an agent and then spending a lot of time sitting by the telephone waiting for it to ring.
“I wanted to be more pro-active with my theatre career, that seemed to me a better way to go. I felt that whole Cavan/north midlands region had a strong potential theatre audience so that’s what provided the impetus behind Livin’ Dred, and the company has been very successful since we set it up, thankfully.”
McIntyre previously penned one children’s play for Livin’ Dred but The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down can perhaps be seen as his first ‘real’ play as a writer.
“I was interested in writing something for a while,” he explains. “Pat McCabe, who I worked with a few times, gave me the advice to ‘just do it’ so that’s what I did. There’s various stories and characters that I came across that have found their way into the play.
“I remember working in a pub in Holloway in London where a girl told me about moving to Ireland trying to find her father and I used that. Then there’s Barney the publican’s ghost story about his father meeting and chatting with someone he later found out had died earlier that night; that actually happened to my father, I remember him telling me about it and he wasn’t the kind of guy to make up stories.
“As for Joe Dolan, the idea of having him in the play just popped into my head one night. His music was, I suppose, the soundtrack of my life even though I would have resisted it initially as a teenager.”
McIntyre cast the play using semi-professional actors but they all acquit themselves with flying colours, and none more so than the white-suited John O’Grady as the incomparable Joe Dolan himself.
“John does a great job as Joe; we didn’t ask him to do anything special to heighten his physical resemblance to Joe but he’s entirely convincing,” says McIntyre. “He sings the songs himself in the show as well, they’re not dubbed. We’ve had members of Joe’s family come to the show and they’re very happy with the way he’s represented.”
The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down is a show that has had audiences begging for “More and more and more” and doubtless its “Endless Magic” will continue to work its spell when it comes to the Town Hall next weekend.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie