Jon Kenny in The Matchmaker

ONE OF Ireland’s greatest comic talents, Jon Kenny, joins much-loved Irish actor Mary McEvoy in a new revival of Michael Scott’s iconic production of John B Keane’s The Matchmaker which comes to the Town Hall Theatre.

Keane’s hilarious hit play follows the efforts of Dicky Mick Dicky O’Connor to make matches for the lonely and lovelorn from all parts of the country. At the centre of this celebrated production is Keane’s marvellous and mischievous wit coupled by his unparalleled way with words. The play takes us back to a time when phones were few and far between, and the only web was one left behind by spiders.

The production opened in Cork last Monday and the following afternoon Jon Kenny took some time to chat about the show. He began by expressing his admiration for Keane and revealing there are several Keane plays already gracing his CV.

“I’m enjoying doing this show,” he says. “I love the language of John B Keane. He makes the most ordinary, mundane, things become colourful. I’m a Keane fan, I’ve been in a few of his plays now. I did The Field last year with Shoestring Theatre Company in Charleville. It was a nice production, we did the murder scene outside the actual theatre so it was interesting getting the audience out into what looked like a field, it worked very well, it was like they were onlookers at the scene of the crime. I’ve also done Sive and The Year of the Hiker.”

Kenny not only plays the eponymous matchmaker but also an array of his colourful clients. “John B wrote this in the 1960s, but as for the characters, human nature is human nature and they all suffer from one thing which is loneliness, wanting to have someone or be with someone,” he says. “From that perspective it is timeless.

“The characters are interesting, there’s one guy who is from the landed gentry and he is looking for a partner, another one is a jockey, someone else is a small farmer. They’re all very different with their own personalities so that’s interesting for me to play as I hop in and out of them. I feel a closeness as well to the rural nature of them, it’s something I know as I was brought up in the country.”

Kenny reflects on The Matchmaker’s enduring appeal.

“It’s timeless,” he declares. “These days more and more you see dating sites being advertised for single people so that’s humanity, it’s been going on since the beginning of time. The great thing about the play is that it is of its time, but Keane is understanding of people, of the matchmaker, there is a great tolerance about him and a roguery as well.

“Keane is very much in touch with the natural drives of the human spirit, as well as being a spiritual man in his own way. I think he believed that nature and love are very natural things and the force and energy of love is natural and I think that comes across very much in the play.

“It’s also very funny but it can be poignant at times too and that’s nice because it changes the whole tone of it. It’s very enjoyable and in your face and bawdy in places, Keane has a way of talking about sexuality and the physicality of life that very few people could write the way he did.”

Galway audiences can also look forward to a repeat visit from Jon Kenny next month when he comes here with his latest show Mag Mell.

“It’s a show I’ve written and directed and it’s in the Town Hall for one night,” he tells me. “It’s a show I’ve been working on for about a year with traditional Irish musicians. The narrative is based on traditional music.”

Set on the mythical island of Mag Mell off the west coast of Ireland, it is a powerfully moving, dramatic, show filled with sensational visuals, stirring newly composed music, and exuberant dance. It is a creative adaptation of old Irish ghost and folk tales that also tells a truly modern story.

First up though, we can enjoy Kenny and Mary McEvoy in The Matchmaker in the Town Hall Theatre from Thursday April 24 to Saturday 26 at 8pm nightly.

Tickets are €20/18 and available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

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