TWO OF Ireland’s longest-serving and foremost actors - Derry Power and Des Keogh - team up in the award-winning play The Quiet Land which comes to the Town Hall Theatre on Tuesday May 16 at 8pm.
Written by Malachy McKenna, a graduate of NUI Galway, The Quiet Land was first done as a radio play on RTÉ, winning the PJ O’Connor Radio Drama Award in 2014 and, in 2015, a best drama prize in New York’s Festival of World Radio. Also in 2015, McKenna adapted the play for stage which is when Derry Power and Des Keogh came on board. It has since enjoyed a number of revivals and tours, charming audiences and critics alike, and now makes its first visit to Galway.
The play introduces us to two elderly farmers, Eamon (Power ), and Nashee (Keogh ), who meet at a gate on a remote hillside. These men are old friends, old rivals, old neighbours. They are men of heart, of humour, of hardness. Their conversation is a throwback to a gentler time, when silence was as telling as declaration, and meaning was more often found between the lines, rather than on them.
However there is nothing gentle about today's conversation. In facing the bitter reality of their remote defiance, Eamon and Nashee have grown fearful and desperate. They are forced to confront each other with some heartbreaking truths that test their friendship to its limit. After today, will they ever again talk on this hillside? The Quiet Land is a celebration of the humour, resilience, and endearing innocence of an exiled generation as it struggles to survive in the isolated rural Ireland of today. It is Malachy McKenna's heartfelt tribute to a rare breed of forgotten men who live a long way in off the road.
Power and Keogh are both in their eighties, yet still relish performing. “We first worked together way back in 1966, in a revue by Fergus Linehan called Funny Bones,” Power tells me over an afternoon chat. “We’ve worked together a few times over the years since then. This play The Quiet Land is going very well for us; it’s a beautiful piece of writing, really lovely. It’s only an hour long but it packs everything into that hour. I don’t think anyone leaves the theatre feeling they have been deprived of anything. The writer Malachy McKenna is a very talented guy.”
A native of Youghal, Power has enjoyed a long and illustrious career appearing with leading companies both in Ireland and the UK, including the Abbey, Druid, and English National Theatre. He has shared the stage with starry names like Vanessa Redgrave, Barbara Windsor, and Hugh Bonneville, and has worked with such feted directors as Lindsay Anderson, Jim Sheridan, Garry Hynes, and Patrick Mason. His screen credits include roles in iconic TV series like Z Cars, The Irish RM, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, and Ballykissangel, and the films My Left Foot, Educating Rita, and Far and Away.
He describes the two characters in The Quiet Land and the play itself: “It’s hard to separate them. They’re two neighbouring farmers. Eamon is coming out of hospital and he meets Nashee and they discuss life. It’s a sad piece, but it is a very funny and joyous piece as well. It’s all about the modern world that we live in where you hear of farmers being threatened.
"It’s very topical on that level. It’s sad and typical of the world we live in. Various different aspects of rural life are mentioned and dealt with. It is a very modern piece but it has a lovely nostalgia to it. They live in a backwater of life but it catches up with them at the end, the whole world catches up with them. They are two men in their eighties and have seen a lot of life but it gets too much for them eventually.”
The current tour of The Quiet Land will see Power’s first appearance on a Galway stage in over a decade. “The last time I played in Galway was in DruidSynge, in 2006,” he recalls. “That was a great experience. We went to New York and Tokyo and the Aran Islands. In previous times I played in the Jesuit Hall with Gemini Productions and the Irish Theatre Company and with the Abbey I did Well Of The Saints in Galway in 1994. I’m looking forward to coming back with The Quiet Land.”
The Quiet Land is directed by Bairbre Ní Chaoimh. Tickets are €20/18 from the Town Hall (091 - 569777, www.tht.ie ).