Theatre: There are plenty of laughs in John B Keane's Letters of a Successful TD
The Successful TD, Gaitey Theatre, Dublin
There are plenty of laughs in this well thought-out production of John B Keane’s Letters of a Successful TD.
Adapted by the director Michael Scott and the two actors, Mary McEvoy and Jon Kenny, the company revisits the format of The Matchmaker, with much more success and a keener sense of contemporary relevance.
It is the 1960s and Tull MacAloo is a Kerry TD who stands for “the party” – an organization that could be either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. He complains bitterly about the unreliability of Independents, a sentiment that has a certain extra relevance at the moment.
MacAloo takes credit for all the local road building and drainage schemes. His wife suffers from her nerves, and gives him hell. A romantic indiscretion, which he insists is just innocent chat, trips him up and the party goes sour on him. Suddenly the Independent benches beckon, and the balance of power is up for grabs.
Kenny and McEvoy do a super job playing all the parts: Tull and his wife Betty, their useless son Mick and their scheming daughter Kate, as well as a host of locals in search of favours, like wheelchairs and false teeth. Party activists in trenchcoats are a particular highlight.
The production is full of exuberance. The more outrageous the action, the more credible it feels. Whilst the whole thing is high farce, there is hardly a word of it that doesn’t feel true. But when a political high farce feels very close to realism, what’s on the stage may be hilarious, but the implications are not so funny.