Wexford treatment for The Man From Clare
The Man From Clare is hardly the jewel in the crown of John B Keane's cáipín, but under Alan Corcoran's lucid direction for the Wexford Drama Group at the Wexford Arts Centre it provided a couple of hours of fun and games, and a few tears as well.
With the All-Irelands on the horizon this was a good time of year for a play loosely based around a GAA football match between local teams from Kerry and Clare, with all the souped-up rivalry and bragging that such encounters tend to encourage as tribal insecurities float to the surface.
The Man From Clare first emerged in 1962, so it's one of John B's early works. It focuses on match-winning footballer Padraic O'Dea, the man of the title who in his mid-thirties is expected to lead his team Cuas in Clare to victory against the home team of Bealabawn, located just across the Shannon in Kerry. The match brings O'Dea the sudden discovery that he no longer has the skills and strength to stay on top of his game. The role is convincingly played by John Crosby as he struggles to accept that his place as top dog is being taken by the younger and fitter man, Jim Flynn, energetically played by Simon O'Carroll.
Meanwhile the lads are invited after the match to stay a while in the house of Morisheen Brick, with Eugene McLoughlin wringing all the laughs from his role as the father of single ex-nun Nellie.
Her stoic diffidence is finely captured by Louise Dillon as Morisheen tries, with no degree of subtlety, to get her married off to Jim so that he himself can pursue the woman of his dreams. She has to endure insults about her appearance from O'Dea's father Daigan (Michael Murphy).
Meanwhile Flynn and O'Dea indulge in a bout of fisticuffs while the rest of the team are out drinking and chasing women like proper footballers.
The sound and lighting at the Wexford Arts Centre (designed by Pat Jackman and Cian Redmond respectively) added to the pleasure of the occasion for the full house on the night, and the appreciative audience were riveted throughout.