Sunday 25 August 2019

The Matchmaker, as relevant and funny today, as ever

With Internet dating and matchmaking apps people are finding it just as hard as ever to find ‘the one’. The Matchmaker, by John B. Keane is as relevant today as it always was.

How many 30 something men do you know who aren’t ready or willing to settle down? How many women who just can’t find a decent guy? It’s a story we hear again and again in every corner of the country. Once upon a time, in rural villages in Ireland the matchmaker would make introductions and bring desperate bachelors and lonely women together.

The matchmaking tradition in Ireland was one John B. Keane wrote extensively about, sometimes scornfully (Sive), sometimes in a positive light (The Matchmaker). He saw the function as a necessary one, particularly in the West of Ireland. Traditional reserve and the demands of rural living often meant people ‘missed the boat’ and ended up in a lonely condition, warming themselves alone by a fire in a farmhouse in the evenings. Emigration reeked desolation on rural communities and those who stayed to toil on the land and struggle against the elements were left with slim pickings. Sound familiar? Often they weren’t even in a position to consider courtship until they’d inherited land, often they wouldn’t have known what to do with it if they had.

Keane himself said that the West of Ireland would struggle for population if not for the traditional matchmaker who knew the needs and the temperaments of his community. We may see it as a relic from a time long ago and a disappearing way of life, but the current success of dating apps like Tinder with more than 150,000 users in Ireland shows people still need a third party to meet like-minded people.

When Vanity Fair journalist Nancy Jo Sales wrote ‘Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse’, to much furore, she was only really articulating something we all knew deep down. People are finding it as difficult to find the right person, and simply adding more choice doesn’t help.

The Matchmaker, based on the novella “Letters of a County Matchmaker”, by John B. Keane, will play at The Gaiety Theatre for six nights from the 9th of November.  The production stars t Mary McEvoy, Jon Kenny (d’Unbelievables). The play is a comedy, yet as we all know, there’s nothing humorous about loneliness and the absurdity of how Irish people deal with their repressed feelings is mined for comedy gold by the rapier sharp wit of John B. Keane.

The play follows the efforts of Dicky Mick Dicky O Connor to make matches for the lonely and lovelorn. Keane, an avid observer of people and the cultures that bind and create their view of the world uses “The Matchmaker” as an exploration of rural loneliness.

Aware that generations of people became masters of their own destinies late in life, and only then began to look for companionship and love, once their duties as minder of aging parents were concluded or they had finally inherited, or were the left over brother or sister.

Using his inimitable way with words and his one sense of “devilment” and wit, Keane delves into the longings, hungers, fears and foibles of this collection of lonely county people and creates a marvellously colourful world, taking us back to a simpler time, when phones were few and far between and the only web was one left behind by spiders.

The Matchmaker is as relevant and as funny today as ever.


Sponsored by: MCD

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