Images of Ireland
By Mattie Lennon.
Detective Sergeant Tony Guerin wrote
his first novel in 1989 and his second one in 1992, two years before his
Three years ago, at the opening of his first play, Cuckoo Blue, staged by the
Lartigue Theatre Group, in Saint John's Theatre Listowel, I was impressed. So
was the man in the seat beside me. His name was Patrick Bergin. The
Dublin-born actor/producer has now bought the rights of Cuckoo Blue and plans
to turn it into a blockbuster movie. His agent has been in serious
negotiations with film companies in Hollywood and they hope to begin shooting
Patrick Bergin intends to produce, direct and play the leading role (of Tim
Cuckoo Blue is a story of intrigue, treachery, infidelity and greed in which
blackmail and cute-hoorism lead to destruction and tragedy. And the script
runs parallel with the idea of Arthur Millar, who said; "The structure of
a play is always the story of how the birds come home to roost".
I'm looking forward to Tony Guerin's characters coming to life once more on
the big screen.
American novelist, Henry James said; "The historian
essentially wants more documents than he can really use: the dramatist only
wants more liberties than he can really take".
When Tony Guerin started on his second play Solo Run he was being both
historian and dramatist. But he didn't want documents or need to take
On Sunday 10th February 1946 a young girl died a tragic death while giving
birth in a Kerry town, She had got pregnant out of wedlock and, a victim of
ignorance and the so-called moral values of the time she was rejected even by
the "caring professions".
They whispered their stories,
They glanced with the eye.
They looked over their shoulders
As I passed them by..................
The ultimate act of rejection came after death when the Canon chained and
locked the Church gates and refused to admit her coffin.
A precocious seven-year-old Tony Guerin assimilated the snatches of adult
conversation and stored it in his active brain...... from where it was
retrieved forty nine years later to become Solo Run.
The tragic event is the play's central theme, but there are others. The main
character Con Casey (who is based on the playwright's father) is complex. He
has an All-Ireland medal, which makes him a local hero. But his failure to
come to terms with the fact that his son is a deformed hunchback puts a severe
strain on the relationship between him and his wife Nora.
When Con Casey takes on the Canon at the Church gate he wins the battle but it
could be said he loses the war. The locals call it "a draw".
Tony Guerin has the John B. Keane knack of weaving the Gaelic football
metaphor, seamlessly, into tragedy, comedy and farce.
And whatever about Shakespeare's claim that a good play needs no epilogue, in
this case Con Casey's soliloquy "crowns the play".
Of this play, Shakespearean in timelessness and sagacious in insight Kerry man
Fr. Pat Moore says it; ".......offers North Kerry a mirror to times not
fully gone". Yes indeed Tony Guerin can put a film or reality "over
the mirrors meant to glass the opulent".
If you ask Tony Guerin what is his greatest work to date he will
(uncharacteristically) answer with the utmost brevity; "Hummin ' ".
In his latest play Hummin' , produced by Red Kettle, he once again uses
North Kerry as a blackboard to display the fears, hates, loves and prejudices
of mankind. It could be said to be a dark comedy and has been described, by an
astute Kerryman (is there any other kind? Says you) as a cross between John B.
Keane and Queatin Tarantino.
Mike Dee is old farmer who lives with his "partner" Jennie, an
ex-prostitute from Dublin. She had left the parish as a young girl, carrying
Mike's child, and went to Dublin where, out of economic necessity, she went on
His nephew, Andy, "complete with Biro", visits Mike. Andy's
suggestion that Mike sign the farm over to him does not meet with unanimous
approval. Jennie, with all the street wisdom of a pavement hostess, can see
such a bequest leaving Mike and her homeless.
Howdy is a thatcher and he has hopes of taking Jennie away on the crossbar of
his bike. Jennie uses her considerable skills in the field to encourage him.
We are already led to believe that there are hints of murdered tourists and
buried hatchets in Mikes past. And now when things come to a head violence
once again erupts. Blood, new hatchets, blackmail and murder culminate
to leave Jennie and Mike facing a deadly confrontation.
Hummin' is Tony Guerin's first professional production. Geraldine Plunkett
plays Jennie and her real-life husband Peader Lamb is an unforgettable Mike.
Brian Doherty, who has played in many successful Red Kettle productions
over the years and recently played Doalty in the Abbey Theatre production of
Translations, plays Andy. Mal Whyte, an actor with wide-ranging
experience, plays Howdy.
Tony swears he knows every character in the play. It is written in a unique
Kerry dialogue and Tony's keen powers of observation, natural instinct for a
good story and seanachi talents transferred to the page have given us a gem.
One critic said; "......had Mr. Guerin been as successful as a Garda as
he is as a playwright there wouldn't be much of a crime fraternity in the
But when I quoted Richard Brinsley Sheridan, to the Kerry dramatist, ( one day
on the South Circular Road); ".....good at a fight but better at a
play" I received by way of reply the Listowel version of "go
Hummin is not to be missed.
Tony Guerin's next play
Directed by Ben Hennesy
Geraldine Plunkett, Peadar Lamb, Mal White and Brian Doherty
The Red Kettle Theatre Company
Lane Theatre (01) 6795720
May to 15th June
Garter Lane Arts Center, Waterford, 13th
April - 4th May
Town Hall Theatre, Galway 7th
- 11th May
Excel Theatre, Tipperary. 13th
- 15th May
St. Michael's, New Ross 16th
- 17th May
Andrew's Lane, Dublin 20th
May - 15th June
Theatre Royal, Wexford 17th
June - 19th June
Watergate, Kilkenny 20th
June - 22nd June
Dean Crow Hall, Athlone 24th
June - 26th June
Mullingar Arts Centre 27th
June - 29th June
St. John's Theatre, Listowel 1st
July - 6th July
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Revised: June 24, 2002