As a play, "Many Young Men of Twenty" was a child of the 1960s and of an Ireland rife with poverty, unemployment and migration and riddled by mis-government and the politics of a bitter past. It was also a product of the imagination and observations of a new dramatic kid on the block - a writer called John Brendan Keane from Listowel who would for the next few decades provide influential dramatic commentary on a rural Ireland undergoing massive social and cultural change.
"Many Young Men of Twenty" takes huge cuts at existing social mores and at the dominant institutions of church and state but does so with music, song and wagon-loads of laughter. It is indeed a play in a traditional sense but one with music and humour at its very core. This play was an enormous success for Ballyduff in previous productions and, in 1990 - over a quarter a century ago - the group was invited to perform at Writers’ Week in Listowel in the company of the great John B himself.
Now the group performs a reprise as a tribute to its great campaigner, performer and president, John Coleman, who recently passed to his eternal reward. In two previous performances, he was the play’s great anti-hero and social commentator, Danger Mullaly. But it also reprises because the subject matter, regrettably, still has relevance and currency. Emigration is still alive and kicking, corruption is still active in the corridors of power and Ireland is still a land of social divides, of haves and of have-nots.
The cast is exactly as a play of this nature should be - a mixture of great experience and of youthful vibrant energy. The Danger Mullaly role falls on the experienced shoulders of Richie Walsh but with huge support from the likes of Henry O’Keeffe, Maurice Carroll, Una Walsh, Patricia Coughlan and Pad Jo Ahern, hardly a bunch of novices. The youthful wing is led by a wonderful Fiona Ahern as Peg Finnerty and supported by Ronan Bennett, Cailean O’Gorman, Clodagh Walsh, Barry Nolan, Peter Kennedy and Liz Casey. Add to this a full-blown orchestra led by Pat and Mary Murphy and with direction by Pat Sheehan and you are pretty much guaranteed an absolutely excellent and charming night’s entertainment.
The play is performed in St Michael’s Hall, Ballyduff, on October 13th, 14th and 15th as well as the 20th, 21st and 22nd and with booking on (058) 60456 from Thursday, October 6th .