John B Keane play brings comedy to corruption

John B Keane play brings comedy to corruption

Jon Kenny and Mary McEvoy star in The Successful TD which runs at the Lime Tree Theatre, on September 22 and 23 | Picture: Michael Cowhey

A MAN approaches. Dressed in work clothes, he leans in over the table. It’s clear there’s something he needs to get off his chest.

“If you could see the joy ye bring to us,” he stops. “Yourself and Pat Shortt. D’ya know what I mean. God bless ye today.”

It’s just gone 9.30 on Wednesday morning and a combination of confusion over mobile phone numbers, and choosing a closed pub as a meeting point, has brought us all to the coloured plastic chairs and wooden tables under the canopy of Gleeson’s Spar on Catherine Street.

“Isn’t that just lovely. I never take anything like that lightly,” comments Mary McEvoy, AKA Biddy from Glenroe, as she smiles at the man sitting beside her, Jon Kenny, famously of D’Unbelievables comedy duo.  The Hospital native shares pleasantries and shakes hands with the enthusiastic Limerickman who then sets off on his day’s work, with a pep in his step.

Mary and Jon are in Limerick to promote their latest production, The Successful TD, based on The Letters of A Successful TD and An Irish Minister of State by John B Keane which featured at the Arts Festival in Hospital on Thursday. It again runs at the Lime Tree Theatre on September 22 and 23.

The play, directed by Michael Scott, follows the trials, tribulations, misadventures and hilarious antics of Tull McAdoo as he seeks re-election to the Dail in the “October Elections”.

Written in 1967 Keane displays his talent for humour and satire which, both Mary and Jon point out, are uncomfortably close to the politics of today.  

“Everyone says it could have been written last year,” says Jon.

“The story is told of the two elections that Tull goes for and basically what he will and won’t do to get elected,” adds Mary as she sips from her early-morning coffee.

“We all play different characters - we play about 10 different characters. I play his wife, Betty, and his daughter and one of the party men, and the various people who come looking for things, like there is a woman who goes looking for contraceptives because she can’t get them because she’s not married.”

Tull has roped in the help of his faithful daughter Kate while his wife nurses her various ailments in bed.  

“Betty is a bit of reality in a very humorous way,” Jon pipes up. “It’s not that she’s a hypochondriac. She is lonely because this guy is at every cock fight in the country. He will be at any place where he thinks he has to be seen to get a vote. He never misses a funeral. He has advice on funerals. Willie O’Dea could learn from Tull and Willie is a good man for funerals!

“There is that whole family thing going on between the son and the daughter - it’s beautiful. It’s a lovely family but it isn’t perfect.”

One of the things Mary loves most about the production is the insight and humour John B has brought to the female characters, Betty in particular.

“He has lines in the play like, ‘I can’t bear it’. And that’s put in with a paragraph, ‘me teeth are at me and me back is at me’ but what she is saying really is, ‘I’m lonely and I can’t bear it, and I think he might be seeing somebody’.”

While Mary describes the flavour of the  production as “very funny and rompy”, she points out “there is a serious side to it”.

“Even though Tull is a so and so and a trickster, you like him, he’s a likeable rogue who will do basically anything to get elected. But, at the same time, he has a decent streak as well.”

John B Keane, Jon points out “was a real observer of politics”.

“The system hasn’t changed much at all.  We don’t state the party Tull is with which is a good thing because you are wondering which one of them is it. We really only had the two in 1967. It leaves it all open.”

Tull, Jon says,  wouldn’t label his antics as corruption.

“He feels he’s entitled to do this. He feels, ‘why shouldn’t I get first crack at the whip?’”

The production has already run in Dubin’s Gaiety Theatre, which Jon says, attracted “a good steady flow of lads from Leinster House”.

“Some of them came up and introduced themselves afterwards and you’d spot them in the audience. Joan Burton was there,” he points out. “And the Healy Raes came to see it in Killarney,” says Mary.

For booking details for the Lime Tree dates call 061 953400 or visit

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