‘Da’ was written in 1973 by Dublin born dramatist, scriptwriter and essayist, Hugh Leonard. Born in 1926 as John Joseph Byrne, ‘Jack’ was adopted by Mr and Mrs Keyes. This story is based on his life.
Jack wrote an incredible 30 full-length plays, 10 one-act plays, three volumes of essays, two autobiographies, three novels and numerous screenplays and teleplays, as well as writing a regular newspaper column. His first play premiered at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1956. He continued with the Abbey for 40 years.
When ‘Da’ was staged on Broadway it ran for 697 performances, picking up a Tony Award and several others for Best Play. In 1988 ‘Da’ was made into a film starring Martin Sheen.
In 1984, Leonard discovered his accountant had embezzled $400,000 (Australian) from him; however, when Leonard died 24 years later, he still left $1.5 million.
This hilarious two-and-a-half-hour production by the Irish Theatre Players can be seen at their new venue, Leederville Sporting Club, 78 Cambridge Street, West Leederville nightly at 7.30 pm until Saturday 22nd June. There is a Matinée on Sunday 16th at 2.00 pm. With a huge free car park on site (go through the council’s pay park) and easy access to the West Leederville and Leederville train stations, it looks like a good move.
The scene: 1968. The kitchenette of Charlie’s parent’s home in Dalkey near Dublin just after the funeral of Da.
The set: The open stage is 30 cms above floor level, however there is a very good tiered seating giving the 90 patrons a good view.
The ingenious set design by Rhi Walker was built by Rhi, Duncan Rice, Bobby Donaghy, Tallan Chappell, Peggy McKenna and Paddy Ryan. The auditorium is only about 20 feet wide, a little tighter than one would like to fit in the various required settings but miraculously, thanks to great props, the whole set came to life.
Against the rear wall of the parlour was a large cream enamel oven, a pine utility dresser with storage jars and a radio. There was a kitchen table and four dining chairs and Da’s comfortable chair. An archway led to the hallway and front door. To the side was their hedged garden and the main road. On the other side was a park bench and lamppost.
The delightful costumes and props came courtesy of Siobhán Rushe, Jennifer Whyte, Judy McEntire, Peggy McKenna and Caroline McDonnell.
Award-winning sound and lighting technician, John Spurling, was capably assisted by Josie Hacking. This was a totally new venue with no stage lighting or sound facilities. There was nowhere to put the lighting desk, which was eventually placed behind the audience seating. The lighting rig was most impressive, but as the stage had several fixed locations i.e. minimal prop movement, the selective lighting played an important part in picking out the locations.
Stage management by Caroline Mc Donnell and Siobhán Rushe – loved the creaking gate.
One or two new venue and first night hiccups, but they were few and minor. Congratulations.
Charlie Tynan (Michael Balmer – excellent) is a writer who has been living in London for years, but now middle-aged, he has had to return to his boyhood home in Dalkey for the funeral of his adoptive father, Nick Tynan usually known as Da (Alan Kennedy – outstanding, as ever).
Charlie is sitting at the parlour table sorting out a lifetime of Da’s ‘treasured’ documents, when his best school pal, Oliver (Paul Taylor-Byrne – hilarious) arrives to give his condolences. They haven’t met for fifteen years but shy, nervous Oliver has barely moved on in life and still blushes at the mention of ‘busty substances’.
After seeing Oliver to the door, Charlie returns to the parlour and finds the ghost of Da, large as life with a huge cheeky grin sitting in his favourite chair. All his life Charlie has been taunted by Da who knew exactly how to push Charlie’s buttons. Now, at last Charlie has the courage to tell Da what he thinks. Whilst they argue, the ghost of Maggie Tynan – Ma (Marian Byrne) who has been deceased for several years, also appears and berates Da, before shouting upstairs for Charlie to hurry up. Charlie watches aghast as he sees himself as a teenager (Ben Albert – a musician who can act) entering the room.
For decades Da has been a hardworking but unambitious gardener for the rich and haughty, Mrs. Prynne (Vee McGuire – Majestic). Da could get Charlie a job with her, but the parents want better for their son and so have asked the wealthy, self-important civil servant, Mr Drumm (Joe Purcell) to come around for tea.
Charlie escapes the company and meets Oliver. They go for a walk in the park and encounter Mary ‘The Yellow Peril’ Tate (Sandi Buckley), a teenager’s dream, gorgeous and easy!
Nothing has changed in the house; the mental relief that 55 yrs. old Charlie had hoped for and achieved in London, has evaporated.
Director Denice Byrne has selected a fabulous cast with fine pace and wonderful delivery. It may have been a little claustrophobic for the actors as some scenes were within arm’s length of the audience, but their teamwork was unfaltering. Being close to the action allows the actors to make very subtle facial expressions that adds to the comedy.
Alan Kennedy is one of the few actors to win a second Finley’s ‘Best Actor’ award, and it is easy to see why. He is one of those actors that you could watch all night. Whether it is heavy dramatic part or a delightful comedy character, you always get great value.
Director Denice must have had many sleepless nights whilst, with her committee, they looked for a new venue. Then there is the organising of the tiered seating (thank you as flat floor seating loses the punters quicker than poor acting). The venue was extremely pleasant and well organised, although I suspect on opening night it was like a swan, cool and regal but under the surface who knows what is going on.
A great night at an exciting new venue. With a laugh a minute from the brilliant script and characters straight from your family. Be warned, this show has almost completely sold out the season ahead of the opening night.