In one of those wonderful coincidence of names, The JB Keane drama, The Matchmaker, playing at Cove Burgh on Saturday Hall on Saturday 2th September – is brought there by Splinters Productions.
The Splinters show is a new adaptation of Irish dramatist JB Keane’s classic. It follows the riotous story of Dick Mick Dicky O’Connor who is determined to hook up a hotch-potch of lonely hearts in his rural town of Ballybarra.
A delightful gallery of glorious eccentrics from a five-foot, seven-stone jockey to a sex-starved spinster – all voice their hopes and dreams.
Starring John Shedden, Anna Hepburn and Finlay McLean, their Edinburgh Festival Fringe review said: ‘This wonderful piece of theatre will warm the cockles of your heart’.
JB Keane, a Kerryman, had the great gift of understanding life and folk in rural communities. It’s where he came from so he knew instinctively the issues that matter on the ground, the fears, the superstitions, the rivalries, the scheming, the primitive brutalities, the warmth and the jokery.
In rural areas and on his home patch of south west and western Ireland, the pattern of life in a traditionally matriarchal rural society saw ageing bachelor farmers – they would be crofters here – marry young women for children and a resident carer in the often near future.
This left young widowed mothers whose sons stayed on at home into their very mature adulthood but had to look about themselves sharpish when their mothers died. This was, of course, why they had been fatherless from an early age, a social order they would go on to replicate themselves as they inevitably became ‘mother’s boys’.
This saw communities with frustrated young men whose female peers were marrying men of their fathers’ and grandfathers’ age for security; and where frisky young widows with property were much fought over local honeypots.
And that’s before you get to the crafty innocents of the men and women of a certain age well up for a last throw of the dice.
This has always been the matchmakers’ territory and the annual visits of these magicians was a familiar part of the social calendar of rural communities.
The opportunistic reinvigoration in the mid-1970′s by a west of Ireland entrepreneur, of the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival – now in its 120th year – has been a cash cow of monumental proportions, with the 1,000 population of the town swelling to around 20,000 for the September madness. This is characterised by plane loads of American women bewildered at the rusticity – and formerly the toothlessness – of the potential suitors the professional matchmakers introduce.
Today, most people go to ‘Lisdoon’ in their droves just for a good time, with no serious partnership intentions.
It is worlds like the innocent forerunners of this modern profiteering initiative that JB Keane, who died in 2002, knew intimately and whose speech, culture and humour he was genuinely gifted in conjuring.
Tickets for the performance – at 8.00pm on 29th September – are £10 if booked online at the Cove Burgh Hall website and bought at Cove and Kilcreggan post offices – or £12 on the door on the night.