To celebrate their 25th Birthday Red Kettle Theatre Company put on an almost three-hour potpourri – Soldiers, Salvage, Alice and Puck at the Theatre Royal. Sometimes, these events are a mix of their greatest hits, famous faces and those absent friends who have gone as slí na firinne. Tony Hennessy opened proceedings with a lyrical, sometimes tuneless, take on Conn the Shaughran on the wrong way to Tipperary. A set of shared comperes seemed uneasy reading from sheets and clipboards and there was too much of scripts in hands for many of the extracts. There was an impromptu feeling about some items that took from a memorable and nostalgic occasion.
Donal O’Kelly was excellent in an extract from his Catalpa and he involved the audience in four sound effects. Two medleys of Jamie Beamish sound scapes to various productions was gilding the lily or a Lusmore, but one of them caught the memory of the fallen very well.
Mary Roche was marvellous as Janie Mac from the first The God’s Are Angry Miss Kerr. Jim Nolan, a founder member, introduced Niall Toibín with a read extract from the wonderful – The Salvage Shop.
Jenni Ledwell shone in several extracts and playwright Bernard Farrell introduced a filmed extract from his hit Happy Birthday Dear Alice, featuring the late Anna Manahan and the late Brendan Cauldwell, a sad but magical moment.
An extract from Jimmy Murphy’s The Kings of the Kilburn High Road packed considerable punch. Charlie Bonner was electric from The Queen and the Peacock and showed why he could be the actor of his generation.
Ben Hennessy’s Boy soldier struck home the futility of war while the rude mechanicals scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream brought much needed hilarity to the evening and Seamus Power was a great Puck.
A closing scene from Romeo and Juliet was set too far back but Alex Browne and Holly Browne were luminous as the star-crossed lovers.
Even in the Chairperson’s Address there was no indication of the next Red Kettle production and somehow I felt a new play might have been a better birthday present than nostalgia. Am I wrong to think that?