Dungarvan Dramatic Club made a fine slice of history with their production of Lennox Robinson’s The Whiteheaded Boy as the first production in the new or refurbished Town Hall Theatre. This thirteen person cast baptised the boards with an excellent production of a work that first delighted audiences in 1916 a the Abbey Theatre. This company performed the play back in 1947 at he same venue and it is a great tribute director, Margaret Dennehy, that she kept all the references as style of the well-made play in three acts and also gave the work a contemporary relevance with secret payments and deals to show how the foibles of small town life can still ring true today. The knowing laughter of the open night audience attested to that as we followed the devious turns in the lives of the genteel Geoghan family as they told their own version of the truth about the reckless and feckless prodigal and profligate son – the whiteheaded boy. Dennehy also gave a sub-plot about co-operatives, a topical relevance like the discussions today about biofuels. She also kept the devise of a narrator who told the story of the family as if reading the stage directions in a plain unadorned voice. Brendan Morrissey played this part excellently.
Star of the show was Con O’Sullivan as the rich John Duffy and his wheeling and dealing evoked much knowing laughter. Morgan O’Connell gave the Boy, Denis, a reality that impressed. Orla Glascott, as the scheming Mother, was excellent as was Ruadhri De Paor as the bothered business son, George. Mary Kelly was good as the devious but temperamental Aunt Ellen and her bye-play rather than foreplay with Duffy gave the work great fun.
Caroline O’Connor was a feisty Baby and Padraigin Ni Chadhla was a comic Maid. Other parts were played by Liz Morrissey, Aine Ni Dhonnabhain, Shane Collender, Aoife Doyle and Paul McGabhainn.
The costumes were excellent and a tribute to the director, Ann Walsh and Liz Morrissey. Lighting was a little fussy and Dave Lee’s sound was excellent.
Lennox Robinson was seen as a safe and possibly dull playwright but twenty-two of his plays were staged by the Abbey and in 1924, when he worked for The Garnegie Trust to set up a public library system, he was sacked from that job because the committee considered a short story he wrote, The Madonna Of Slieve Dun, as blasphemous. A reviewer of an early play of his, The Clancy Name, about small town hypocrisy and fake respectability said the work was a shame and a disgrace… there aught to be some form of censorship applied to such plays.