Thursday, January 12, 2006

Keano III (and other news)

Well, another year, another Keano. This time Denis Foley dons the ceremonial white kacks, replacing Pat Kinevan, who, of course, took over the role from Mario Rosenstock.

But this time around, the question is not how much Foley’s version of Roy Keane will differ from that of his predecessors. Instead, the real debate is around how much the Roy Keane of the present day resembles the figure portrayed in the musical. After all, Arthur Matthews and Co’s Keano is based on the heroic figure of the midfield general of Manchester United, a footballing warrior, a loyal and obedient servant of the great chieftain-god-dolphin, Alex Fergusson.

But that Keane doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, we have a heretic Keano, one who has denied the great god, Fergie, a fallen idol whose feet of clay are now all too visible. The sort of athlete, in short, who’d play for a team that gets knocked out of the Scottish Cup by lowly Clyde.

According to a spokesperson for the latest production, there are indeed some script changes in the latest instalment of the story. With previews starting next week, however, details are still sketchy. We know, however, that one Brian Kerrus has been airbrushed out of the story, while a new character, resurrected from the mist of footballing prehistory, will once more stalk the land, or at least the stage at the Olympia. This time around the dramatis personae for I, Keano will be swollen by the addition of the towering figure of somebody called “Big Jack”.

It was a long time coming, this one. Paul Mercier, whose stage productions have been one of the most enduring features of the capital’s theatre life, ever since the foundation of his Passion Machine theatre company in 1984, is finally opening a play on the National Theatre main stage. That company states its mission as creating “wholly indigenous populist theatre that depicts, challenges and celebrates the contemporary Irish experience” which might be a good aim for the new Abbey administration.

As it happens, the new director at the National Theatre, Fiach MacConghail, will most likely be familiar with Mercier’s views on Irish culture, having produced several films with the Dublin writer, including a version of the Passion Machine’s landmark production, Studs, which will be released later this year with Brendan Gleeson in the lead.

There will be Irish interest at a challenging-sounding opening night when a stage version of the JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings opens in Canada in March this year. The show is produced by Dublin-born impresario, Kevin Wallace, a protégée of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful organisation, as well the producer of Dublin shows, such as the Abbey’s revival of Eugene O’Brien’s Eden. The stage version of LOTR has a budget of C$27m (just over €19m) and modestly bills itself as “most ambitious theatrical event ever staged” No word yet on the running time…but it’s bound to fly by in any case.

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