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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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Pat Kinevan gets the Keane nod

“I went to see him when he was playing for Cobh Ramblers in about 1989,” says the Cobh-born actor and playwright, Pat Kinevane, of Roy Keane, the legend he will portray when I, Keano returns to the Olympia later this month.

“I wasn’t even a huge football fan, but you could see then he was something very special,” says Kinevane, on a break from rehearsals. “It’s funny, when I moved to Dublin after that people would be saying, ‘oh, Cobh, that’s where Roy Keane’s from’. And I knew he wasn’t, he just played for Cobb. He was from the city.”

Kinevane says the fifteen odd miles between the city and his own birthplace makes for quite a different variety of Cork accent. “Mine is country. He definitely has a city accent, it’s a bit more pronounced, a bit more guttural. It’s the kind of accent I’ve been known to get after a few pints…”

Imitation is not, however, the name of the game according to Kinevane. “I didn’t see the original production and I’m delighted about that. There wouldn’t be any point in tying to recreate that. It’s much more interesting to arrive fresh and create something fresh from scratch.”

After Saipanistic disagreements among the first cast, Kinevane will be doing his creating alongside Conor Delaney, who takes over the part of Quinnus from Risteárd Cooper and Susannah de Wrixon, who plays Quinnus’ wife, Surfia (that joke has to go!). Gary Cooke’s epileptically funny Dunphia, happily, survives into this production, as does Dessie Gallagher’s extravagant assassination of Mick McCarthy.

Should things among the cast and crew get fraught this time, Kinevane seems unlikely to indulge in any Keano-styled rebellion: “I tend not to get involved in rows. I just go away and have a cup of tea if things are getting tense…”

Part of the reason, perhaps, that Kinevane missed the first run of I, Keano, was that he was busy rehearing and performing at the Gate, where he played the spookily camp manservant of an English gentleman in Brian Friel’s The Home Place.

“I just finished up in the Gate in the Friel and they are heading off to the West End with that, but I just didn’t want to go away for the Summer. I’ve a four and a half year old son, Kez, and I wanted to stay around with him this summer…I really hadn’t anything, and then I got this phonecall…”

The call could scarcely have come at a better time, not simply because it allowed Kinevane to stay in Dublin, but also because he was more than usual primed to take on the role of a sporting hero.

“As it happens, I’m very fit now. I put a lot of effort into getting myself fit before and after Christmas, doing a lot of yoga, just because I wanted to…And I’ve got good legs. I was filming King Arthur last year, playing a Roman so I was sure I was going to get to wear a tunic, but I had to wear a long, flowing gown and I was jealous of the rest of them. But, now I’ll get to wear it. Funny how things work…”

So did he like his “I, Keano” Photoshop job in last week’s Herald? “Sure them weren’t my legs at all, boy, though he has good legs too…”

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