Thursday, 8 August 2013

KNOCKING AT THE ABBEY DOOR



Lean Beginnings ...

Following his departure from the bank, when TP bravely struck out on his mission to become a professional actor, he made the most of the friendships he'd found when cosying up to the city's actors in their favoured watering holes.


Milo O'Shea, in particular, had taken a liking to TP and made possible his introduction to the tiny Pike Theatre. 


He had also become friendly with Godfrey Quigley who invited him to join the Globe Theatre Company which resided in a mini-theatre (not much bigger than The Pike) above the Gas Company showrooms in Dun Laoighaire; and he had also made his radio debut in the famous sponsored drama, The Kennedys of Castleross also directed by Quiqley.

A dream full of holes ...


However, financially, TP's great dream was full of holes, especially as the Globe was run on a profit-share basis based on lean box-office takings.


All in all, a year after having quit the bank he was bringing in no more than a quarter of his previous salary. "I was down to two pounds a week which was exactly my rent, so I had nothing to eat and I couldn't approach people at home for money," TP would recall.

It was at this stage that our hero conspired to get himself into the Abbey Theatre Company (Ireland's national theatre) and calling on his family's political connections he gained an
Ernest Blythe
interview with the Abbey's managing director, Ernest Blythe.


Political Connections ...

"I made a 'b' line for the Abbey and I used my political connections because I had an uncle who had been in the first government and I went to see Richard Mulchahy [Dail Minister] who knew my uncle and, one way or another, I got an interview with Blythe."


Blythe's first verdict was not encouraging: "Aghh!  Your Irish is bloody awful [Abbey players were required to be fluent speakers of gaelic] ... and your nose is a bit too long!" But then he cast TP a glimmer of hope, "I suppose we could take you on for the Christmas show and see how you get on."



TP on trial while rehearsing for the 1954 pantomime.
Well, TP made his entrances and exits alright and managed not to bump into the furniture, but at the end of the show's run that was that.  Some weeks on though, and having returned to his idle state, there come a fortuitous phone call.

Are you doing anything?

"I was lying in the flat thinking 'oh God, what now?' when the phone rang and the landlady called out and said, 'you're wanted on the phone'. It was Sean Mooney, the stage manager at the Abbey.  

'Are you doing anything?',  he snapped.  'Well no' I said.

'Get a taxi down here right away.  Ronnie Walsh hasn't turned up'.

That night, after the briefest walk-through of the part, TP went on for the missing actor and the start of what would be a eight-year stay with the Abbey Theatre.



Friday, 2 August 2013

THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS by Sean O'Casey (1955)



"Sean O'Casey's classic play contrasts events in a Dublin tenement with the 1916 Rising outside the door. Nora Clitheroe tries to fashion a comfortable life for herself and her husband, despite grinding poverty, but her world falls in when she fails to stop him joining the rebel forces ranged against the British army on Easter."




Picture: T.P. McKenna and Edward Golden in THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS by Sean O'Casey,
directed by Ria Mooney, Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1955.

THE BIG BIRTHDAY by Hugh Leonard (1956)



"Patrick Farrell is one hundred years old. His family and friends gather round to celebrate his birthday and no-one is going to mess this up for him."




Picture: Doreen Madden and T.P. McKenna in THE BIG BIRTHDAY by Hugh Leonard,
directed by Ria Mooney, Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1956.



STRANGE OCCURANCE ON IRELAND'S EYE by Dennis Johnston (1956)


"Set in Dublin Castle and the Central Criminal Court in 1937. In this Courtroom drama, Will Kirwan is accused of murdering his wife, who he  cheated on, at a picnic on Ireland's Eye. He is found guilty and sentenced to  death but the Chief Superintendent in charge of the case raises doubts about the  conviction."


Picture: T.P. McKenna and Vincent Dowling in STRANGE OCCURANCE ON IRELAND'S EYE by Denis Johnston,
directed by Ria Mooney, the Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1956

Thursday, 1 August 2013

THE LESS WE ARE TOGETHER by John O'Donovan (1957)


WAITING NIGHT by P.S. Laughlin (1957)


THE WANTON TIDE by Niall Carroll (1957)


MUIREANN AGUS AN PRIONNSA by Michael O'hAodh (1957)


"Based on the folktale of 'The Golden Apple', this tells the story of the king  who is dying and whose only hope of recovery is to get the Golden Apple."




Picture: Aideen O'Kelly and T.P. McKenna in MUIREANN AGUS AN PRIONNSA, a Gaelic pantomime,
directed by Frank Dermody, the Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1957.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A CHANGE OF MIND by John O'Donovan (1958)



THE RISEN PEOPLE by James Plunkett (1958)


"The story of the Fitzpatrick Family's struggle to survive during the 1913 Dublin Lockout."


Picture: Brid Lynch and T.P. McKenna in THE RISEN PEOPLE by James Plunkett,
directed by Ria Mooney, the Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1958.





THE SCYTHE AND THE SUNSET by Dennis Johnston (1958)


"The Pillar café, with its clear view of the GPO, has been taken over by the Red  Cross as a first aid station and is being run by the incompetent Myles. Johnston  uses his two main protagonists - Palliser,the British Army Captain who becomes  Prisoner in the Café and Tetley, the novice revolutionary - to explore the clash  of principles and ideals that lay at the heart of the conflict in 1916."


Picture: T.P. McKenna and Denis Brennan in THE SCYTHE AND THE SUNSET by Denis Johnston,
directed by Ria Mooney, the Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1958.



SEVEN MEN AND A DOG by NIall Sheridan (1958)


"Three Gardai­ and a Sergeant have a quite life at an out of the way station. All  four want a transfer away from the boredom and need everything to go well for a  while. Things begin to fall apart when a stranger arrives and confesses to a murder."




Picture: Micheal O'Briain and T.P. McKenna in SEVEN MEN AND A DOG by Niall Sheridan,
directed by Ria Mooney, the Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1958.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT by Eugene O'Neill (1959)



"Eugene O'Neill's epic drama depicts the tragic Tyrone family mired by disappointment and addiction.  This production marked the play's Irish premiere."


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Picture: Vincent Dowling and T.P. McKenna in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT by Eugene O'Neill,
directed by Frank Dermody, the Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1959.




I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING by John McCann (1959)



"In McCann's farce, the lives of the various guests at a guesthouse in Rathmines are affected in a variety of ways by the arrival of a mysterious stranger."




Picture: Angela Newman and T.P. McKenna in I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING by John McCann,
directed by Ria Mooney, the Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1959.

Monday, 29 July 2013

ANYONE COULD ROB A BANK by Thomas Coffey (1960)



"In this music-hall style farce, three men, Badger, Jereen and Windy, discuss how easy it would be to rob the local bank and they come up with the perfect plan. When they wake up to the news that the local bank has been robbed using their plan, they begin to suspect each other."


Picture: Kathleen Barrington and T.P. McKenna in ANYONE COULD ROB A BANK by Thomas Coffey,
directed by Ria Mooney, the Abbey at the Queen's Theatre, 1960.

GIVE ME A BED OF ROSES by John McCann (1960)


"In this follow-up to 'Twenty Years A-Wooing' McCann presents us with the Kelly  family once again, with Ignatius returning from London and upsetting the balance  in the family home."



Picture: Bill Foley and T.P. McKenna in GIVE ME A BED OF ROSES by John McCann,
directed by Ria Mooney, Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1957.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A JEW CALLED SAMMY by John McCann (1962)



"In this comedy, the siblings in the Cartney household in Dublin are having a hard time maturing and adapting to modern life. Their emptyheaded mother and ever-absent father are of no use. So Sammy Rosenberg, their Jewish next-door neighbour and close friend of the youngest son, steps in to help sort out their muddles. Two suitors for the daughters of the household are distrustful of Sammy but their anti-semitism is challenged and discouraged."




Picture: Pat Layde, T.P. McKenna and Angela Newman in A JEW CALLED SAMMY by John McCann,
directed by Tomás MacAnna, the Abbey at the Queen's Theatre, 1962.


A LIGHT IN THE SKY by Donald Giltinan (1962)



"Dealing with a highly dramatic period in the life of Robert Emmet, the famous 18th Century failed revolutionary, Giltinan asks many questions of history. How aspiring for martyrdom was he? Was he a fair man? Was his judgement clouded by his infatuation with the daughter of John Philpot Curran? Were his efforts to seize Dublin Castle futile, given his small number of followers?"





Picture: T. P. McKenna in A LIGHT IN THE SKY by Donal Giltinan,
directed by Frank Dermody, Abbey Theatre at the Queen's Theatre, 1962. Photo: James G. Maguire




Sunday, 3 June 2012

AN SCIATH DRAIOCHTA by Tomas MacAnna (1962)


"The Princess Clíona is put under a spell by the witch Muireagán. She is banished from Tír na nÓg and condemned to a life of servitude and unhappiness in the world of men. The Prince Aonghus follows her determined to free her from the spell."


Picture: T.P. McKenna and Michéal O'Briain in AN SCIATH DRAIOCHTA, a Gaelic pantomime,
directed by Frank Dermody, the Abbey at the Queen's Theatre, 1960.