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‘Darkly humorous and tragic’ – incredible Francie Brady comes to Ennis

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Glór Theatre, Ennis, Co. Clare
4th October 2018

THE incredible Francie Brady is on his way to glór in Pat McCabe’s highly-acclaimed stage show Frank Pig Says Hello, writes Stuart Holly.

Originally written in tandem with the famed Butcher Boy novel (adapted to the screen by Neil Jordan) 25 years ago, this darkly comedic and bitterly tragic tale follows the bould Francie Brady growing up in 1960s Ireland – Clones to be precise – and his descent into a brutal act that shocks the community.

Directed by Joe O’Byrne, it stars Darragh Byrne playing young Francie and John D Ruddy, who plays … well, everybody else. A nationwide tour has just begun and with four nights at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre under his belt, Donegal actor Ruddy and co are on their way to Ennis as part of the 19-dater.

“This is what theatre is for,” 29-year-old Ruddy says of the show, speaking to me over the phone. “It’s quite a different piece in some ways to the novel but the story will be very familiar to people who know the Butcher Boy as well. In the play, it’s much more about Francie’s memory of things, Francie’s experiences. It is very funny, very energetic but it is also deeply tragic like the novel. So we really have that wonderful juxtaposition of the humour and the tragedy and sadness.”

Even if the theatre isn’t your thing, this is for you. A 15-minute conversation with John has me absolutely sold on the idea of attending. John plays the older Francie (who narrates the show), Francie’s mum, the butcher, the guard, Mr Maguire, the abattoir owner. A gaggle of village busybodies, to be precise.

“I play Francie as the older man looking back,” John continues, “so there is a sense that I’m remembering what young Piglet (Francie) is going through. Darragh Byrne’s performance is amazing and I get the best seat in the house for it, right beside him watching him.”

Frank Pig Says Hello is a vivid portrayal of Irish society in the ‘60s and as such, is an incredibly poignant story that will stir something in most Irish people.

“It’s so indicative of small town Irish mentality. The story could have been based anywhere in small-town Ireland. It’s so powerful. In particular the 1960s when all of these subjects were so taboo and these subjects that Pat McCabe tackles in the early 90s. Ireland was only beginning to talk about these things, the likes of mental health issues; his mother suffers from depression, she’s suicidal, the father is an alcoholic, there’s all sorts of clerical abuse, institutionalisation, different things that people weren’t talking about and were swept beneath the carpet. In that time you had as well, and I think the play shows this so well, is the community just turns against this family and particularly this young fella, they’re constantly laughing behind his back. It’s snobbery, very much personified by Mrs Nugent who’s head of the pack – or at least in Francie’s mind – of looking down on the Bradys. It is such an important story for Ireland and Irish society in the 1960s and even today about society’s failures. You’re watching it wondering could he have been saved if somebody treated him differently. If he’d have gotten the right support, counselling, could he have been saved. And it’s a very challenging piece too because Francie does some bad things in it so it does have you question what your thoughts on Francie are.”

John, for his own part, has never performed in glór but is sure to leave his mark on those who attend. Described by critics as “an extraordinary piece of theatre” in The Sunday Independent, John also has no hesitation in admitting that its theatre at its finest.

When asked what we can expect, John muses, “Loads of laughs and loads of tears. It is deeply and darkly humorous and deeply and darkly tragic. It’s an absolute rollercoaster ride of a play. Anybody there will be in for an absolute wonderful night of theatre at its finest. Seeing what we’re doing shows you what theatre is about. This style of what we’ve done, you couldn’t see it on any other platform. This is what theatre is for.”

Frank Pig Says Hello takes place at glór on Thursday, October 4 at 8pm. Tickets €18/€16 from glor box office. Visit glor.ie or call 065 6843103.

 

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