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Tony Guerin, Playwright

By Mattie Lennon

Cuckoo Blue

Detective Sergeant Tony Guerin wrote his first novel in 1989, and his second one in 1992, two years before his retirement.

Three years ago, at the opening of his first play, "Cuckoo Blue," staged by the Lartigue Theatre Group, in Saint John's Theatre Listowel, I was impressed. So was the man in the seat beside me. His name was Patrick Bergin.

The Dublin-born actor/producer has now bought the rights of "Cuckoo Blue" and plans to turn it into a blockbuster movie. His agent has been in serious negotiations with film companies in Hollywood and they hope to begin shooting this year.

Patrick Bergin intends to produce, direct and play the leading role (of Tim Boyle). "Cuckoo Blue" is a story of intrigue, treachery, infidelity and greed in which blackmail and cute-hoorism lead to destruction and tragedy. And the script runs parallel with the idea of Arthur Millar, who said; "The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds come home to roost."

I'm looking forward to Tony Guerin's characters coming to life once more on the big screen.

Solo Run

American novelist, Henry James said; "The historian essentially wants more documents than he can really use: the dramatist only wants more liberties than he can really take."

When Tony Guerin started on his second play "Solo Run" he was being both historian and dramatist. But he didn't want documents or need to take liberties.

On Sunday 10th February 1946 a young girl died a tragic death while giving birth in a Kerry town, She had got pregnant out of wedlock and, a victim of ignorance and the so-called moral values of the time she was rejected even by the "caring professions."

They whispered their stories, They glanced with the eye. They looked over their shoulders As I passed them by...........

The ultimate act of rejection came after death when the Canon chained and locked the Church gates and refused to admit her coffin.

A precocious seven-year-old Tony Guerin assimilated the snatches of adult conversation and stored it in his active brain...... from where it was retrieved forty nine years later to become "Solo Run."

The tragic event is the play's central theme, but there are others. The main character Con Casey (who is based on the playwright's father) is complex. He has an All-Ireland medal, which makes him a local hero. But his failure to come to terms with the fact that his son is a deformed hunchback puts a severe strain on the relationship between him and his wife Nora.

When Con Casey takes on the Canon at the Church gate he wins the battle but it could be said he loses the war. The locals call it "a draw." Tony Guerin has the John B. Keane knack of weaving the Gaelic football metaphor, seamlessly, into tragedy, comedy and farce.

And whatever about Shakespeare's claim that a good play needs no epilogue, in this case Con Casey's soliloquy "crowns the play."

Of this play, Shakespearean in timelessness and sagacious in insight Kerryman Fr. Pat Moore says it; ".......offers North Kerry a mirror to times not fully gone." Yes indeed Tony Guerin can put a film or reality "over the mirrors meant to glass the opulent."

HUMMIN'

If you ask Tony Guerin what is his greatest work to date he will (uncharacteristically) answer with the utmost brevity; "Hummin ' ."

In his latest play Hummin', produced by Red Kettle, he once again uses North Kerry as a blackboard to display the fears, hates, loves and prejudices of mankind. It could be said to be a dark comedy and has been described, by an astute Kerryman (is there any other kind? Says you) as a cross between John B. Keane and Queatin Tarantino.

Mike Dee is old farmer who lives with his "partner" Jennie, an ex-prostitute from Dublin. She had left the parish as a young girl, carrying Mike's child, and went to Dublin where, out of economic necessity, she went on the streets..

His nephew, Andy, "complete with Biro," visits Mike. Andy's suggestion that Mike sign the farm over to him does not meet with unanimous approval. Jennie, with all the street wisdom of a pavement hostess, can see such a bequest leaving Mike and her homeless.

Howdy is a thatcher and he has hopes of taking Jennie away on the crossbar of his bike. Jennie uses her considerable skills in the field to encourage him. We are already led to believe that there are hints of murdered tourists and buried hatchets in Mikes past. And now when things come to a head violence once again erupts. Blood, new hatchets, blackmail and murder culminate to leave Jennie and Mike facing a deadly confrontation.

Hummin' is Tony Guerin's first professional production. Geraldine Plunkett plays Jennie and her real-life husband Peader Lamb is an unforgettable Mike. Brian Doherty, who has played in many successful Red Kettle productions over the years and recently played Doalty in the Abbey Theatre production of "Translations," plays Andy. Mal Whyte, an actor with wide-ranging experience, plays Howdy.

Tony swears he knows every character in the play. It is written in a unique Kerry dialogue and Tony's keen powers of observation, natural instinct for a good story and seanachi talents transferred to the page have given us a gem.

One critic said; "......had Mr. Guerin been as successful as a Garda as he is as a playwright there wouldn't be much of a crime fraternity in the country today."

But when I quoted Richard Brinsley Sheridan, to the Kerry dramatist, (one day on the South Circular Road); ".....good at a fight but better at a play" I received by way of reply the Listowel version of "go away."

Hummin' is not to be missed.  

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