No such thing as small roles only small actors as Keanes ‘Moll’ entertains at Thomastown Concert Hall

John B Keane …Possibly Ireland’s favourite author

By Tom Dayton


“There are no small roles, only small actors”. That famous line was spoken by Konstantin Stanislavski, the ‘father’ of modern acting.

Stanislavski required actors who performed in his theatre productions to engage their roles with equal commitment. This was whether they were lead actors with large roles or supporting actors with few or no lines.

While seen as a sign of accomplishment to land a leading role in acting, one can’t overlook the smaller or supporting roles that can make a film or a piece of theatre a success.

A Keane eye

Indeed Jake Apple-creek, a South African writer /director deliberately includes smaller roles in his work in order to encourage new actors to his troupe.

Mind you, Listowel writer JB Keane was doing this since the late 1950’s with great cleverness.

Dandy McCabe in The Field, is one such example. Dandy is the Bull Mc Cabes first cousin, who, unlike Bull is honest and jovial.

Dandy shows a great contrast to the Bull and is a great representative of a frightened parish in the townland of Carraigthomond.

And what about Pats Bocock and Carthalawn in Keanes Sive? Their inclusion in the script was nothing short of genius.

And so it was that I found the Kerry playwright had included what can only be described as two character gems in ‘Moll’ which opened on Thursday night at Thomastown concert Hall.

Set in an Irish presbytery ‘Moll’ is comedy from start to finish.

Lake productions succeeded in giving the audience exactly what they wanted, which was laughter in abundance.

Where Lake succeeded most was that they played every inch of the script as if it was serious and true to life, making it all the funnier.

A comic duo

And back to where we came in. Two of the characters in the play Bridgie Andover and Ulick- played by Gemma Grant and John Whitely- were the epitome of small roles being played to perfection and with the gusto the parts deserved.

And boy did Grant and Whitely come up trumps. Both excelled, without crossing the very tempting line that divides theatre and Pantomime.

Both had great delivery and facial expressions which made their performances priceless. Grants appearance in the opening scene as an applicant for the post of parish housekeeper would have made the author proud.

Then the appearance halfway through the show of Gemma and John was worth the admission fee alone.

Whitely had few words, but his movement and character was powerful. Grant made the most of the confusion as to why she ‘had to marry’.

The main characters in the play were played by Michael Hayes, Derek Dooley Sean Hackett and Claire Henriques.

Director Gerry Cody took on a cameo role of the bishop.

A look through their pen pics in the theatre programme showed the incredible amount of theatre performed by all four in various guises that includes Musicals, theatre, concerts and Pantomime.

Panache and charisma

One could wax lyrical about the high standard reached by these thespians and nobody would disagree. Suffice to say that each actor portrayed the character with a panache and charisma usually reserved for the professional stage.

Originating in 1994, the Ronseal phrase ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’ comes to mind.

The Kilkenny based theatre company advertised Moll as ‘an hilarious comedy’.

And that’s what you got.

Two hours of absolute comedy with some of Kilkenny’s finest actors.

I had the privilege of seeing the Lake production of ‘The Kings of the Kilburn High Road’ at Thomastown last year and I raved about it in a review in this paper.

Although the content of two plays were like comparing chalk and cheese, the standard of acting and production was equal.

Powerful priests

Derek Dooley in the role of canon Pratt was excellent in his portrayal of a flustered and floundering canon who was happy to have his housekeeper run the parish fundraising.

‘Anything for a quiet life’ was personified by Dooley and a great presence on stage and his years of theatre experience shone through.

The curates played by Michael Hayes and Seán Hackett bounced off each other.

Not only were these two actors on top of their game but both looked very comfortable in their roles and dare I say even looked like they were enjoying every ounce of the performance.

It would be difficult to see two other actors playing it better.

A class act from Callan

And what about Claire Henriques who took on the title role of Moll?

She is a class act. I know nothing of her except what I read in the programme.

She was outstanding and every bit a natural. Her comedy and her timing won both the audience and their applause. The character of Moll was that of a shrewd housekeeper who was well versed in how to deal with day to day trials and tribulations. You would wonder if Moll Kettle, in 2023, would get away with all her shenanigans.

She created a divide amongst the priests and ran amok as a domineering housekeeper.

The performance by the Callan actor made you believe not just her actions but every word from her mouth.

The audience loved her and you could almost see them prop themselves up in anticipation for the laughs that were to come when she arrived on stage.

I am going to hazard a guess that hundreds of actors have played the Moll role since it was first written. Henriques did not just play the role. She lived it. She owned it.

I look forward to seeing her on stage again in the not too distant future.

Backstage crew

Once again I refer to the programme to say that there was a strong team backstage and great credit is due to all for the smooth running of this production.

Director Gerry Cody did a wonderful job, as did the stage designer Siobhan Hegarty who created a very believable priests presbytery.

Stage management was by Delia Lowery assisted by Cliodhna Ryan, while lights and sound were in the hands of Brendan Maguire.

I need say no more, except the stage crew were busy and deserve great praise.

One thing that did surprise me was that although only founded in 2018, this theatre company has so far presented over twenty productions which includes theatre , radio and a couple of poetry books .

Moll is definitely one to see.

Moll continues this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Thomastown concert hall at 8pm.

Tom Dayton is a second year student of journalism and lives in County Kilkenny.


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