GILMARTIN – a new play

My report on Sunday’s reading of Gilmartin at Pentameters:IMG_7398IMG_7395
The first thing to say is that there were quite a few surprises. The first was that we nearly had a full house for the occasion! It’s usually unheard of to get more than a handful to come to readings. The second was that the cast got a standing ovation at the end. The third was that a life-long friend of Gilmartin’s fetched up from Luton, and was so moved by the occasion that he almost broke down in tears at the q/a session afterwards. He did manage to issue an invitation to us to repeat the exercise in Luton, where he said we would have no problem getting a couple of hundred to come.  But the biggest surprise of all was that Tom’s  son and daughter turned up. They were very complimentary about the whole thing, particularly Tom Jr, who felt that we had got the essence of the story, and more importantly, the essence of his father. Phew…thank God for that!
As for the play itself, I thought it worked very well as a piece of theatre – much better than I expected. I wasn’t sure if the audience would get the story, being quite mixed, and story being so Irish, but they got it in spades! It seems to be a universal tale; corruption at high level, and contemptible treatment of the ordinary man/woman. The script still needs a little tweaking here and there, but not much, and I did get some useful insights to the man from Tom Jr – which I can add to the mix.
Where do we got from here? Not sure yet; we may go for a run at Pentameters later in the year or early next year, and we may well take up the invitation to do the gig in Luton, but there were also serious suggestions that we should do it in Dublin. The topic is still very hot in Ireland; and all the main protagonists are still walking around free as birds over there. They should be prosecuted but I don’t think the relevant authorities have any appetite for doing it. Apparently Bertie Ahern was on Irish radio yesterday being questioned about the bank scandal so none of it has gone away.
I think it could be a ‘big’ play if we could get the right backing, and my feeling is that a tour of Ireland, starting in Dublin, could be the way to go. It’s early days yet, so I think we will await developments for now.


27-06-2015 20;00;42

When Bertie Ahern resigned on May 6th 2008 after 11 years as Irish Taoiseach and more than thirty years all told in the corridors of power, it was as a direct result of the fall-out  that occurred from the treatment meted out to Irish businessman, Tom Gilmartin, which only emerged in its entirety at the conclusion of the Mahon Tribunal, which had sat for almost 15 years before reaching its conclusions in 2012.

Tom Gilmartin had emigrated to Luton in the 1950’s from Sligo, and over the years had built up a successful business in construction and engineering, in Luton and South East England. Now a multi millionaire he decided in the late 1980’s to invest his experience – and money – in some projects in Dublin, where unemployment was high, and where poverty had once again seen many young Irish people cross the water in the hope of a better life.

Tom had ambitious plans for several major retail developments in the city, which he hoped would provide work for hundreds, if not thousands, in the city,  but little did he know that in order to do business in Dublin, senior politicians and public officials would want a slice of the action – in large amounts of cash.

Embittered and impoverished by his experiences, Tom finally blew the whistle on the corruption at the heart of government and the city’s planning system. His complaints resulted in the setting up in 1997, by order of the Oireachtas, of the Mahon Tribunal to look  into ‘certain planning matters and payments’. Ironically, it was championed by none other than one Bertie Ahern.

Length…2 hours approx./Setting…Dublin 1990’s – 2000’s




 A better class of person

Adorns the Hampstead

Red-bricks and glass

Whether lounging in the chic-lit bars

Or just lolling in the grass

Hampstead ladies in particular

Ride their bikes with elegance

And sip their foamy cappuccinos

With practised nonchalance.

On the pavements and in the cafes

There are no sightings

Of the culturally bereft

Even down-and-outs

Lean quite boldly to the left.

John Betjeman could not complain

Or call on Hampstead Heath

For bombs to rain

Nor suffer scorn like poor old Slough

Who he had deemed

Not fit for any humans now

Those air-conditioned bright canteens

In Hampstead’s glades will not be seen

And there’s plenty grass to graze his cow

Hampstead Heath’s as green as Ireland now!

my latest poetry collection – 67 – is now available  @








NO BLACKS, NO DOGS, NO POLES – Pentameters Theatre, London.

The quaint Pentameters Theatre of Hampstead is an ideal setting for director Jesse Cooper’s charming and intimate production of Tom O Brien’s No Blacks, No Dogs, No Poles. The play weaves a rich tapestry of cultural perspectives on the Irish diaspora, racism and immigration using the central storyline of the Kennedy family and their social dilemmas as a conduit. The use of space vividly reflects the claustrophobia of both the small minded views frequently depicted within the play as well as the closeness of the complicated relationships which play out on stage.

Having said this, despite the underlying tensions seen both in the tense relationships and strong socio-political opinions; there is great warmth in all of the actor’s performances. The combination of a very funny script and some larger than life performances allow the audience to feel like we have been invited into this Irish household free of airs and graces. The result is a lively and homely political dialogue full of both cliche and insight depending on which character is speaking. A script laden with Irish in jokes, music and family banter is thoroughly entertaining. Meanwhile, clever direction allows the audience to see through the comedic defence mechanisms key characters husband and wife Con and Marion Kennedy employ throughout to disguise their true feelings of despondency in an unhappy marriage.

The theme of home is juxtaposed throughout the plot as despite the deep rooted hatred Con (played by Matthew Ward) expresses about the English oppression of the Irish, his wife Marion ultimately feels that England is her true home. Similarly, the return of son Michael to this household where he no longer feels at home having lived abroad reveals the small minded opinions of his father. As Con shows prejudice towards Michael’s Australian black wife (beautifully played by Rachel Summers), the irony in his previous arguments about the English prejudices towards the Irish is exposed. Sam Turrell gives a brilliant performance as Michael; adopting with ease the measured diplomatic liberalism his character needed to show throughout to contrast the seemingly old fashioned views of his family and their friends. His apparent disgust and embarrassment at his Father’s prejudice and Jimmy’s aggression as well as his genuine attempts to protect his wife from it, seemingly represent a more modern take on ethnicity and immigration.

As well as the catalysts of Michael’s return, and the revealing of an ex-marital affair on the part of Marion, we then have the plot turn full circle as Con’s bisexuality is exposed by Jimmy. The fact that Con finally seeks emotional refuge in his homosexual relationship with a local black construction worker is the ironic icing on the cake so to speak! All in all, the play emphasizes some very relevant disputes about immigration today in a carefully crafted display of love and hate at their most extreme.

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Reviewed 07/06/14

By Emily Mae Winters

20th May- 7th June 2014
Pentameters Theatre, London, NW3.