JOHNJO REVIEW

REVIEW OF MY PLAY ‘JOHNJO’, performed recently CENTRAL ARTS, JORDAN’S LANE WATERFORD

03-08-2015 14;05;03 

A View from the Green Room.

Pat McEvoy.

Arts Correspondent..WATERFORD NEWS & STAR

DISTURBING ‘JOHNJO’ AT CENTRAL ARTS.

Johnjo McGrath enters singing ballad of The Rocks of Bawn and you just know that there is a story to be told. It was a favourite of his father who barely knew the words, or the notes, if the truth be told. A small landholder of twenty acres on the Comeraghs of which only five were arable, he carried ancient grudges around like boulders. Clearing land that was full of furze, rock and limestone, he cursed his circumstances and drank a lot of whiskey to dull the pain.

He references Crotty the highwayman and understands the shared experience of disenfranchisement. He curses the Curraghmores and their acres of lawns that would have fed the bellies of half-fed cattle. Not that he had too many of those. It’s the sense of privilege and entitlement about the Curraghmores that gets to him. It eats away at him and he sees no shame in stealing the odd sheep of theirs and selling it on to slaughter. He feels dispossessed and evicted from his land and blames it on the greed of the Anglo-Irish who never had enough.

A selfish father with a grievance, he drank all he had and when he drowned himself, Johnjo had to sell the bullock to meet the funeral expenses.   With only £2-10 the mother mortgages the land and moves into the town. A knife-incident leaving a man badly wounded, forces him to flee and it’s the boat in wartime for Johnjo.

Grim times. Working on the lump, with an array of identities to avoid detection, it’s a grim and lonely existence. Kavanagh’s lines of the women who love only young men ring in the ear of the aging man who moves between damp and over-crowded doss-houses while building the motorways. The gangers are always the same. Elephant John is a tough task-master who can really dish it out. And it’s always Paddy. Never Johnjo. Still no matter when you’re on the lump. The names tumble our like tourist dishcloths…Tom Dooley…Roy Rogers…Gene Aughtry…Donald F****in’ Duck.

But a life without children. And a wife. Before he knows it, he’s fifty. It’s been an empty existence claims Johnjo but odd facts begin to pop out from the coiled spring of resentment. Sexual ambiguities surface. He prefers the company of men. Their smell. Their friendship. A band of building brothers. It’s a world of sexual compromise and secrets hidden from even himself.

He hates Bannagher, the jumped-up Irish boss who also owns the pub in Cricklewood where the wages are paid. He only pays by cheque and charges 5% on cashing cheques for subbies who he knows can never have a bank account. When a trench collapses killing Johnjo’s only friendKennedy because of poor scaffolding, Johnjo settles accounts with Bannagher in the old time-honoured way of blood-payment.

Eamon Culloty is excellent as the spiteful-regretful-sexually-ambivalent Johnjo. In what was once a best suit, he brings the whole range of despised Paddy to the stage. It’s a performance that’s always highly charged and directed with great sympathy by James Power. The emptiness of a wasted life is what remains with you after the performance. There’s nothing simple about a performance that seems to constantly search for answers and, perhaps, other ways to have gone about his business. His father’s son, he doesn’t get his sense of dispossession from the ground. He doesn’t blame the father and scoffs at Larkin’s line: they f**k you up, your mum and dad’. ‘No’ Johnjo declares ‘I f**ked them up’.

Tom O’Brien’s writing always seems to drive Johnjo on to a conclusion based on the navvies’ experience.  His wisdom is bought at a price that no one  should really have to pay. O’Brien lays Paddy’s experiences in post-war Britain bare…lodgings in damp rooms crammed with other Paddies trying to get by. Weekends trying to dull the pain of existence through drink and then looking for a sub on Monday to get through the week.

Great to see Waterford playwright Tom O’Brien’s work on a Waterford stage. Let’s see more of it.

KATHY KIRBY – ICON

BookCoverImage

now available as a paperback on Amazon

KATHY KIRBY ALWAYS WANTED STARDOM, AND FOUND IT AT THE AGE OF 16 UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF RENOWNED BANDLEADER BERT AMBROSE. BEFORE TOO LONG SHE WAS THE MAIN SINGER IN HIS BAND, AND NOT LONG AFTERWARDS HIS MISTRESS – DESPITE THE FORTY-YEAR AGE GAP.      SHE HAD EVERYTHING; A REMARKABLE VOICE, STUNNING LOOKS, AND WAS SOON A MAJOR TV AND RECORDING STAR. ‘BRITAIN’S ANSWER TO MARILYN MONROE’, THE NEWSPAPER SCREAMED CONSTANTLY.                       YET BY HER LATE THIRTIES SHE WAS A FALLEN STAR. SHE STOPPED PERFORMING COMPLETELY, BECAME A RECLUSE, AND EVENTUALLY DIED IN POVERTY. SO WHAT WENT WRONG FOR KATHY KIRBY? THIS PLAY ANSWERS THAT QUESTION.

Playing at the WHITE BEAR THEATRE  138 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4DJ, this coming October. Watch this space for further details.

MY FATHER – a poem by John Osborne

John Osborne poet

John Osborne  was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and critic of the Establishment. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theatre.

In a productive life of more than 40 years, Osborne explored many themes and genres, writing for stage, film and TV. His personal life was extravagant and iconoclastic. He was notorious for the ornate violence of his language, not only on behalf of the political causes he supported but also against his own family, including his wives and children.

Osborne was one of the first writers to address Britain’s purpose in the post-imperial age. He was the first to question the point of the monarchy on a prominent public stage. During his peak (1956–1966), he helped make contempt an acceptable and now even cliched onstage emotion, argued for the cleansing wisdom of bad behaviour and bad taste, and combined unsparing truthfulness with devastating wit.

MY FATHER

My father lived a simple life
But he was a man apart
With gentle ways and humble mind
And an understanding heart

He loved and cared for people
Helping those in need.
He strove to make folk happy
For kindness was his creed.

He never aimed for dizzy heights
Of luxury or fame
But where he walked and where he talked
With love he carved his name.

He was like a rock to lean upon
Each problem he would share.
He found his strength in his belief
And in kneeling down in prayer.

He loved his home and lived his life
With fullness to the end
He taught me much I owe him much
A father and a friend.

Death was peace and joy to him
It was no fearful thing,
His faith was simple and sincere
And God alone his king.

3 PUNKS

3 PUNKS (extract)

By

Tom O’Brien

A bare stage. A bar with some stools stage left. Some drinks scattered about. A screen to back with images of Punks etc. Spotlight no 1 on JOHN LYDON. Spotlight no.2 on SHANE MACGOWAN. Spotlight no. 3 on JOE STRUMMER.  All three acknowledge the audience. Hold the spotlights for a few moments, then they all step forward and sing a verse each from 3 songs. John sings ANARCHY UK, Shane sings IF I SHOULD FALL FROM GRACE, Joe sings LONDON CALLING. All are dressed in the punk styles of their generation; Lydon wears an I HATE PINK FLOYD tee-shirt;  Joe carries a guitar.  It has a label which reads – THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS ; Shane has a pint and a fag in his hands.

JOHN:            I consider myself working class. And we, the working class, we’re lazy good-for-nothing  bastards. We never accept responsibility for our lives – that’s why we’ll always be downtrodden. We seem to enjoy it in a perverse sort of way; we like being told what to do, led like sheep to the slaughterhouse, as it were.

JOE:               I was born John Mellor in Ankara, Turkey, in 1952. My father worked for the Foreign Office, with the result I had a life moving around different places when I was young; Cairo, Mexico City, West Germany, before we finally settled in the UK. My parents were still posted abroad though so at the age of eight I was packed off to boarding school, along with my elder brother David. That was our home for the next nine years, seeing our parents just once or twice a year. I suppose that’s why I became so fucked up.

SHANE:      I grew up in Puckaun. Back of beyond Tipperary. On a farm. My mother’s people. My uncle Jim used to sleep in the haystacks, ya know? He’d get pissed off about how overcrowded it was because there were about fourteen people living in the house.  You’d be playing in the haystacks and you’d suddenly realise Jim was asleep in the hay, under the tarpaulins. It was either that or sleep in the same bed as uncle John – and uncle John used to fight in his sleep. ‘Fock yez, I’ll fockin kill yez, ye conts’. So uncle Jim got so sick of it he would sleep in the haystacks, and in the end he never slept in a bed again.

JOHN:              I loathe the British Public School system with a passion. How can anybody have the right to a better education just because their parents have money? I find that vile. They talk with this sense of superiority , the upper classes, and they have it. They have all the right connections once they leave school, and they parasite off the population as their  friends help them along.  You never see that with the working classes.

JOE:               Our school’s initiation rite involved a choice of being beaten up or lying in a bath of used toilet paper. I got beaten up! I guess it toughened me up, taught me to be independent, but there was always this sense of abandonment; having to pretend your parents didn’t exist. There was this ‘Lord Of The Flies’ feel to the all-male dorm and bullying was rife; it was a really brutal school and they filled you with crap.

JOHN:              Because with the working classes, if you have any kind of success your friends, your neighbours, will turn round and hate you instantly.

SHANE:           I know. “You’re not working class anymore!”

JOHN:            That used to worry me when I was younger, but I couldn’t give a toss now. I regard myself as working class and that’s all that counts. It was similar if you managed to read a book – and actually understand it! Then you were a snob, a poof, or a sissy. Labels, that’s all they were. Meaningless fucking labels.

SHANE:        (to Lydon) I remember the first time I saw you. You had long hair and wore a bovver hat. You were quite fat.

JOHN:            Fuck off you seldom fed culchie.

JOE:               That’s a Brendan Behan line.

JOHN:            And you can fuck off too, Strummer.

SHANE:         The next time you had blue hair. I’ll say this; it took some bottle to wear blue hair in Finsbury Park in those days. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            If you don’t accept me as I am then don’t accept me at all, that’s always been my motto. I was practically unlovable most of my early life. I wouldn’t even let my parents go near me. From a very early age it was – “get off! Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!”

SHANE:         I bet you fondled yourself.

JOE:               Well, isn’t this cosy. Three old punkers livin’ it up.

SHANE:         More like the three stooges, fuckin’ it up. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            Wait a minute! What are you doing here, Strummer? What’s he doin’ here? He’s fuckin’ dead. (He looks around)       Where is this place?

SHANE:         Yeah, Joe, what are you doing here?

JOE:               I thought you believed in re-incarnation, Shane.

SHANE:         Yeah, I do. But you can’t come back as yourself, can you? A dog, maybe. Or a chicken. Chee…chee.

JOE:               Maybe it’s all a dream.

JOHN:            The question is – whose dream?

JOE sings a few lines from Bruce Springsteen’s THE RIVER  and glides away

Now those memories come back to haunt me,

They haunt me like a curse.

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true,

Or is it something worse?

JOHN:            Yeah, I fondled myself. But I never screamed as a youngster. That shocked my mother when she first heard the Sex Pistols. I had always been so quiet. She’d never seen that side of me. She probably thought she had raised a lunatic.

SHANE:         And you proved her right. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            Yeah. Had I not had my family I would have turned into a psychopath or something. Looking at how other people behaved I was definitely weird. I always had this sense of detachment…isolation… even when I was part of the Pistols this continued. I was never part of the group in any meaningful way. I came and sang my songs and then went home alone. I was never invited to any parties or get-togethers; I never felt really belonged.

Joe returns.

JOE:               It’s Tuesday today. Just another I-wish-I-could –get-this-monkey-off-my-back fucking day. Have you got a smoke?

JOHN:            We were the very first people – as a band I mean – to call each other cunts. We just didn’t like each other, simple as that. Steve Jones was probably the most important member of the group. He was our procurer. Instruments, mics, speakers, you name it he would acquire it. He was a thief – a very good one – and had been since he was six years old when he watched his parents steal from the local Tesco’s. It was all he knew to do. He managed to get us great gear. (laughs) We still couldn’t play properly  even when we had great gear. One of our best sources was the Hammersmith Odeon where rock stars would be regularly playing. Steve knew his way round the back and when all the roadies were asleep or whatever, he’d sneak in and get us what we needed. The Pistols could never have come into being without nicked gear ‘cos none of us had any money. I was invited to Join the band and become the lead singer by Malcolm. Malcolm McClaren. I was down the Kings Road every week, looking absurd, and Malcolm’s shop ‘Sex’ was the place to hang out. It had a jukebox and you could play music and have a chat with Malcolm. I had green hair and one evening Malcolm just said ‘would you like to be in a band?’ I said ‘I can’t sing. Just let me sing out of tune. Would that be alright?’ I knew every Alice Cooper song upside down, backwards and inside out so I did my version of ‘EIGHTEEN’

Johnny throws him a packet of cigarettes.

 

JOE:               A proper fucking smoke. A spliff.

JOHN:            I don’t fucking indulge.

They all sing Lydon’s version of EIGHTEEN (c Alice Cooper)

 

ALL:                          Lines form on my face and my hands
Lines form on the left and right
I’m in the middle
the middle of life
I’m a boy and I’m a man
I’m eighteen and I LIKE IT
Yes I like it
Oh I like it
Love it
Like it
Love it

                       

SHANE:         It’s election day today. Have you even voted?

JOE:               Have you?  Where I live it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.

SHANE:         Oh yeah, Somerset isn’t it? Bit middle-class for you. But I forgot,

you are middle-class aren’t you Joe. Chhh…chhh…

JOHN:            Nah. That was John Mellor. Son of a Foreign Office diplomat, private-

school boarder, art student , and all that fucking crap. Tell me Joe, has John Mellor been buried under so many years of being Joe Strummer that he no longer exists?

JOE:               You’re a two-faced cunt Lydon. You’re more establishment than any of us.

JOHN:            Nah, you got me confused with somebody else.

JOE:               What about that butter ad? You …a country gent! You sold out early.  (he points)  He used to be Johnny Rotten

                        (sings)

                                    God save the Queen. She ain’t no human being.

There is no future in England’s dreaming…

Hypocrite. And you, McGowan, you went to Westminster Public School.

SHANE:         No  I fucking didn’t. I won a scholarship there, yeah, but did I attend? No fucking way. It was full of toffee nosed bastards like you. I went on a shoplifting spree my first week. I never looked back after that. Drink, drugs, you name it. I didn’t just get kicked out, I was fucking catapulted out. Chee….cheee    (he drinks copiously from bottle)

     JOHN:        I think the first words Steve Jones said about me were “I can’t work with that fucking cunt. All he does is take the piss and moan’. There was rarely a time when the four of us were friends. Right from the start – at rehearsals –  I’d tell them I was going for a piss then listen at the door. And I would hear them;  “That cunt! Fucking hell!”  Then they’d go off in someone’s car, probably Malcolm’s, leave me standing behind. I’d go home by myself on the train. That would be it night after night. Me, the outsider. Malcolm said it was because he wanted me to be the ‘mystery man’. Bollocks!