Many Young Men of Twenty

Written by John B Keane
Directed by Karen Carleton
Performed in The Mill Theatre, Dundrum - 10 - 14 November 2009

The group's production of 'Many Young Men of Twenty' closed to an enthusiastic full house on Saturday 14 November 2009. This production proved to be a huge success and a favourite with audiences throughout its week long run in the Mill Theatre. It was a marvelous night out for the whole family with laughs and songs galore and something for everyone to talk over and argue about for days afterwards. It may have been about Ireland in the 1950s, but it resonated with young and old like a contemporary piece of social commentary.

Francis Cahill
as Danger Mulally

Francis Cahill as Danger Mulally on the set designed by Gerard Bourke and built by Patrick Hand, John Carleton, Brian Dempsey, Mick Behan and Ronan Goggin.

Francis Cahill
Francis Cahill in the Mill Theatre

The story takes place in the back room of a public house during the summer in 1950s Ireland. The location is Kerry, in a small rural village called 'Keelty'. While the theme has a sad undertone in that it deals with emigration and the lack of jobs at home, which forced people to leave their native Ireland for England, the tale is told with lots of humour and some music and dance.

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On a July evening in 1961, a few hours before the curtain was due to rise on 'Many Young Men of Twenty, John B Keane was pacing the hotel lounge of the Imperial Hotel in Cork. His wife Mary was not with him, she was expecting their third child within weeks. John B joked, lit cigarette after cigarette and kept frowning at his watch. 'Don't mind me' he said, 'I'm always like this before a premiere. Tonight is a challenge'.

John B Keane
John B Keane


John B Keane had written a play with a theme close to his heart, emigration, a subject which he felt gave rise to political hypocrisy.

He had drawn on his own experiences in London and had highlighted the emigrants homecoming on holidays and eventual return to places and jobs they hated.

The underlying theme was the emigrants desire to share their life again with their own Irish people.

His anger with the political establishment who sat on their hands while bemoaning the fate of their people was and is palpable.


Written in the late 1950s, 'Many Young. Men of Twenty' may now seem on occasion politically incorrect. It was conceived at a time of real innocence and naivety and of some ignorance of the world outside of the 'kingdom'. His main character Danger Mulally, written for the actor James N Healy, is a man who knows Ireland, or at least knows Kerry. He knows our exaggerated faults and over-emphasised blessings and is unaware of the sensitivities of any 'other'. A man of his time.


An appreciation of the writer

A writer I admire very much is the late John B. Keane. I have many reasons for this choice. I will choose one - if a writer can create characters whom I can readily imagine I would know if I heard them speak, or met them out and about, or heard their voice, then that writer is excellent for me.

So many of John B. Keane's characters live in my imagination as if I had truly known them, that his ability to create them in all their uniqueness, is for me a sign of a gifted writer. If I walk in forests or in deserted places, pass by isolated farmhouses, see the mystical sweep of a mountain, the windswept loneliness and internal beauty of a bog, I often imagine the footfall of memorable characters as The Hiker.


If I hear the beat of a bodhrán, I am back in childhood in my local hall in Kilcavan, witnessing the drama of Sive, in her stage world, where the audience is spellbound in pity and in reality.

If I see suitcases or pieces of twine, I hear in ghostly crescendo the words of, 'Many Young Men of Twenty said Goodbye.'


John B. Keane in his myriad of characters in his plays, novels, short stories, poems and songs, had the gift for characterisation which is just one reason from many that I treasure all his books and return to them often, recalling the gentleman he was, and the great character creator he is in all his writings.


Ann Egan

Peg Finnerty
Tom Hannigan
Seelie Hannigan
Katty Fitzgerald
Aloysius Óg
Danger Mulally
Daheen Timmineen Din
Mikey Din
Mary Din
Maurice Brown
Anne Finnerty
Dot (Dinny's Wife)
Kitty Curley
Kitty's neighbour
JJ Houlihan T.D.
Johnny Houlihan
Jacqueline Dooley
Len Nealon
Joanne Keane
Stephanie Ruane
Sean T Daly
Óran O'Rua
John Canning, Grainne McCarthy
Francis Cahill
Declan Brennan
Joe McCarthy
Gareth Murphy
Mary Ryan
Kevin O'Flynn
Fiona Walshe
Evan Jameson
Claire O'Donovan
Aoibhinn Finnegan
Muriel Caslin O'Hagan
Teresa Dempsey
Tony McGettigan
Oisin Gibson
Set Design
Stage Manager
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Sound Operator
Construction Manager
Set Construction

Costume Design
Musical Directors
Make Up

Programme Design
Programme Content

Karen Carleton
Hilary Madigan
Gerard Bourke
Niamh Daly
Paul Macken
Declan Brennan
Derek Green
Patrick Hand
John Carleton, Brian Dempsey,
Patrick Hand, Mick Behan,
Ronan Goggin
Dympna Murray
Jacqueline Dooley,
Muriel Caslin O'Hagan
Teresa Dempsey, Emma O'Hara
Claire Reilly
Declan Brennan
Doris Cullen, Jean Monahan,
Lorraine Hedderman,
Orla Fitzpatrick
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Picture Gallery

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Karen Carleton
Karen Carleton

Karen Carleton (right) directed 'Many Young Men of Twenty' at the Mill Theatre in Dundrum, Dublin from Tuesday 10 to Saturday 14 November 2009 in a very successful run that played to full houses of very appreciative audiences.

This work has been considered by many to be one of J B Keane's finest plays since it was first performed in Cork in 1961.


The emigrants' longing for home is very evident in the play - "Everyone is lonesome leaving home" - but their annual homecomings and their return to jobs and places they disliked are used by the playwright to draw some wonderful characters and present the richness of the human spirit in spite of their circumstances.

Francis Cahill (left) played the lead role, Danger Mulally, in 'Many Young Men of Twenty'.

Some of the cast during a rehearsal for 'Many Young Men'
Kevin and Dinny Kevin (left) played by Joe McCarthy and Dinny played by Gareth Murphy share a brotherly moment where Kevin acts as comforter before they leave for England.
Peg Finnerty, played by Jacqueline Dooley, is the focus of attention for two characters who are rivals for her affection - the farmer's son Kevin and school teacher Maurice Brown. In a world where there is no such thing as a safe choice, the path Peg follows might be flawed, but flexible and passionate in its own way. The one she rejects is equally determined, but made from a mould that is more set in its ways. Peg
Kevin and Peg Joe McCarthy and Jacqueline Dooley during rehearsals for one of their scenes together where Kevin begins to show his feelings for Peg.
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