This new play by Ferghal Dineen and Eoin Ó hAnnaracháin is about Thomas Kent and his prominent nationalist family who lived in Castlelyons, Co Cork. Thomas, who was to become the only man outside of Dublin to be executed on Irish soil in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, has two lives. In Boston, there’s his publishing company, his activities to revive the Irish language and a blossoming relationship with a young woman.
While all that sounds alluring, Thomas, on his visits home, has to make a hard decision. Neighbours and relatives are being evicted from their homes by rack-renting absentee landlords. In one month, 83 families in the area were evicted. Thomas, who has a strong moral compass exemplified in his teetotalism and his religious faith as well as his intolerance of injustice, decides to stay in Castlelyons.
The play, which also features Thomas’s three brothers and their mother, follows his involvement in the Land League, his advocacy for Irish independence and his role in the Irish Volunteers. (Thomas and the battalion he led were all set to take part in the Rising but the order to mobilise was countermanded.)
However, that wasn’t to be the end of the Kent family fight.
This fairly lengthy play, which could do with some editing, is quite engaging as it’s a family story as much as a political one.
Joseph McCarthy as Thomas comes across as quite a righteous figure, calling for teetotalism among the members of his Galtee battalion.
But his brother, Richard, has a weakness for the drink and is indulged somewhat by his mother. But the matriarch, well played by Judy Donovan, is no pushover. She is a strong driving force in her family even though she sometimes despairs, despite all her praying.
Commenting on the action are two gombeen-like men, reminiscent of Cha and Miah. They bring light relief to the show and are often astute. Talking about the ‘stupidity’ of the Rising, one of them says: “Hundreds dead, for what?”