A look back at the original Kings

This Wednesday 17th & Thursday 18th February we welcome Livin’ Dred Theatre’s production of Jimmy Murphy’s emigration drama The Kings of the Kilburn High Road. But back in the summer of 2000, not long after An Grianán first opened its doors,  we were fortunate to host the original Red Kettle Theatre production of this play.

“it’s a very funny play. Every character has their own story to tell – the dreamers are still talking about coming home while the realists know that will not happen.” Charlie Bonner

Back then the Celtic Tiger was in full roar and the emigration of whole generations of young Irish people was seemingly becoming a thing of the past. How times have changed! And how relevant The Kings of the Kilburn High Road remains.

Our ticket sales rocketed when an elderly Australian nun rang in to Highland Radio to complain vociferously about the content and strong language. Audience member Laurence Blake takes up the story:

‘The last time I saw the show it was a very moving experience and not without some controversy. I found the show very real, relevant and upsetting for it brought to life many stories that I had heard from local workmen who had spent years working as navvies throughout the UK.

“It’s hard to believe that was 16 years ago and some commentators actually argued that these events never took place. I ended up on a “head to head” with a visiting nun on local radio who argued that a land of saints and scholars could never have produced such depraved, broken and drunken men. Sadly nothing could be further from the truth and the depiction as outlined in the play was very real and all too true to life.  But be sure to go and see the show for yourself and make up your own mind.

“In more recent times and again as a result of recession, hard times and unemployment, many of our skilled and unskilled workers were forced to emigrate once more. However most of these ended up not just in the UK but in far flung corners of the world and especially Australia. From what I hear from the returning Aussie workers, especially those on building sites and the mines–events and happenings as portrayed in the Kings of the Kilburn High Road are just as applicable today in such areas as Perth, Sydney, The Northern Territory or Queensland.”

Cast of The Kings of the Kilburn High Rd. JAP Phelim Drew GIT Malcom Adams SHAY Aurthur Riordain MAURTEEN Seamus O’Rourke JOE Charlie Bonner
Today’s Kings: GIT – Malcolm Adams, SHAY – Arthur Riordan, JAP – Phelim Drew, MAURTEEN – Seamus O’Rourke, JOE – Charlie Bonner

This revival features a fantastic cast including well known Donegal actor Charlie Bonner. Here he is talking about the play in the Donegal News: “They were a group of six…There is a lot of history between them so, when they start drinking, there’s singing, dancing and a lot of stories start to come out. There is also a lot of resentment there – it’s a very funny play. Every character has their own story to tell – the dreamers are still talking about coming home while the realists know that will not happen.”

Places like Kilburn may have changed out of all recognition as Jimmy Murphy describes in this article in the Irish Times: “they’re all gone now, the Kilburn High Road isn’t what it was and you’ll be hard pushed to see a Paddy these days, sober or drunk, the length and breadth of it. All that’s left are their stories, and for that we’re all the richer”.

Livin’ Dred Theatre present
The Kings of the Kilburn High Road
Wed 17 & Thur 18 Feb at 8pm Book now

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