Kevin Barry’s dark laugh at end of life

Actors Siobhan McSweeney and Peter Campion

HEARING that the audience chuckles throughout the play ‘Autumn Royal’ and then emerges shamefaced is no surprise. We have a chance to blush with guilted parties ourselves when this Kevin Barry story tours to Belltable on Friday May 25 and Saturday 26, 8pm a joint production between the writer and The Everyman in Cork.

It’s a first theatrical outing for the 40-something who incidentally or not, has buried his own parents. The leap in writing from other forms came easily – his tabloid reporting, weighty novels ‘The City of Bohane’ and ‘Beatlebone’ and books of short stories. 

Fact: Kevin Barry spent three years working for the Limerick Post in the early 1990s. I was working four doors up on contract with Limerick Leader and went on to take his job when he strolled into the horizon, quill behind the ear.

“That was when the newspaper was on O’Connell Street,” he recalls. “I had this famous [laughs] column called Council Notes and every Monday evening I would head down to City Hall to the council meetings and sort of take the piss out of them. To this day someone from Limerick will approach me and tell me that Council Notes were the best thing I ever did. I’d get the week’s work done by Wednesday afternoon and spend the rest of the week…..drinking…coffee.” [laughs]

The town is still quare fond of the bould, kind, irreverent redhead. His gig at the Frank McCourt Creative Writing Festival 2018 with Julian Gough sold out, which does please him. On to ‘Autumn Royal’, having wowed the critics.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

“I have great affection for these two characters,” Barry says of the brother and sister caught in a resentful world of minding their bedridden oul’ fella. “They are like every family in the country about what care are they going to offer and what can be done.

“There are no right answers,” is the point he makes. “This is a very, very black comedy. I mean, what can you do? Put a blanket over someone’s head?

“I do think that bit of black comedy is very important. It is how we deal with things.”

Directed by Caitriona McLaughlin within a set that smells of disinfectant, May and  Timothy’s troubled connection with each other and the demands made on them are ripe with rage, fear of death and of promise  unfulfilled, a suppressed viciousness and longing to be free.  Murder, they banter. The sheer familiarity of this trapped scenario will tug on many.

Kevin Barry’s insights are acute. He is a fabulous writer, a maker of other worlds that are rich and funny.  ‘Autumn Royal’ could be yours.

Book for Belltable 8pm on venue manager