Jon Kenny returns to the stage in The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker plays at Lime Tree Theatre on Friday April 5.

JON Kenny and Norma Sheehan will reunite to bring us John B. Keane’s The Matchmaker at Lime Tree Theatre on Friday April 5.

The Matchmaker follows the efforts of Dicky Mick Dicky O Connor, to make matches for the lonely and lovelorn in the 1960’s. Jon Kenny and Norma Sheahan play a myriad of characters in search of companionship and satisfaction.

Using his inimitable way with words and his sense of “devilment” and wit, John B. Keane delves into the longings, hungers, fears and foibles of this collection of lonely county people and creates a marvellously colourful world, taking us back to a simpler time, before mobile phones, swapping left or right and the web was something left behind by spiders.

Limerick Post had a chat with Jon Kenny this week as he gears up for a return to the stage after over a year off for health reasons.

Jon has performed The Matchmaker with Norma Sheehan before and with Mary McEvoy before that and toured the UK with Keane’s evergreen story.

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“It’s like a piece that just sits there”, John says, “theatres will ring every now and again to ask if I’m still doing The Matchmaker”

John B. Keane’s SIVE (which also features Norma Sheehan) is on a long run at The Gaiety at the moment and The Matchmaker will play at Lime Tree Theatre on Friday April 5. There seems to still be an appetite for Keane’s stories some 50 years on from when they were published?

“We’re still doing the same carry on. There’s only so many stories you can tell in life, you know what I mean?

“There are tragedies and there are comedies, but in between them all, you have human weaknesses and human frailties and greed and passion and love and that’s what every play in the world is based on.

“I like John B. Keane, but sometimes you could say that maybe the plays have technical faults BUT the language is beautiful.  

“To me he is as much a poet as much as he is a playwright. 

“There are phenomenal passages in SIVE, so beautifully written, so descriptive and so poetic. 

“With The Matchmaker, there is this beautiful colour in the language. I never tire of doing it.

“It was written in the 1950s, but there’s definitely a sophistication, the characters are set in rural Ireland and their vocabulary is superior to what anyone is speaking today.

“He held a mirror up to rural Ireland, warts and all.

Jon hasn’t been on stage in well over a year so while The Matchmaker might a comfortable pair of shoes, you still have to learn off all the dialogue and get familiar with it again and all the jumping between characters that he and co-star Norma Sheahan have to do

“It’s not like doing your normal play, where a lot of the time somebody throws you a line and it’s like a cue line or a prompt or you’re answering a question. In The Matchmaker it’s nearly all monologue based for each of the characters.”

Jon has been a part of a few films recently, The Hurler: A Campion’s Tale by comedian Tony Kelly which was filmed in Waterford, released in October 2023, and of course the big one is The Banshees of Inisherin which was filmed on Inis Mor and Achill Island.

Jon  reunited with his D’Unbelievables partner Pat Shortt for a pub scene which gives light relief to the disintegrating kinship between Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell’s characters.

The pub scene was made in Achill Island and Jon was on set a little longer than expected. 

“For the amount of time I was on screen, I was there for about eight weeks,” he laughs.

“It’s usual film stuff, not that I do that much of that,  but there was great excitement and it was lovely to be part of that because I love Martin McDonagh’s stuff 

“I have seen all his plays and I love him as a playwright.

“I would have done anything on it, as I said to someone, I was sweeping the floor some of the time, I wasn’t in the film at all. Doing a few handy jobs around the place.”

“We were at the read through, sometimes you don’t get to the read through especially if you have a small part in the movie.  You’d hardly even know why you’re there half the time.

“You’ve got the full cast at the table and everything and we read through the whole film. And then when we came to our few bits, we realised that we were the comic duo in this and the two of us back together again. 

“While there is a civil war going on between the main characters, we are a double act, joined at the hip. McDonagh had it in mind to have the two of us in it. He had seen us in The Lonesome West and other things.”

After The Matchmaker, the next thing on Jon Kenny’s diary is his performing debut as a poet at The Limerick Writers Centre Poetry Month. It will feature  readings from Donal Ryan, Jon Kenny, Jim Burke, Eoin Devereux, John Liddy, Tommy Collins, Mike MacDomhnaill and D’or Seifer. 

John B. Keane’s The Matchmaker plays at Lime Tree Theatre on Friday April 5.