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I, Keano

Published Thursday 17 February 2005 at 15:00 by Anthony Garvey

Currently playing to packed houses, this is a play that captures perfectly the passion, posturing and lunacy of the time when the country was convulsed by the confrontation between Roy Keane - the combative Manchester United skipper who almost provoked a sporting civil war in his native Ireland when he walked out on its World Cup squad in 2002 - and the then Irish manager Mick McCarthy. In a sense, this self-styled “musical epic” is a parody of a parody. Even the infamous Keane expletives, far from being deleted, are recycled to add edge - and hilarity - to Paul Woodfull’s lyrics.

With a title borrowed from I, Claudius, writers Arthur Mathews (of Father Ted fame) and Michael Nugent have given the tale a mock-heroic twist by transforming the sound and fury of the real events on the Pacific island of Saipan into a sword-and-sandals drama in Roman times. Warrior Keano, played by Mario Rosenstock with a smouldering intensity that any Premiership referee would recognise, finds everything in chaos when he arrives to lead his men into war. He explodes in fury and confronts the general in charge, Macartacus, a splendid portrayal of the earnest but hapless Irish manager by Dessie Gallagher.

There are equally sharp caricatures of the bit players in the Saipan saga. Former Irish international Niall Quinn gets a satirical canning as do-gooder Quinnus, singing of his love for children. His wife Gillian is lampooned for her washing powder TV commercials as Surfia, the army washerwoman - Tara Flynn revels in the role, as does Risteard Cooper as a member of the Apres Match comedy team.

Another Apres Match regular, Gary Cooke, contributes a very funny send-up of Alex Ferguson as Fergi the Dolphin God, plus his familiar party piece on Keane’s biographer, Eamonn Dunphy, this time as Dunphia, an insidious wood nymph. Newspaper hacks Mischevus and Obsequis need no explanation, while the former Irish goalkeeping star, Packie Bonner, now an assistant coach, becomes Bonnerus, a Daniel O’Donnell type songster, as portrayed by Paul McGlinchey.

This is a send-them-home-laughing show, ably produced by Peter Sheridan. The question now being asked is whether it is just a home ground success or if it would also play away. In the UK, for instance.

Production information

Olympia Theatre, Dublin, February 8-March 5

Arthur Mathews, Michael Nugent
Music and lyrics:
Paul Woodfull
Peter Sheridan
Lane Productions in association with MCD
Mario Rosenstock, Dessie Gallagher, Risteard Cooper, Gary Cooke, Tara
Flynn, Paul McGlinchey, Joe Taylor
Running time:
2hrs 20mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014