‘The Serpentine Speaks’ was conceived by Tom Carroll and co-written with Ms. Jane O’Loughlin and Ms. Ger Dillon. The play, co-directed by Tom, Ger, Jane and GAP Student, Mr. Paddy Sunderland, marked the welcome return of Third Line drama to the Clongowes calendar. This is a cleverly-conceived play that celebrates the history of Clongowes and its most famous characters and former students, but also manages to offer a commentary on the present, delightfully irreverent at times, as well as looking to the future.
At the start, we are presented with a tableau of portraits from the Serpentine and elsewhere: James Joyce (Dylan O’Neill), John Redmond (Hugo O’Donnell), Fr. Peter Kenny (Luke McMahon) and Fr. John Conmee (Fred Sargaison) are frozen in time and, indeed, great credit is due to the actors who managed to hold their poses while the audience filled the seats. Then, the portraits come to life, argue and witness the past and the present: Redmond urges students to defend democracy, Fr. Willie Doyle (Kealan Noone) meets an OC (Brian Gallagher) on the WW1 battlefield, Fr. John Sullivan (Jack Kearney) arrives on bicycle to pray over a dying child, Fr. Kenney, founder of the school, encounters Fr. Moloney (Ruairi O’Meara) as he adds a portrait of Trampas to the Serpentine collection!
Later on, in a very amusing scene from the 1970s, a teacher (Mikey Ronayne was very convincing!) struggles to manage an unruly bunch of students, including Richard Bruton and Michael O’Leary. He accuses them of behaving as badly as a bunch of politicians… telling Richard that he will never amount to anything and warning MOL not to fly any more paper planes around the classroom. The teacher even says that, if he had his way, the boys should queue up coming into class and have to pay to use the bathroom!
It is a great credit to Tom Carroll’s script that he managed to incorporate so many characters and episodes from the past, not to mention the combination of light and shade, humour and metaphysical speculation, in such a short (half hour) play. Great credit is due to the directors and cast that the performances were so ‘free’. The boys were enjoying themselves on stage, even though they were utterly committed to the task. I hope they will hanker to return to the Clongowes stage and that we will see many more dramatic productions in the coming years.