Written by John B Keane

Wednesday 15th February to Saturday 18th February 2017

Directed by Simon Walton

AuthorJohn B Keane

John B Keane

John B. Keane, one of Ireland's most prolific and respected literary figures, died on 30 May 2002 at the age of 73, after a long and difficult battle with cancer. John B. Keane was born in 1928 in Listowel, County Kerry and it was here that he spent his literary career, running a pub which provided him with inspiration for his characters and ideas.

His first play, Sive, was presented by the Listowel Drama Group and won the All-Ireland Drama Festival in 1959. It was followed by another success, Sharon's Grave, in 1960. The Field (1965) and Big Maggie (1969), are widely regarded as classics of the modern Irish stage and jewels in a crown which includes such popular hits as Many Young Men of Twenty, The Man from Clare, Moll, The Chastitute and The Year of the Hiker. His large canon of plays have been seen abroad in cities as far afield as Moscow and Los Angeles. Big Maggie ran on Broadway for over two months in 1982 and The Field was adapted into an Oscar-winning Hollywood film, starring Brenda Fricker and Richard Harris, in 1991.

But it was not just in his plays that John B. Keane managed to portray all aspects of humanity with both wit and truth. He also wrote many fine novels, including The Contractors, A High Meadow and Durango. Durango was adapted for the big screen, starring Brenda Fricker and Patrick Bergin. A writer of essays, short stories and letters, his humorous words live on in Celebrated Letters of John B. Keane, More Celebrated Letters, The Best of John B. Keane and The Short Stories of John B. Keane. In 1987 John B. Keane received a special award for his enduring place in Irish life and letters from the Sunday Independent/Irish Life. In that year he also won a Sunday Tribune Arts Award and in 1988 he was chosen as the recipient of the Irish-American Fund Award for Literature. In 1999 he was presented with a Gradam medal, the Abbey Theatre's highest award.

He was a member of Aosdana and the recipient of honorary doctorates from Trinity College, Dublin, Limerick University and Marymount College, New York. John B. Keane remains one of Mercier's best-loved and best-selling authors.


Orphaned and illegitimate Sive (she rhymes with 'dive') lives with her aunt and uncle in rural Ireland. Sean Dota, an elderly farmer, offers the local match-maker a large sum to arrange her marriage to him. Will this be too much for her aunt and uncle to resist and what will be the consequences?

Seen by over 30,000 people during a sell-out revival at the Abbey Theatre Dublin in 2014, John B Keane's 'Sive' is considered one of the greatest Irish plays of the 20th Century.

Don't miss the opportunity to see this dark, powerful story of greed and passion.

The Bench Production

Sive Poster Image

This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Nanna GlavinMargaret Coles
Mena GlavinAngie McKeown
SiveAlex Eels
Thomasheen Sean RuaDavid Penrose
Mike GlavinSteve Burt
Liam ScuabBen Tanner
Sean DotaPete Woodward
Pats BocockPhil Amor
CarthalawnChris Vanstone


Director Simon Walton
Producer David Penrose
Stage Manager Janice Halsey
Assistant Stage Managers Sue Dawes and Julie Wood
Lighting Design Phil Hanley
Sound Design Phil Hanley
Lighting Operation Sally Hartley
Sound Operation Jacquie Penrose
Set Design Simon Walton assisted by Julie Wood and David Penrose
Programme Editor Derek Callam
Handbill Design Dan Finch
Photography Sharman Callam
FOH Manager Craig Parker

Director's Notes

A business trip to Dublin in May 2014, a desire to see an Irish play in Ireland found us at the Abbey Theatre to watch a play we never heard of by an author I'd never come across. The first revelation was the intimacy of what is effectively the national theatre with a stage and the actors almost within touching distance of every seat of the house. The second revelation was the emotional ride we were taken on over the next few hours with some of the most powerful engaging drama I've seen. With the audience rising in one at the end the inevitable result was to direct the play with Bench Theatre.

A play essentially about place, people, and possessions, the setting of early 1950's rural Ireland and the subject of matchmaking may feel quite alien and disconnected to our own experiences in the 21st century. However a quick trawl of the news and we find stories on poverty, gender inequalities, dating agencies, arranged marriages, prostitution and sex slavery which shows that the underpinning message is still as relevant now as it was then.

I hope I have done the words justice and you will get some of the same experience I got when I saw it for the first time.

Simon Walton


The NewsJames George

The Bench Theatre is back doing what they do best - bringing little-known pieces to the local eye.

In John B Keane's story set in rural 1050s Ireland, Sive is a teenager in love with someone eminently more suitable but being forced to marry a much older man for the financial gain of her family. As Sive, Alex Eels is at her most effective when challenging the authority of her guardians and in her ultimate anguish, knowing that the marriage is to be forced upon her.

Bench stalwart David Penrose is also on fine form as Thomasheen Sean Rua, the matchmaker behind the ill-fated pairing and - of all the cast - handles the intricate Irish dialogue with ease.

The wonderfully-faced Margaret Coles gives strong support as Nanna Glavin, Sive's only friend, and Ben Tanner as Sive's true-interest, grieves eloquently at the end. There's a towering performance from Angie McKeown as self-interested aunt Mena who is willing to sacrifice Sive's happiness for her own gain.

Director Simon Walton could encourage a greater variety of pace in his cast, but that's a small gripe in an otherwise good production.

Production Photographs