The Whiteheaded Boy was presented as a rehearsed reading as part of Play It by Ear, a programme of shows for The Everyman stage, and available on live audio broadcast.
Denis Goeghegan is ‘The Whiteheaded Boy’ of the title. He is the apple of his mother’s eye and the envy of his siblings. Therefore, his inevitable fall from grace is particularly spectacular.
Notionally studying medicine in Dublin, Denis arrives home to his Irish small-town family to find out, with little surprise, that he has once again failed his examinations. Rather than face the shame of his failure, his long-suffering and indulgent parents decide with great reluctance that he should go to Canada to seek his fortune; however, Denis has other ideas.
Hijinks, marriage proposals, bribes and counter-bribes ensue as the family members exploit and misinterpret Denis’ situation. Full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and families fighting each other and one another, it culminates in a happy ending – for some, if not for others!
The play is as relevant today as when it was first presented at the Abbey in 1916. Not only does it reveal the dynamics of a family, but it is in fact a pointed analysis of Irish culture. Mrs. Geoghegan, in her coddling of Denis, represents at once the loving but stifling Mother Ireland and the English colonial presence.
Cork playwright Lennox Robinson (1886-1958) wrote The Whiteheaded Boy in 1915. It opened to rave reviews in 1916 and is frequently called Lennox’s masterpiece.
Written by Lennox Robinson
Directed by Ger FitzGibbon
All twelve parts – Hannah, Jane, George, Baby, Peter, Donough Brosnan, Delia, Denis, Kate, Mrs Geoghegan, John Duffy, Aunt Ellen – were played by Maggie Donovan, George Hanover, Jack Healy, Dominic MacHale and Pauline O’Driscoll
By agreement with Abbey Theatre Amharclann na Mainistreach