Important Manx play now online

Fri, 13 Apr 2018

A video of a play by the Isle of Man’s most prolific playwright has been released online, marking an important step in access to Manx culture.

'A Lil Smook' is one of the earliest and best examples of a Manx dialect play. It was written by J. J. Kneen in 1913 for a play competition organised by the Manx Language Society. Since then this play about a woman’s attempts to halt her husband’s constant smoking has established itself as one of the most popular of all Manx plays. But it has only now appeared online for the first time.

“A performance of a play like this going online is very exciting,” says James Franklin of Culture Vannin. “It is bringing a very important part of Manx culture to an entirely new audience and supporting its continued performance and enjoyment into the future.”

The author of the play, J. J. Kneen, is best remembered for his work revitilising the Manx language and for books like ‘Place-Names of the Isle of Man’ (1925) and ‘Personal Names of the Isle of Man’ (1937). But he was also author of at least 13 Manx dialect plays, making him the most prolific of any Manx playwright. This performance of his best-known play appearing online is important to widening access to the vernacular theatre of the Isle of Man.

“Too few know about the rich heritage of plays which the Isle of Man can boast,” says James Franklin of Culture Vannin, “but it in many ways it is the most Manx of all art forms, bringing together costume, stories, folklore, accents, dialect and a whole way of life.”

The performance was given by the Michael Players, who recently received the Isle of Man’s highest award for contribution to culture, the Reih Bleeaney Vanannan (RBV). Having been performing Manx dialect theatre for over 60 years, the group is the only remaining one regularly performing the traditional plays of the Isle of Man.

The performance was given at the Manks Concert at the Peel centenary Centre dedicated to the memory of the late Roy Kennaugh. The event on 24 February was organised by the Manx Branch of the Celtic Congress and filmed by Culture Vannin.

“The coming together of these different forces in the cultural life of the Isle of Man was wonderful,” said Franklin, “by working together like this, we can get the message out about the richness and brilliance of Manx culture.”

The recorded concert also included songs, poetry and recitals from Marlene Hendy, Dilys Sowrey, Scran, Deborah Taubman, Win Callister and others.

'A Lil Smook' and all 11 videos of the Manks Concert are available from Culture Vannin:

Manks Concert 2018