100 More Like These: The Story of the San Patricios – Viking Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Written by Larry O’Loughlin
Adapted & Performed by Stephen Jones
Until July 15th
This is a story about a forgotten piece of Irish history. The story teller, Thomas O’Byrne, in his later years looks back on his arrival into the United States as a child immigrant. It is the time when notices stated with arrogant insouciance “No blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”. His mother died during their crossing of the Atlantic, his father was a drunk and he had two older twin brothers. He had to survive on his wits. However he got into a bit of trouble with a friend so as to avoid arrest he enlisted in the American army; no questions were asked.
He found himself fighting in American/Mexican war (1846/48). But he along with many other Irish soldiers felt unhappy with the side on which they were fighting. It was an army run by Protestants who were conducting a land grab war against Mexico, a Catholic country. There were obvious parallels to be drawn with what he had left behind in Ireland. His allegiances changed, he switched and joined the Mexicans and along with other Irish deserters they became known as the San Patricios.
The play was written in 2008 with Stephen Jones playing the role of O’Byrne and he now revives the piece. You can choose your metaphor but Jones fits the part of O’Byrne like a hand in a glove. In the course of the narration he creates well over twenty different male characters and he is sufficiently versatile as to create an old woman rose seller. He is gifted with a voice that slips into the various accents which he employs with an enviable easy grace. This is complemented by his lithe body movements. He moves around the stage confidently and he changes from delivering banter standing up between two individuals to crouching on a box as he relates some quieter part of his story as if he was in front of a glowing camp fire.
The central character of the story is the San Patricios Battalion. They were led by one John Riley from Clifden, County Galway. The play’s title is taken from a quote attributed to the Mexican leader, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna “With a hundred more like these men of Riley’s we could have won this war”. It is a part of broader Irish history that is overlooked or chosen to be forgotten. O’Loughlin is to be congratulated to bring it to the attention of the twenty first century. In choosing Jones as the first creator of O’Byrne he made an inspired choice. Jones has made this part his own. He as O’Byrne recounting his early life in Boston and then his adventures with the San Patricios is a story worth telling. Jones makes a fine job of it.