Bingo –

The stage was black and strong and sixteen foot deep by about forty foot wide.

Canned lights and big speakers on the walls.

A trapdoor. Curtain legs. Curtains. Caramel smell of smoked theatre.

I asked your man: ‘What would it take, 250?’

‘400 seater.’

‘Would it take that many?’

‘With the balcony as well you see.’

‘And who would I talk to about puttin on a show?’

‘They’re on holidays I think.’

‘For a week or two?’

‘No, usually most of June, July and August, there doesn’t be much happenin in the summer months. Sure who goes to Plays these evenings?’

‘But it’s still open?’

‘We use it for the bingo.’

‘Is that popular?’

‘It’d crack your fuckin head.’


‘Aragh, there’s a fella that comes in and he thinks he knows it all. I do be tryin to call out the numbers and he’d start shouting up at me.’

‘Sayin what?’

‘Thinks I don’t be counting the balls properly. Thinks I’m doin a con. And as if I’ve nothin better for doin than comin in here readin fuckin bingo balls. There’s supposed to be 15 balls. And he claims I’m only callin out 14.’

‘Are they big prizes?’

‘€150 for a full house. €50 for a box.’

‘Tisn’t too bad.’

‘Tis horseshit.’

‘Do ye not do goalposts?’

‘What the fuck are they?’

‘I think it’s when you get the numbers on the corners and there’s a prize for it.’

He shook his head, said: ‘Never heard of that.’

‘Sure they do things different everywhere.’

‘Everythin is different around here alright.’

‘So when do you think there might be another Play on?’

‘September to May does be manic. Tickets like gold dust. Other than that – does be quiet. What you need is kids.’


‘Yeah, if you can get two or three kids into a Play sure that’s ten tickets sold.’

‘How so?’

‘Think about it – Parents, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, cousins. They all come and see it. Kids are the way to go.’

‘Never thought of it like that.’

‘There you have it now. Do you want a cigarette?’

‘No thanks.’

He went outside.

I took a look around.

Dressing rooms. Green room.

Sound desk.

This is how it starts. A random meeting. An overfed hard drive. A top class theatre that spends quarter of the year sitting cold and empty – except for the bingo.

Then your man was back from outside with: ‘Is there a crackling on them speakers. I hope they aren’t blown.’

‘Check it there and see.’

He checked it like this: ‘Two fat ladies, testing testing, legs eleven….testing…Kelly’s Eye number one….’

Then he left down the microphone and said: ‘Thank fuck for that.’

Then there was silence. Nothing left to say, til I said: ‘Sure I’ll go.’

‘Aragh yeah, sure I better get ready for this bloody bingo.’

‘When do you reckon they’ll be back for a chat so….about maybe puttin somethin on?’

‘Leave it til September, I’d say. Not a thing happenin til then.’

Buy Mick Donnellan’s Novels here

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