After more than 40 years playing panto simpleton Simple Simon, local man John Kirwan will hang up his stupid boots for the last time this Sunday.
Families would come from as far afield as Ardee to kak themselves laughing at his frighteningly real portrayal of an intellectually challenged boy in a man’s body struggling to get by in a world that doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
The announcement was made during what (unfortunately) has to be described as a pantomime of a press conference. Addressing journalists in character as Simple Simon one last time, Kirwan laboured to get his point across to a disbelieving press pack, many of whom had never seen Simple Simon portrayed by anyone else.
After starting the press conference with some routine banana innuendo and then getting his head stuck in a teapot, Mr. Kirwan proceeded to announce his retirement.
Drogheda’s Rainman. 5 stars. A triumph! – Leinster Panto Fortnightly, 29 December, 1988.
“This is my last performance as Simple Simon,” he said.
“Oh no it’s not!” replied assembled hacks from the the Drogheda Leader, the Drogheda Independent and the Corriera Della Collon.
“Oh yes it is!” replied Simple Simon, unable to let go.
“Oh no it’s not!!” chorused staffers from the Ardee Oracle, the Lobinstown Zeitung and the Laytown Sentinel.
“Oh yes it is!! Look you little shits it is!” pleaded an increasingly frustrated Simple Simon.
“Oh no it’s not!!!” raucussed cub reporters from the Termonfeckin Echo, the Mell Outlook and the Duleek Commoner. Only hacks from the snooty Narrow West Street Journal refused to partake in the charade.
This panto tennis continued until a mentally exhausted Simple Simon was helped back to his seat by minders and a middle-aged woman from the Order of Malta.
I know we’re not supposed to laugh at the intellectually disabled anymore but he was so good he’d have the kids from the special school in stitches. High praise indeed. – Jeremy Clerkin in the Mid-Louth Panto Review, 19 Dec 2006.
Bosco Carroll from the British Irish Panto Society (BIPS) explained the medical reason behind Mr. Kirwan forced retirement.
“It’s simple really…Sorry. If you play Simple Simon for too long there’s a risk you can get ‘locked in’. And if you know how Simple Simon operates, you’ll know the danger of him losing or swallowing the key are quite high.
“John has been method acting this role every Christmas for 40 years. Our guidelines recommend a cumulative total of no more than 15 over a lifetime. And none of those consecutive.
“Somewhere along the line an oversight has occurred. This shouldn’t have happened. We need to withdraw him from the role immediately. It might even be too late. I guess we’ll only know for sure in the coming weeks as he attempts to come out of character.”
Kirwan was honoured at a dinner that evening by the Drogheda Panto Society and given the title Emeritus Simple Simon at a ceremony in DIFE.
Auditions to replace Simple Simon start at 11am on Saturday in the Barbican. Drogheda Panto Society has asked that only actors audition.