The Au Pair Man

I advertise daily for an au pair, but it seems to be a dying genre. I’m afraid you were inimitable, my dear: of the few young men who came to  be interviewed, not one has had the proper……  disqualifications.”

Hugh Leonard’s allegorical play the Au Pair Man, was nominated for a Tony award on Broadway in 1974.  A gauche young Irishman Eugene Hartigan arrives at the home of Elizabeth Rogers to repossess a wall unit on which she has failed to make the repayments.  Her home is a crumbling pile filled with memorabilia of the British Empire, its walls held up only by the wall-unit which serves as a room partition. She inveigles him into the “position” of au pair man – the latest in a succession of such – and proceeds to polish his rough ways in return for his “services”.  Can he escape her clutches?

This two-hander premiered in Dublin in 1968 starring Donal McCann and Joan Greenwood and was directed by Ted Kotcheff. The production subsequently transferred to London’s West End. A further production toured the UK in 1970.   The Au Pair Man was presented on Broadway in 1973 and nominated in 1974 for best play in the Tony awards on Broadway. It starred Julie Harris (also nominated for a Tony Award) as ER and Charles Durning as Eugene.

The Au Pair Man, New York production (photo Friedman-Abeles)



Leonard and McGahern – The Barracks

The Barracks, Hugh Leonard’s adaptation of the 1963 novel by John McGahern, premiered in 1969 at the Dublin Theatre Festival. This appears to be the only stage adaptation of a McGahern novel.

The play concerns Elizabeth Reegan (Aideen O’Kelly) who return to her native village in Ireland, after years of freedom–and loneliness, and marries Garda Sergeant Reegan (Martin Dempsey), a widower with children.  “The children are not her own; her husband is straining to break free from the servile security of the police force; and her own life, threatened by illness, seems to be losing the last vestiges of its purpose”. (Irish Playography)

The play was staged at the Gate Theatre by Gemini productions and directed by Tomas Mac Anna.

During the 1960s Leonard wrote a play a year for the Dublin Theatre Festival, alternating original works with adaptations. His adaptations were of radical and exciting works by James Joyce, Flann O’Brien and, here, John McGahern whose second published novel The Dark had been banned in Ireland in 1965.



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