As John B. Keane's play The Matchmaker returns to Dublin's Gaiety Theatre, his son Billy Keane writes for Culture about the play's enduring popularity, and his Dad's literary legacy.

I think my Dad was at his best when he was writing funny about sad stories. The Matchmaker, which runs from November 5th in the Gaiety Theatre, is full of  hilarious tales based on the  lonely lives of men  and women on the lookout for love.

There’s an inherent contradiction here, but Dad got away with it because his audiences knew he cared for the people he wrote about, and the country places they lived in.

The late, great John B. Keane, behind the bar at his pub in Listowel

Actors Jon Kenny and Mary Mc Evoy understand Dad and his times, but while they play Matchmaker for laughs, there are moments of great sadness. Whether the matchmaker is Tinder or Dickey Mick Dickey O’ Connor, the want of even just companionship is constant and universally relevant in the lives of those who are without a partner.

There are scenes about the bringing in of "rubber women" from England, of Fionnuala Crust who lost two husbands without ever feeling "the imprint of man". Thady Thade Biddy Mackessy writes to The Matchmaker for help when his too holy wife loses all mind for any sort of activity in the bedroom. Dickey Mick Dickey describes Thady Thade’s condition as an "unnatural mortification."  Dickey introduces Thady to the aphrodisiac concoction of potheen with white pepper.

Dad was worried his work would be banned by the Censorship Board. He had a powerful ally. John B had Gay Byrne on his side.

The wife gets back her libido but she becomes insatiable. Thady Thade is worn out. " Fine" says Thady," if I could stay in bed all day but I does have to be tending to the crows at cockcrow. I’m like a lath from contending with her. There was one time I thought I would never get enough of it but now I’d sooner an egg."

My Dad was immersed in the culture of matchmaking. There are a good few of you reading this who are either the offspring of matches, or are the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of matches.

There were good and bad matches, just as there are good and bad marriages. Dad knew of both kinds and he wrote of love, lust, loneliness and the exploitation of young girls by ruthless and unscrupulous matchmakers who very often were in league with the girl’s family.

The scene that was the inspiration for Sive took place in our pub. This old man took a horrible, obscene fancy for a young girl who was sitting her Leaving Cert. The matchmaker was on big money to make sure the match went through, as were the girls’ family. Dad and Mom were disgusted and tried to intervene. There was a scuffle and the whole sordid business was moved on to another pub.

Dad was worried his work would be banned by the Censorship Board. He had a powerful ally. John B had Gay Byrne on his side.

Dad wrote about the exploitation of the young  girl in Sive. I’m pretty sure he was the first Irish writer to highlight the evil ugliness of such a terrible mismatch. Sive swept the country and brought the spotlight on arranged marriages and the sexual sale and exploitation of young girls.

I think he was probably Ireland’s first male feminist. Dad was an unusual feminist though. Mom had to go to the hospital one time, and Dad took over the cooking. He boiled three eggs in the electric kettle. It was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre for eggs.

My Mom was the foundation. Just a few months ago on the occasion of the third anniversary of my mother’s passing, a lady close enough to the eighty told of how my Mom had to ward off an old man in the family shop. My grandmother died in childbirth, and Mom's Dad died when she was fifteen. Uncle Jim was out on the farm and mam was alone in the shop.  The lady told how the older man "liked your Mam, but not in a nice way."

Mom told the potential abuser the priest was on his way, back when the people were afraid of the clergy. There is no doubt that Mom told Dad about the goings on in her day, and he learned so much from her story gathering and incredible memory for detail and character.

'Matchmaker has stood the test of time. There are so many lonely people out there...'

There was anger in Sive, but as he grew older Dad discovered the most powerful weapon of all, and it was humour. He lets go with both barrels in Matchmaker.

The language is full on, and Dad was worried his work would be banned by the Censorship Board. He had a powerful ally. John B had Gay Byrne on his side. Dad was deadly on T.V. and so he was left be, by the powers that be, all for the sake of peace and quiet.

Director Michael Scott brilliantly brings out the pathos in Dad's work, and the fight for social justice in an Ireland that where sexuality was stifled by the church and where loneliness wasn’t so much a way of life but a way of death. There was always a campaign going on in our house.

Mom had to go to the hospital one time, and Dad took over the cooking. He boiled three eggs in the electric kettle. It was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre for eggs.

Matchmaker was incredibly popular when Ronnie Masterson and Ray Mc Nally brought Dad's work to the stage fifty years ago. I hope this does not sound too boastful, but I am so proud of my Dad and Mom. They helped change Ireland in dangerous times for those who were brave enough to write the truth.

This old dad of mine was some man for one man - but he wasn’t one man, because my Mom stood not beside him, or behind him, but right out there in front. Mom was in fact the bouncer in our pub right up until just a few months before she died at 88 ½ years of age.

Matchmaker has stood the test of time. There are so many lonely people out there. Tinder has taken over from the Dickie Mick Dickies.

The character of Dickie Mick Dickie was based loosely on Dan Paddy Andy O’ Sullivan, who Dad knew well from his holidays in Lyracrupmane in the foothills of The Stacks’ Mountains.

Dan’s matches worked out fairly well, for the most part.

Just the other day, in our pub, I asked a woman if her mother and father were happily married. Her parents were Dan’s clients. The woman, who is almost seventy, told me her parents got on very well on at least ten occasions, as they had ten kids.

The stories go on in the pub where Dad lived, loved, wrote and died -so too does Matchmaker. Fifty years on, the fundamentals still apply. Dad’s writing still makes us laugh, and still makes us cry.

The Matchmaker is at The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin from November 5-10 - more details here.