And they’re off! The 53rd West Cork Drama Festival opens in the theatre Rossmore on Friday, March 7 and runs until St Patrick’s night Monday March 17. While racegoers might have their eyes fixed on the Cheltenham festival, drama enthusiasts will be trotting on down to experience the variety of nightly entertainment on offer. And the going will be good to very good indeed!
The ‘form’ on show includes some audience favourites such as JB Keane’s ‘Big Maggie’. on Saturday, March 8, presented by Wexford’s Bridge Drama Group, as well as Billy Roche’s ‘The Calvacaders’ on Sunday, March 16 by Doonbeg Drama Group from Clare. Blending comedy and music, this memory play is always a popular production. However, like any good champion hurdle, you also need to keep your eye out for the not-so-well-known plays, the promising newcomers, especially when in successful experienced directorial hands. Indeed this year’s festival stands out for the number of plays new to the festival in Rossmore.
Coming from the heart of Irish racing in Naas, Co. Kildare, the Moat Club might well be compared to the successful jockey Ruby Walsh. Like him they have taken the championship cup at several past All-Ireland finals. This year they present the critically acclaimed ‘The Steward of Christendom’ by Sebastian Barry on Saturday, March 15. This would undoubtedly be a bookie’s favourite with its lyrical language and King Lear like leading character. However, while on the racecourse Ruby is nearly always head to head with Barry Geraghty and Davy Russell (amongst others), on the drama circuit, being All Ireland champions, the Kilmeen and Ballyduff Drama Groups must be strong favourites too.
On Tuesday, March 11, the local Kilmeen group stage Enda Walsh’s compelling and darkly humorous ‘The Walworth Farce’ about a Cork family in London. Following them on Wednesday, March 12 Ballyduff present another dark comedy, Sam Shepard’s ‘The Curse of the Starving Class’. This American play about a dysfunctional family will also no doubt shock, amuse and provoke the audience.
As racegoers know only too well though, there are always dark horses and hungry jockeys who might sprint the final furlong to win by a nose or a length. And so it is with drama festivals too. From the thoroughbred breeding heartland of Fermoy, Palace players may well be one to watch with their production of Vern Thiessen’s ‘Einstein’s Gift’ on Sunda, March 9. This intriguing play explores the moral impact of scientific developments and could well be surprisingly explosive. You’ll be glad to know a science degree is not needed to enjoy it! Another one to watch is Brideview drama group from East Cork who stage the hilarious frolic ‘13 Rue de L’Amour’ by Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert on Thursday, March 13. On the following night, Friday, March 14, Nenagh Players take to the boards with Bruce Graham’s touching and darkly humorous ‘The Outgoing Tide’. This play about dementia and a family was a popular success in Galway in 2012 when John Mahony (the father in Frasier) took the lead in it.
Punters in Cheltenham are known for backing any strong local horse and West Cork horses like ‘Imperial Call’, ‘Whyso Mayo’ and ‘Newmill’ have all taken pride of place in the winners enclosure there. So may it be in Rossmore for the West Cork groups like Skibbereen and Schull and the local Kilmeen Group. On the opening night, Friday, March 7, Skibbereen drama group present Nancy Harris’s contemporary tender and funny Irish play ‘No Romance’. Due its adult themes including eroticism is recommended for over 16s. On Monday, March 10, Schull present Sam Shepard’s ‘Buried Child’. Focusing on family secrets and dynamics this iconic play is sure to be enthralling and is also recommended for over 16s. Closing the festival on St Patrick’s night is the Holycross/Ballycahill Drama Group’s production of Richard Harris’s gripping thriller ‘Dead Guilty’. This tense ‘comedy of awkwardness’, like any good horse race, may well have the audience biting their nails and at the edge of their seats up to the very end.
The adjudicator, Patrick Sutton, makes a welcome return to Rossmore having adjudicated here previously in 1997 and 2003. Patrick is director of The Gaiety School of Acting, The National Theatre School of Ireland, Smock Alley Theatre, 1662 and of Communicate — a communications company working at a senior level in industry politics and the arts. He will be adjudicating the All Ireland (Confined) Finals in 2015.
All plays start at 8pm and tickets (€12) can be booked from the Festival Booking Office at 023-8838526 or 086-4481086 from Monday, March 3, 12 noon-7 pm.
Please consult www.rossmoretheatre.com for online booking and the festival programme.
The Festival Committee would like to thank all the festival sponsors and supporters.