Above: The cast of the Skibbereen Drama Group who are presenting 'the Quiet Moment'
While Clonakilty is gearing itself up for the West Cork Rally, Rossmore has its bonnet shining, engine oiled and is getting revved up for the annual West Cork Three Act Drama Festival.
The Drama Festival opens on Friday March 11 with Curtain Call Productions’ presentation of ‘The Graduate’. This is the Dungarven group’s first visit to Rossmore. This adaptation by Terry Johnson of the well-known novel and cult film starring Dustin Hoffman centres on a new graduate, Benjamin Braddock, and his relationship with an older woman, the seductive ‘Mrs Robinson’ and her daughter ‘Elaine’. With comedic turns and dramatic moments, this coming of age story will no doubt start off the festival with a great evening’s entertainment.
Saturday March 12 sees another group make their debut at the festival as Shannonside Drama Group take to the stage with Jimmy Murphy’s play ‘The Kings of Kilburn High Road’. A very popular play on the Irish drama circuit, it explores the life of transplanted Irishmen abroad confronting their identity, the opportunities they missed and past youthful dreams. This absorbing play is full of pathos and humour.
The Holycross/Ballycahill Drama Group take to the stage on Sunday March 13 with their production of ‘The Thrill of Love’ by Amanda Whittington. This is a dramatisation of the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Ruth, a divorcee with a young child, works in nightclubs that offer more than just drink. Here she meets a wealthy racing driver with whom she becomes obsessed but the relationship ends with his murder. A gripping theatrical production.
On Monday March 14, Skibbereen Theatre Society treads the boards with the poignant and moving play ‘The Quiet Moment’ by Mike Finn. Set in a nursing home in Limerick, this play examines relationships and memories in the Conway family. Alternating between despair and farce, with sharp shifts in mood, this touching play looks at how the characters come to terms with the father’s progressive Alzheimers. A play that is likely to leave a long lasting impression on all who have the pleasure of seeing it.
Local group Kilmeen Drama presents the popular comedy ‘Run for your Wife’ by Ray Coone on Tuesday March 15. When taxi driver John saves a bag lady from muggers, he’s knocked unconscious and his worried wife Stephanie calls the police when he doesn’t return home. As does his other wife Michelle! Upon leaving hospital John is in a rush to stop the police discovering his bigamy and his wives finding out about each other. His best mate Gary tries unsuccessfully, but hilariously, to help him in his plight A fast moving play that will leave festival goers laughing their way home.
On Wednesday March 16 Charleville’s Shoestring Theatre Society presents the well-known Irish classic ‘Sharon’s Grave’ by John B Keane. This folk play abounds with beautiful imagery, myths, poetry within prose, as well as a host of memorable characters such as Danzig and Jack. Danzig is a cripple, obsessed by the idea of possessing a woman and carried around by his dull minded brother Jack. Exploring good versus evil as well as paganism versus Christianity (and aptly on the eve of our Patron Saint’s day), this play will leave the audience with a lot to dwell on and enjoy about our Irish heritage.
Palace Players from Fermoy, who won the West Cork Drama Festival last year and then went on to win the All Ireland, return with another Tom Murphy play ‘The Gigli Concert’, often lauded as Murphy’s masterpiece. They take to the stage on St Patrick’s day (Thursday) with this intriguing play which centres on a Dynamatolgist, a half quack/half therapist who promises spiritual healing. He faces a challenge with a new client who wants to sing like an Italian tenor, Gigli, feeling this will cure him. Each pick at the delusions of the other, leading to ironic comic moments. Mona his mistress, described by some as ‘the saddest of sexpots’ adds to the drama making for a compelling piece of theatre.
Friday March 18 sees the Brideview Drama Group from Tallow tread the boards with the striking and provocative Billy Roche classic ‘The Belfry’. This play explores the lives of characters who all search for something while trying desperately to find their way in life. Artie O’Leary, a bell-ringing sacristan, is at the heart of this play. Artie finds love with a married woman but when the relationship breaks-up it has disturbing consequences. A play often described as a romantic comedy, but with striking moments of tension.
On Saturday March 19, Nenagh Players take to the stage with ‘The Miracle Worker’ by William Gibson. Set in 1880s Alabama this tense and riveting play focuses on Helen Keller who was blind, deaf, mute and troubled. Helen’s family hire Anne Sullivan as a governess and her tutelage results in an stormy, emotionally fraught relationship with Helen and her family. Language is the miracle referred to in the title and when Helen has a breakthrough with sign language, the emotions evoked will reverberate throughout the theatre in this tender and emotional play.
The festival closes on Sunday March 20 with Take 5 Drama Group from East Cork who are staging ‘Children of a Lesser God’ by Mark Medoff. In a similar vein to the previous night’s production, this play also explores the deaf and hearing worlds, focussing on speech therapist James and his growing relationship with Sarah, who is deaf from birth. The crux of this melodrama is, on whose terms will the romance exist? Will Sarah learn how to lip read and talk as James wants or will they communicate only in sign language – what she calls ‘a silence full of sound’? This play was captured on screen in the very successful Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt.
Helping all to ‘navigate’ this year’s festival will be the adjudicator, Mr Walker Ewart, whose nightly pronouncements will no doubt provide insightful direction. A regular adjudicator at the All Ireland Open finals, this will be Walker’s first time adjudicating the West Cork Drama Festival. Walker has been involved with the amateur drama circuit for over 30 years as a director and actor, as well as an administrator; he is also a founder member of the Guild of Irish Drama Adjudicators (GIDA).
For the groups who emerge on the top of the leaderboards after the festival circuit, all roads lead to Athlone (Open) and Castleblaney (Confined) for the finals after Easter.
All plays start at 8pm and tickets (€12) can be booked from the Festival Booking Office 086-4481086 from Monday March 7, 12 noon-7 pm. Please consult www.rossmoretheatre.com for online booking, the festival programme and other upcoming events. The Festival Committee would like to thank all the festival sponsors and supporters for their continued support.