Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Lislea Drama Festival commences

On Saturday 24th February the grand opening night of Lislea Drama Festival took place to an eagerly awaiting audience in the OLD SCHOOL HOUSE THEATRE LISLEA. 

The platform party consisted of the Festival President,  Mr Joe Murphy; Festival Chairperson, Mr. John Campbell; Lislea Community Association Chairperson, Mr Tom Keane; Adjudicator, Mr. Donal Courtney; Anne Garvey Festival Secretary and Mrs Ann Johnson  representing the Main Sponsor Aidan Strain Electrical Engineering. Mr. Joe Murphy the esteemed Festival President graciously thanked the warm and appreciative audience for being the reason why groups travel the length and breadth of Ireland to experience the warm South Armagh hospitality and declared the 37th festival open. The festival chairperson Mr. John Campbell extended a warm welcome to  Ballycogley Players, Co. Wexford and their portrayal of “The Night Alive” by Conor McPherson, who gave an eagerly awaited performance and one which didn’t disappoint. He also thanked the festival sponsor for their seventh year sponsoring the festival.

Festival adjudicator, Mr. Donal Courtney, enjoyed Ballycogley Players performance of “Night Alive”. This play centred around Tommy who has been drifting through life, living in his uncle’s house and making ends meet through whatever crackpot schemes he and Doc can concoct. When he saves a young prostitute named Aimee, Tommy feels a glimmer of hope that his life finally has a purpose. Fluttering between layers of drama and comedy this play quietly celebrates the unassuming heroisms of everyday life against the corrosive pain of loneliness. The adjudicator recognised the challenges posed by this dialogue heavy McPherson play and praised the director Brenda Hayes and the actors for achieving a “naturalistic dialogue” whilst executing humour and pace in the dark, violent scenes. Mr. Courtney applauded the “painstakingly” way in which the set was put together and paid tribute to the strong performances of the five actors.

On Sunday, Lislea welcomed back First Seen Drama Group from Co. Armagh with “A Matter of Grave Concern” by Raymond Murray. The fascinating story of Marjorie McCall was very well received by patrons and completed a very successful first weekend of theatre. 

On Wednesday 28th February it is the turn of Lislea Dramatic Players (All Ireland Finalists) with their production of “Kings of the Kilburn High Road” by Jimmy Murphy. (Strong Language/Adult themes) Set in a nicotine-stained back room of a pub in London’s Kilburn, this is a play about broken dreams, as five middle-aged Irish construction workers gather to ‘wake’ their friend, Jackie, who has died in terrible circumstances. This drink-fuelled gathering is dominated by Jap, an obnoxious, cynical and self-pitying foreman. Jap blames everyone but himself for his decision to come to London where the streets are most definitely not paved with gold. Harsh truths unfold when the winners and losers of the group gather to toast Jackie’s memory, revealing their lives, lost dreams and their place in the new Ireland. This exemplifies the cycle of these men’s lives. They are in a loop, in and out of despair, buying never-ending rounds of drinks to quell the pain. This is a fine production from Lislea Dramatic Players, astutely written by Jimmy Murphy, it reeks of bitterness, occasionally leavened by black humour.

On Saturday 3rd March it is the turn of festival newcomers Enniscorthy Drama Group, Co. Wexford with “Beauty Queen of Leenane” by Martin McDonagh. (Strong Language/Adult themes) This is McDonagh’s infamous and darkly comic tale woven through the desperate lives of plain and lonely Maureen Folan, and Mag, her manipulative ageing mother. Mag’s interference in her daughter’s final chance of a loving relationship sets in motion a train of events that lead inexorably towards the play’s inevitable denouement.

This packed first week ends with Pomeroy Players, Co. Tyrone and their production of “Dancing at Lughnasa” by Brian Friel on Sunday 4th March. Set in the fictional village of Ballybeg, comes a memory play recounted by Michael as he recalls the last summer at home with his mother and four unmarried aunts, when their older brother Jack, a Catholic priest, returns from his life as a Ugandan Missionary. As the summer ends, the sisters face the breakup of their home and in an iconic portrayal of strength and bravery they dance wildly in a final celebration of their lives, before they change forever. Perfect Sunday night viewing.

Curtain up at 8pm sharp. Tickets are on sale nightly at the Box Office from 7-8 pm. Nightly Admission £7 Children £3 General Enquiries Tel 028 30838565

See Press/Website for further details. 

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