Fame is the spur that the Sillian Players will be employing this weekend as they present their first public performance of a Michael Harding play before they take it to a wider audience in a bid for All Ireland glory.
The drama group’s aspirations are pinned on the story of Una Pooka. That tale revolves around a rural family’s journey to Dublin to be part of the Pope’s visit to Ireland in 1979. After short runs in Shercock and Virginia the Sillian production will be taken on the 2018 drama festival circuit.
Paddy Farrelly is the man making sure that everything falls into place in his role as the director of the show: “Una Pooka is a different play to what we have staged before. We were runners up in the All Ireland in Tubbercurry last year.
We’re hoping this might bring us on another wee bit, help us make up the couple of points we were short. One of the reasons for selecting it is that it has only ever been done once before on the Drama League of Ireland circuit.”
The director says it’s a very engaging piece of work: “People probably know Michael most for his literary efforts and his acting, but this is a fine example of his skill as a playwright. It’s something very different. While there is humour in it, there is also a very dark side to the play.”
Describing the show as non-linear Paddy remarked that although the the story of Una Pooka is set in 1979, and it is particularly relevant:
“The people of Ireland thought everything would be different after the Pope came, however the day after they got back to their lives and things continued on. It’s a black comedy that takes several different twists.
“The Pooka Man appears and drives the heroine of the show, Una, to despair. We even get a glimpse inside Una’s head as she speculates on the death of her
brother and whether it was a suicide.”
Una Pooka was staged by The Abbey theatre in 1993. A quarter of a century later the moral tone of society has shifted somewhat casting a different hue on the work:
“It is a very well written play with loads of twists and turns in it. Many of the reviews back then took a very conventional line. At the time society was quite conservative and adopting a confrontational line about the church or discussing mental health was breaking taboos. I think these issues can be discussed more openly now.”
He went on to say that he spoke to the playwright about the production: “I have been in touch with Michael on numerous occasions. He is delighted we have taken on the play. It hasn’t been done in a few years now. Michael was over the moon that it was coming on circuit. He said that it may be even more relevant today than when he first wrote it back in ‘89.”
Since commencing casting the work last August Paddy has put together a strong group of players. The lead roles are played by Conor Shaffrey and Yvonne Seymour: “They are two very experienced actors. Conor was with us last year and Yvonne played Big Maggy two years ago. The cast in full are Aidan (David Clarke), Nuala (Julie Halpin), Una (Yvonne Seymour), Liam (Shane Fox), Mrs Kevitt (Audrey Gaughan), Angelo & Fr Simeon (Conor Shaffery), Priest (Thomas Lyden) and Doctor (Fra McPhillips),” Paddy told the Celt.
The story of Una Pooka, the fantasy of a single woman in a nation on its knees before the Pontiff, will be staged on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 of February in St Patrick’s Hall Shercock starting at 8pm admission is €12. It then goes on the the Ramor Theatre, Virginia on February 9 and 10.