Theatre groups in the county are well represented in the forthcoming Cavan One Act Drama Festival taking place in Cavan Rugby Club, Swellan this Friday, November 2 to Sunday, November 4.
Three one-act plays will be held each night as the county town plays host to some of the best amateur theatre around for this year's festival. The adjudicator for the event is Tommy McArdle.
With a CV boasting film, radio, television and theatre Tommy has amassed a particular set of skills as an adjudicator over the last 30 years that put him in the prefect position to run the rule over the nine drama groups to participate in this year's festival. We'll just have to forgive him for wearing the white and blue of Monaghan.
Friday's programme consists of performances from Martello Productions of Wicklow, Bailieborough Drama Group, Cavan and Bridgewater TG of Arklow. On Saturday Cornmill of Carrigallen, Corofin of Galway and Modelbox Productions of Wicklow are the contenders. The final day, Sunday, sees Sillan Community Players of Shercock, Dads Dunmore of Galway and Skerries TG of Dublin tread the boards.
The two County Cavan drama groups staging works for the festival gave a little time to the Celt to talk through their offering. Smile Handsome by Liz O'Hanlon, set in a women's prison, is the Bailieborough production. The work examines the interaction of three women in custody.
This is not the first O'Hanlon play the group has taken on the one act circuit. Liz won the Best New Writing or Innovation Award at the 2016 All Ireland Drama Festival for the group's production of The Sacred Heart's Right Hand Man.
Conor Sheridan is taking the reigns of Smile Handsome and hopes to follow up on previous success: “We brought her [O'Hanlon's] first one act to the All Ireland finals in Dundrum in '16. She has been writing ever since. She has taken part in Padraic McIntyre's writing course in Ramor. This allowed Liz to refine her style. This is her second one act.”
The show explores a topical and controversial subject given the national discussion taking place in the wake of comments made during the presidential election.
“It's about a Traveller woman sent to jail for shoplifting. She ends up with other convicts from the settled community. It's somewhat of a juxtaposition of the outside world.”
The director says that playwright's work is very engaging.
“Liz has given the central character a good deal of humour, but it is in essence a 'tragic comedy',” Conor explained.
The all woman cast features the writer in the lead role of Kathleen, with Mary Cronin (Josie) and Charlene Cadden (Top Dog) completing the assemblage. The group staged the show in the Ramor last Friday. Following Cavan Drama Festival they will stage the show in festivals in Naas and Wexford. There will also be local shows in Mullagh and Maudabawn on November 8 and 9 respectively.
Conor says the company are eager to participate in the first festival of the season.
“We are looking forward to the Rugby Club. It's a good stage. It will be pretty competitive.”
For director Yvonne Seymour 'The Long Wet Grass' was an easy choice for Sillan Community Players.
“Because it's a two hander it's a great opportunity to bring back two actors who haven't been on the stage for a while. Paddy and Eva haven't acted in a while, but to see them on stage you would never think it.”
The limitations of taking a play on the one act circuit was a consideration in choosing an appropriate work.
“Your set has to be free standing. You have 10 minutes to put it on and five to get it off. We create the atmosphere through lighting and sound, but there is a car on set in the play.”
The director described the artifice by which this was achieved, but to avoid spoilers we won't pass it on. Yvonne is pleased with the way it is being received.
“We staged it last Saturday [October 20] night in Shercock in St Patrick's Hall. One of the audience came up to me afterwards and asked 'How in the name of God did you get the car on stage?' That was one of the highlights of the evening for me,” she laughs.
Notwithstanding the setting the production has gone over well with punters.
“People really love the content, they were totally engrossed in both characters. The subject matter is quite heavy, but it is very engaging. The audience members commented on how powerful and engaging it was,” Yvonne said.
Bailieborough's slot is on Friday night and Sillan tread the boards on Sunday, neighbours Cornmill open the programme on Saturday. The shows start at 8pm with admission €15 per night or €30 for the three shows. Concessions are available.