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81st Ballymoney Drama Festival

Thursday 27th February – Saturday 7th  March 2020 
8.00pm Ballymoney Town Hall    (7.30pm on Final Night)

Thursday 27th February

By  Simon Williams

Laying the Ghost

 Ballymoney       Literary & Debating Society

Produced by

Philip Bradshaw

A comedy set in Yew Tree House, a retirement home for eccentric, charming and 'growing old disgracefully' theatricals. It takes a hilarious look at the chaotic relationships between a ghost and the three women who were most important to him during his life - his first and second wives and his mistress! 

Simon Williams has enjoyed success as a writer but is best known as an English actor. He rose to fame as the dashing  James Bellamy in Upstairs, Downstairs and has subsequently appeared in many films and British televison dramas including  Don't Wait Up and Holby City. He currently plays Justin Elliott in The Archers on BBC Radio 4. He said of this play: 'hopefully it shows that old age isn't too bad when you get there!'

Ballymoney Literary and Debating Society is one of the oldest amateur drama groups in Northern Ireland and has achieved a string of performance and production awards at Festivals for over 50 years. 


Friday 28th February

By  Martin McDonagh

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Slemish Players    

Produced by

Josie Carr

A dark comedy set off the West Coast of Ireland in 1934. 'Cripple' Billy Claven is keen to get involved with a visiting film crew who are making a documentary about island life. The action wittily exposes how difficult it is to separate the real Ireland from popular stereotypes and multiple layers of myth.

This is the first of McDonagh's Aran Trilogy. It opened at the National Theatre in 1996 and went on to enjoy considerable success there and on Broadway. It returned to the West End in 2013 with Daniel Radcliffe as the eponymous hero. 


Martin McDonagh is an acclaimed Irish-British playwright, screen writer, producer and director. He was first recognised for his play, 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane', which was won a Tony Award in 1998. More recently, his dark film, 'Three Billboards Outsider Ebbing, Missouri' won four awards at the 2017 Golden Globes including Best Screen Play for McDonagh.

Liam Neeson started his acting career with Slemish Players. Over the years the company, which is based in Ballymena, has won numerous awards at local Drama Festivals and reached the Ulster Finals. 


Saturday 29th February

By Sean Treanor

The True Story of Mary K

Newpoint Players, Newry

Produced by Sean Treanor

The real Mary Kelly was born at the end of the 19th Century and related many of her experiences of life in America and Ireland to Sean Treanor during his childhood. In his own words,'the play is true to the experiences of this woman...the joys and tragedies....the characters from her own village'. 

Ballymoney Drama Festival is pleased to be hosting one of the first performances of this new work, written specifically for Newpoint Players.  

Sean Treanor has successfully directed Newpoint Players for many years and has brought several of his own plays to the Festival Circuit. His innovative adaptation of 'Murder and Seduction at the Red Barn' was placed first in Ballymoney in 2018 and he has been awarded the prize for best Director at our last two Festivals. 

Newpoint Players from Newry have been active since 1946. Each year they participate in the ADCI and AUDF Drama Festival Circuit, sometimes with two concurrent plays. Every summer they run a youth theatre school at no cost to the young people involved. In recent years they have toured to Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Their memorable production of 'Waiting for Godot' was the overall winner in Ballymoney last year. 

Monday 2nd March

By Melanie Marnich

These Shining Lives

Rosemary Drama Group

Produced by Seamus Steele

Based on an infamous 1920's court case, this play tells the story of a group of female workers who suffered radium poisoning from painting luminous watch dials. Combining historical fact and personal stories, it movingly brings to life the cameraderie that sustains the watch painters despite the odds stacked against them. 

Melanie Marnich is an award-winning American playwright, producer and television writer. Her recent writing credits include episodes of 'The Affair' recently shown on Sky Atlantic, starring Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. 

Rosemary are the most active drama group in North Belfast. For over fifty years they have staged  two major productions every year. They have enjoyed considerable success on the Festival circuit and their productions are also popular with audiences at Summer Theatre in Portrush. Rosemary will represent Northen Ireland at the British One Act Finals later this year.

Tuesday 3rd March

By  Nick Newman & Ian Hislop

A Bunch of Amateurs

Bart Players,  


Produced by 

Andrew Devonshire

A light-hearted comedy about a failing Holywood actor who arrives in Stratford, keen to boost his flagging career by playing the title role in King Lear. He is horrified to find himself in a sleepy Suffolk village with a cast of amateurs. 

The Queen attended the premiere of the film version of this play in 2008.


Nick Newman is a cartoonist and script writer who has worked with Dawn French, Harry Enfield, Maureen Lipman and other well known comedians. He collaborated with Ian Hislop on some of the scripts for 'Spitting Image'. Ian Hislop is a British journalist and satirist. He is best known for his acerbic wit on 'Have I Got News for You' and as the editor of 'Private Eye'. 

Bart Players  are based in Belfast. Now in their 60th year, they perform three shows per season, from light comedies to serious dramas, at their home venue, the Canon Lindsay Hall, St Bartholemew's, Stranmillis and across Northern Ireland.  


Wednesday 4th March 

By Alan Aykbourn

Absent Friends

Holywood Players

Produced by Steve Emerson

Set in the 1970s, this is a comedy about  a group of well-intentioned friends who organise a tea party for one of their number who has recently been bereaved. The humour stems in part from our embarrassment in the face of death but also from attitudes of the time to women and from the complex relationships between the characters. 

Sir Alan Ayckbourn was born in London in 1939. He has written at least 70 full-length plays; more than forty have been produced in the West End and ten on Broadway. His work has won numerous awards and been translated into thirty-five different languages. Knighted in 1997, it is often claimed that he is the most performed living playwright and that he is the most performed of all time after Shakespeare. 

Holywood Players are a long established drama group, based in Holywood, Co Down. They have enjoyed considerable competitive success over many years and count Jamie Dornan among their alumni.  


Thurday 5th March 

By Tina Howe 

Painting Churches

The Clarence Players

Produced by Frances Hastie

A daughter returns to her Boston roots to paint a portrait of her ageing parents. This study of family dynamics and of growing up and growing old has been described as 'a group portrait painted in a soft, impressionistic style'. 

Tina Howe is an academic and award-winning American playwright. In 2012 she received the 3rd Annual Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award which recognises 'extraordinary contributions made by women to the American Threatre'.  Her play, 'Pride's Crossing' won Best Moment of Theatre in Ballymoney in 2018.

The Clarence Players are a long established drama group based in East Belfast. They have competed in festivals throughout Northern Ireland, with a considerable degree of success.

Their productions  of 'The Mai' by Marina Carr and of Henrik Ibsen's 'John Gabriel Borkman' won the 2017 and 2018 Ulster Drama Festivals respectively.  



Friday 6th March 

By John Pielmeier

Agnes of God

Theatre 3, Newtownabbey

Produced by Maureen Dunn

A senior nun and a psychiatrist try to unravel the mystery of what actually happened when a young novitiate is accused of murdering her baby. Inspired by real-life events, this play opened on Broadway in 1982 and enjoyed considerable success before transferring to London. It was made into a film in 1985, starring Anne Bancroft and Jane Fonda. 

John Pielmeier began his theatrical career as an actor but is now a playwright and screen writer. 'Agnes of God' won the 1919 Great American Play Contest. His film credits include 'The Shell Seekers', 'Sins of the Father' and 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter'. 

Theatre 3 was formed in 1984 when three companies in the Newtownabbey area decided to join forces. In the last 30 years Theatre 3 have successfully produced a multitude of plays from local comedies for Summer Theatre to Classics from around the world. They have regularly appeared in the Ulster, Irish and British Drama Festival Finals.

Saturday 7th March 

By  Brian Friel


Phoenix Players,


Produced by Dennis McKeever

A lyrical, witty and tender play set in Ireland in 1833 when rural Hedge Schools are to be replaced  by National Schools, with English as their official language, and British soldiers are engaged in Ordnance Survey  mapping of the country.  Friel explores these radical changes through their impact on a small group of individuals in this popular modern classic about the power of language and the mysteries of human communication.

'Translations' appears on the National Theatre's list of the 100 most significant plays of the twentieth century. 

One of Ireland’s most accomplished playwrights and authors, Brian Friel was for many years a Patron of Ballymoney Drama Festival. Alex Blair, in his book The Golden Years,  writes “1964 was the Silver Jubilee which saw the world premiere of 'The Enemy Within', a new play by playwright Brian Friel...He was present at the production which not only won at Ballymoney, but also at the Opera House Finals". 'Translations' premiered in Derry/Londonderry in 1980 to mark the setting up of The Field Day Theatre Company and its efforts to unite a fractured community through Art. 

Phoenix Players are a long established drama group based in Portadown. They have successfully competed in festivals throughout Northern Ireland and we are delighted that they are returning to Ballymoney this year after a period of absence.  

Followed by Jennifer Scott-Reid's Final Adjudication and the presentation of prizes. 



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