83rd Ballymoney Drama Festival
Monday 4th– Saturday 9th March 2024
Adjudicator: Ben Humphrey, MA, FRSA, GODA
8.00pm Ballymoney Town Hall
(7:30 ON FINAL NIGHT)
Monday 4th March
by Oliver Goldsmith
She Stoops to Conquer
Rosemary Drama Group
Two suitors, Marlow and Hastings, are tricked into thinking that the home of their prospective conquests is an inn. Chaos ensues in this 'glorious comedy of misunderstandings'.
This classic comedy has enjoyed many revivals on stage and screen in the 250 years since it was first performed; it's central themes - class, gender roles and the tribulations of love - have proved timeless.
A production set in the 1930s enjoyed a very successful run in London over Christmas 2023 and Rosemary Drama Group have updated their version to Northern Ireland in the 1960s.
Oliver Goldsmith (1728 - 1774) was an eighteenth century, Anglo-Irish novelist, poet and playwright. He grew up near Athlone and began to study law at Trinity in 1744. He neglected his studies, however, fell to the bottom of his class and was expelled in 1747 for taking part in a riot. He eventually settled in London where he had various jobs and enjoyed the company of fellow writers and artists.
It is thought that Goldsmith wrote She Stoops to Conquer while staying with the real Lumpkin family near Wisbech and that the character of Tony is a comic version of Goldsmith's friend, Nicholas Lumpkin.
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. RDG is a group whose members very much enjoy the social side of theatre and are always ready to party.
Tuesday 5th March
By George Sheils
The Passing Day
Described by the Abbey Theatre as a 'subtle and humorous study of greed', The Passing Day details events in the last day of the life of John Fibbs - shopkeeper, workaholic and skinflint. As he lies in his hospital bed he is visited by family and friends, all anxious to know who will benefit from his will.
First published as a radio play in 1937, this carefully crafted comedy demonstrates the skills Sheils is best known for - the superb re-production of local language and the creation of realistic characters; so realistic that his original audiences thought that they could tell which Ballymoney citizens he had had in mind when he created them!
Slemish have updated their production to the 1960s but have preserved the play's local setting.
George Sheils needs little introduction at Ballymoney Drama Festival. Born locally in 1881, he emigrated to Canada as a young man but returned in 1913 following a serous accident while working on the Canadian Pacific Railway which left him unable to walk. . He and his brother set up a shipping company from premises in Main Street and it was here that George began his career as writer, starting with poems and short stories and eventually proving to be a gifted and prolific dramatist.
His plays enjoyed great success particularly at The Abbey Theatre: their production of The New Gossoon received nine curtain calls on opening night in London and later transferred to Broadway while The Rugged Path was seen in Dublin by a record 25,000 people over an eight week periodin 1940.
Sheils moved to Carnlough when he retired from business but is buried in Ballymoney where his memory is celebrated in a bronze mural by Angela, Countess of Antrim which hangs in the Town Hall.
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.
Wednesday 6th March
By Peter Quilter
Produced by Stephen Weatherall
A famous actress is giving her farewell performance; backstage various people from different aspects of her life come to visit her bringing love, laughter, rage, insults, recriminations and regrets to her dressing room in this funny and poignant comedy.
Peter Quilter has enjoyed international success; his plays have been translated into over thirty languages and staged in major theatres in at least forty countries. He is the writer of Glorious!, the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, which was enjoyed by Festival audiences a few years ago. His more recent musical drama, Over the Rainbow, was adapted for the 2020 Oscar-winning movie Judy, staring Renee Zellweger.
Bart Players have been based in Belfast for over sixty years. 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.
Thursday 7th March
By Patrick Hamilton
The Clarence Players
Produced by Des Loughridge
Bella Manning suffers from what she believes are the first stages of insanity: her husband, Jack, struggles to help her - or so it seems. One evening, a stranger comes to the house while Jack is out and explains that he is there to help Mrs Manning...
The word "gaslighting" is used today to describe a form of psychological manipulation. The origins of the term lie in this Victorian thriller. It was written in 1938 and later made into a film starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.
Patrick Hamilton was born near Brighton in 1904. He wrote several other successful plays, including "Rope" which Alfred Hitchcock made into a film, but he is best known as a novelist.
The Clarence Players is a long established drama group based in East Belfast. They have competed in festivals throughout Northern Ireland, with a considerable degree of success.
Ballymoney is particularly pleased that they are able to bring this production to the 83rd Drama Festival after their plans to do so were thwarted last year.
Friday 8th March
By Sean Treanor via J M Synge
In the Shadow of the Glen Reimagined
Newpoint Players, Newry
Produced by Sean Treanor
in 2005 Newpoint Players performed a version of Synge's In the Shadow of the Glen as part of the Abbey Theatre Dublin's Centennial celebrations. Sean Treanor has long wished to revisit this classic piece of Irish Theatre in order to develop some of Synge's ideas and themes and to explore characters such as Patch D'Arcy and Peggy Cavanagh who are only mentioned in the original story of an unfaithful wife.
The final piece preserves the poetry which characterises Synge's use of the language and, in Sean Treanor's own words, exists 'in a magical place between the real and the dream world'.
John Millington Synge was born in 1871 into a prosperous Anglo-Irish family. Educated at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Trinity College and the Sorbonne, he joined with Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1899 to form the Irish National Theatre Society which later established the Abbey Theatre. Encouraged by Yeats, Synge began to spend time on the Aran Islands and his experiences there formed the basis for his plays about Irish rural life. Synge's work attracted controversy during his short lifetime, mostly because he refused to idealise the Irish peasantry but he is now celebrated as an influential and important figure in Irish literary history.
Newpoint Players from Newry have been active since 1946. Each year they participate in the ADCI and AUDF Drama Festival Circuits, sometimes with two concurrent plays. Newpoint run a youth theatre group which functions throughout the year; many of the young people involved return to contribute as adults. Newpoint Players have been Overall Winners and Sean Treanor the Best Producer at the last four Ballymoney Drama Festivals.
Saturday 9th March
By Tony Domaille
Produced by Maureen Dunn
Theatre 3 have kindly volunteered to stage this one act production in Ballymoney. It will not be competing in the Festival but It will be the Northern Ireland Entry at the British Final of One Act Plays at the Perth Theatre in Scotland in July. The Final Adjudication will take place after the Interval.
Mary-Ann Twomey has poisoned and killed five people. Her barrister needs to know
if she is defending someone who is insane or just plain evil. So, it falls to Doctor Vincent, a psychiatrist, to make an assessment and discover the truth about what drove Mary-Ann to murder.
Tony Domaille is an English playwright with over twenty full-length, one act and short plays to his credit. These have been performed around the world and on the BBC. He has also published short stories in magazines and anthologies. In 2023, Even Numbers won the Derek Jacobi Playwrighting Award and the Geoffrey Whitworth competition for new plays.
Theatre 3 was formed in 1984 when three companies in the Newtownabbey area decided to join forces. In the last 40 years Theatre 3 have successfully produced a multitude of plays from local comedies for Summer Theatre to classics by the likes of Sean O'Casey, Graham Reid, Harold Pinter and Lee Blessing. They have regularly appeared in the Ulster, Irish and British Drama Festival Finals and will represent Northern Ireland at this year's British One Act Finals for the third consecutive time.
With an earlier finish than we are used to on the Final Night, there should be more time that usual to discuss the plays and the results over a celebratory drink in the Festival Bar.
See you there!