IN one of their most ambitious undertakings to date, the Granagh Players are this year bringing The Honeyspike by Bryan MacMahon to their loyal audiences.
The curtain goes up on this play next week, with a three-night run from Friday, January 24 to Sunday, January 26 and with further performances the following weekend, from Friday, January 31 to Sunday, February 2. And if previous years are any yardstick, there will probably be extra performances pencilled in later.
The Honeyspike is regarded by many as Bryan MacMahon’s best novel and play. It was first performed in the Abbey more than half a century ago, in 1961. But it has had fewer professional productions than might be expected, primarily because of the large cast involved and the many scene changes.
Granagh Players, and their director John Sheehy, are undaunted however. With a cast of 18, most of them are undertaking two and even three roles while the two main characters are played by Emma Chawke and Liam Houlihan.
The Honeyspike is the romantic tale of a young Traveller couple, Breda and Martin Claffey, journeying from their native Kerry to the Antrim coast because they want to see ‘the top of Ireland’. However, Breda has set her heart on returning to Kerry and to the Honey Spike, the ‘lucky’ hospital in which she was born and where she is determined her own first child must be born. Along the way there is a run-in with soldiers at the border, with priests in the Midlands and with feuding clans in Kerry. And the famous Puck Fair also gets a good look-in.
Bryan MacMahon, who combined teaching with writing in his native Listowel throughout his long life, was one of those rare individuals who learnt the Traveller language of Shelta and also became familiar with Traveller traditions and beliefs.
The Honeyspike gathers together some of his insight into Traveller culture in 1950s Ireland and weaves it into a personal story as well as a portrait of a community.
Jimmy Sheehy, who is directing/producing for the fifth time, says it has been a very enjoyable experience. And managing the big cast has not presented any real problem. “You don’t have to have everyone there all the time and that is good because nobody gets bored,” he explains.
Moreover, he goes on, big cast productions have now almost become tradition in Granagh.
“It is a community effort and the more people we have in a play, the more involved the community is,” he believes.
The curtain rises each night at 8pm in Granagh Community Centre. Tickets cost €10 for adults and €5 for students. There will be a shop and raffle each night.