Knockaderry Clouncagh Drama Society opened the West Limerick Drama Festival with A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh
IN Knockaderry Clouncagh, they believed in the seemingly impossible and the incredible came true.
Now, almost 20 years after the local community revisited its past and reestablished an amateur drama society, Knockaderry has become the hub for Limerick’s only amateur drama festival.
And in a clear case of if you build it, they will come, the community centre which parishioners built with their own hands now welcomes hundreds each year to the West Limerick Drama Festival.
The festival is as good as any in the country, this year’s adjudicator Terry Byrne said when the fourth festival opened last weekend.
“The arrangements are good, the auditorium is excellent, there is a fine big stage and it has all the characteristics of a very good festival,” said the man who is currently president of the Association of Drama Adjudicators and who is also an accomplished actor on stage and screen as well as a director.
And he praised the amateur drama movement for its contribution to the arts and culture of the country.
“The world of theatre has great art that would never be seen in parts of the country unless the amateur movement brought it to us, because it would not be commercially viable,” Mr Byrne said.
And amateur drama gave people the opportunity to experience the work of established figures such as John B Keane but also newer playwrights such as Martin McDonagh, he pointed out.
“It is wonderful community activity,” he added, an activity that sparks innovation, creativity and detailed work as groups get together to put on their production. The amateur drama movement has also tapped into great talent.
“I have seen top class performances on a par with professional productions,” Mr Bryne said. Over the years, he has seen the standards improve hugely, spurred on by competition. “A few years ago, it was alright to throw up a few flats, put up a few lamps. That is not there anymore,” he expanded. People have learnt lighting skills, sound effects, set design. People are spending a lot more time on getting that right,” he said and he applauded that.
Later, Mr Byrne explained to the first-night audience that his job involved judging presentation, direction and acting before moving on to give his verdict on the Knockaderry Clouncagh Drama Society’s production of A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh.
“It was a mountain of a play to climb,” he said, and he had particular praise for the second act graveyard set design.
But Mr Byrne’s final verdict will not come until he has seen all seven plays in the festival programme. A Skull in Connemara was followed by the Listowel Drama Group, the Sliabh Luachra Drama Group and the Arra Players from Newcastle West.
The festival continues this Friday when the Tarbert Theatre Group take to the boards with Diarmy, a new play written by Tarbert teacher Mary Lavery Carrig. The Glanworth Players follow on Saturday with The Year of the Hiker and another John B play, Sive, will conclude the programme on Sunday night.
See p21 west edition for pictures from the opening night