The 34th Annual Drama Festival which opens on Friday night in the Ardhowen Theatre and continues until Saturday 15th March promises to be one of the most competitive in recent years according to Festival Director Brian Farry.
“Adjudicator Jill Colby will have a massive job on her hands picking a winner from a range of productions that are already drawing extremely positive reactions from audiences attending festivals already up and running on the circuit.”
Chief among them has to be Bradán Players from Leixlip in Co Kildare who since 2008 have consistently been successful at the Enniskillen festival. It appears that once again they may be the team to beat with their production of Edward Albee’s classic ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff’ being declared the winner of both the Newtownstewart and Rush, Co Dublin drama festivals at the weekend. In addition the company picked up a host of acting and directing awards in performances that both adjudicators said held the audience spellbound.
Pomeroy Players from Co Tyrone who will present Marina Carr’s atmospheric play ‘Portia Coughlan’ to the Enniskillen audience on Sunday 9th March also had an encouraging weekend picking up acting awards for Frances Jordan and Plunkett Nugent in the role of Blaize and Sly Scully respectively at the Newtownstewart venue. Pomeroy come to Enniskillen hoping to repeat their success of last year when they lifted the Enniskillen Credit Union Trophy as winners of the Confined section in the festival. They went on for the first time to reach the All-Ireland Finals which were held last year in West Cork.
Former winners of the All-Ireland Confined Finals namely Ballyshannon Drama Society return to the festival once again competing in the Open Section with the Neil Simon dark comedy ‘The Gingerbread Lady’. The central role of Evy Meara, the popular singer who has gone to pot with booze and sex, is played by Rachel O’Connor who has lifted Best Actress awards at previous festivals including Enniskillen.
Bangor Drama Club, winners of the Enniskillen festival in 1987, 1997 and 2001 make a welcome return with a strong cast and under the direction of Gavin Neilly who himself lifted the Best Actor award on two occasions in the last decade. ‘ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg’ by Paul Nichols is their choice; a play which is both a poignant comedy and a biting social satire. They also will compete in the Open Section.
The Open Section is completed with three companies who have in recent years reached the All-Ireland Finals in Athlone. Holywood Players from Co Down, Moat Club from Naas in Co Kildare and North Dublin group Estuary Players have all performed on the Deane Crowe Theatre stage with the latter lifting the Blue Riband in both 1997 and 1998. They bring the Enniskillen Festival to a conclusion on Saturday March 15th with a production of Sean 0’Casey’s memorable ‘The Plough and the Stars’. Patrons of the festival are reminded that this performance begins at the earlier time of 7.30p.m. whilst all other performances commence at 8p.m.
“Certainly in the Open Section we will have one of the strongest line-ups of any regional festival and the rivalry will be intense. However, the beauty of the drama festival circuit is the respect each of the groups has each other. There is a bond between them forged out of the common experience of long winter months in rehearsals, huge miles covered between festival venues and the day job to be still looked after.”
Brian Farry also appealed to the public to support their drama festival as it appears as we approach the opening night that booking for the event at the Ardhowen Theatre has been slow compared to previous years. “We are aware that everyone is tightening their belts financially but we have sought to keep our prices as low as possible. For example we have kept our season ticket at £40 for the last five years and this year we have reduced the concession ticket to £8. Indeed we have introduced a group scheme where a party can have a seat for just £6. Details on this can be obtained at the Box Office. Overall we consider it great value for a night’s entertainment where this year we can be guaranteed a level of performance seldom seen on the so called amateur stage.”