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High drama nights in Claremorris

South of the border

And then there are times when art mimics life. Like an evening recently in the Dalton Inn Hotel. We were present and dramatically correct at the press launch for the 46th annual Claremorris Drama Festival.
Chairman Peter McCallig was providing the lowdown on the plays that Claremorris Town Hall will host over the coming ten nights of this annual South Mayo showstopper.
Gathered around Peter were a strong supporting cast who make this event the outstanding success it has now become.
Linda Connolly-Beirne served tea as fast as the spout could pour and freshly-baked buttered scones we devoured like there was no tomorrow. Working away diligently on the wing were other committee members. At a quick glance we spotted Pat Noone, Michael Cunningham, Michael and Kay Brennan, Ann Maloney, Carmel Glynn and Eddie and Maureen Sweeney among others.
Peter was waxing lyrical about John B.Keane’s ‘The Year of the Hiker’ that will open the festival next Thursday night at 8pm sharp. He was warming nicely to his task when in strolled Michael Commins and he a tad late as usual. Seconds later and cue Mayo’s greatest hiker of all entering stage left.  Michael Ring was winding up his Claremorris canvass and decided he’d pay a visit to wish Peter and his crew a ‘leg breaking’ fortnight.
Peter was now confronted by the two most famous Michaels in Mayo. But McCallig is not Drama Festival Chairman for nothing. The best-oiled PR machine couldn’t orchestrate publicity like this and he spotted the opportunity. Quicker than you’d say “Jaysus, but will ye look who’s landed?” Peter abandoned his script and opted for impromptu.
He grabbed a ‘Year of the Hiker’ poster and passed it to Ring. Next the advertisement for ‘The Sunshine Boys’ show that the famed Phoenix Players from Tubbercurry will perform on Saturday March 19, and sandwich-boarded Commins with it.
Quick as a flash (apologies for a woeful pun) he instructed photographer Michael Donnelly to stop staring and start snapping. Michael Ring called on the committee members to give themselves a big bualadh bos and someone shouted ‘high five for Claremorris Drama Festival’.
It ran on autopilot thereafter and Peter McCallig told us of the fine programme of top class plays coming Claremorris way.
Sliabh Aughty players are an established group around the Mountshannon/Whitegate region of county Clare. It’s they who get proceedings in motion on Thursday night at 8pm sharp with the full yarn of Hiker Lacey and the happenings of the year he returned from his long trek.
There are a couple of timeless classics penned by long-established household names. Among them Tuam born Tom Murphy’s ‘A Crucial Week in the life of a Grocer’s Assistant’ performed by Lifford Players on Sunday night next.
The Donegal group are a renowned troupe and Murphy’s creation is a long-time theatre audience favourite. Set in a rural Ireland town in the late 50’s, it’s the story of grocer’s assistant, John Joe Moran, and the dilemma of whether to leave his employer and his parents behind and seek a fortune elsewhere.
If you’re doing nothing better next Sunday evening after the milking and the homework you could do a lot worse than mosey along to Claremorris Town Hall.
Or on any night over the next ten when the crème-de-la crème of amateur drama descends on Claremorris. It’s theatre in its purest form. Farmers, pharmacists, housewives, civil (and some perhaps not so civil) servants, cattle jobbers, scribes and scribblers, petrol pump attendants and midwives by day.
But at night they don costumes, plaster themselves in paint and powder and step onto a Claremorris stage to become John Joe Moran, Alec Brady or one of the high kings of Kilburn High Road. And for a few hours they tussle with nerves and worry about fluffing their lines as they strive to entertain. They are why Claremorris has kept the show going near five decades now.  Give yourself a treat and go see. You never know who might drop in.