From classical myth to Cavan comedy


Claremorris Drama and Fringe Festival returns with ten days of theatrics

Ciara Moynihan

Claremorris Drama and Fringe Festival is back with a bang, with theatre companies from all over the land converging on the town from Saint Patrick’s Day to Saturday, March 26. The week’s plays will be judged by adjudicator Brendan Murray (ADA). The onerousness of his task can only be heightened by this being the festival’s 50th year – a golden moment for any theatre group to get a gong.
The glamour of the gala opening night is given over on March 17 to the rather unglamorous sounding comedy ‘Victor’s Dung’, by Leitrim bard Seamus O’Rourke. Set in a farmyard, complete with its very own dung heap, outdoor toilet and rather poor broadband reception, the play tells the story of Victor Maguire, a crude, vulgar, abrupt, un-PC Cavan farmer who gets a surprise phone call from the hospital one Friday morning, changing everything. The audience is taken on a whirlwind journey through Victor’s somewhat sad and unconventional life, meeting up with many a strange character along the way.
The next night, Friday, March 18, Dublin’s Dalkey Players take to the stage with ‘Eurydice’, written by Sarah Ruhl in 2003. It retells the myth of Orpheus from the perspective of Eurydice, his wife. The story focuses on Eurydice’s choice to return to earth with Orpheus or to stay in the underworld with her father (a character created by Ruhl).
Ruhl has made several changes to the original myth’s story-line. In the myth, Orpheus succumbs to his desires and looks back at Eurydice, while in Ruhl’s version Eurydice calls out to Orpheus (causing him to look back) – perhaps in part because of her fear of reentering the world of the living and perhaps as a result of her desire to remain in the land of the dead with her father.
On Saturday, March 19, Waterford’s Ballyduff Drama Group will perform ‘Rabbit Hole’, by David Lindsay-Abaire, which deals with the ways family members survive a major loss, and includes comedy as well as tragedy.
The following night, Galway’s Glenamaddy Players will offer their rendering of Martin McDonagh’s ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’. Set on the small Aran Islands community of Inishmaan off the Western Coast of Ireland, circa 1934, the inhabitants are excited to learn of a Hollywood film crew’s arrival in neighbouring Inishmore to make a documentary about life on the islands. ‘Cripple’ Billy Claven, eager to escape the gossip, poverty and boredom of Inishmaan, vies for a part in the film, and to everyone’s surprise, the orphan and outcast gets his chance.
Another McDonagh classic is given an airing on Monday, March 21, when Claremorris’s own Ray Leonard Players present ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’, a blend of black comedy, melodrama, horror and bleak tragedy.
The story is set in an Irish village Leenane, Connemara in the early 1990s. The entire play takes place in a shabby, poorly lit kitchen, resulting in a claustrophobic sense of entrapment. The play centers on the life of Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old spinster who takes care of her 70 year-old, selfish and manipulative mother, Mag. Maureen’s sisters have escaped into marriage and family life, but with a history of mental illness, Maureen is trapped in a seriously dysfunctional relationship with her mother.
Tuesday night will see Harold Pinter’s betrayal will be in the hands of Clare’s Corofin Dramatic Society, who will bring to life this story of an illicit affair, unfolding it in reverse—from the end of a marriage to the first forbidden spark.
Kiltimagh group Clann Machua Drama will stage ‘Sive’, by John B Keane, on Wednesday, March 23. The story centres on an 18-year-old illegitimate girl, Sive, who lives with her uncle Mike, his wife Mena and his mother Nanna. A local matchmaker Thomasheen Seán Rua decides that Sive should marry an old man called Seán Dota, rich but old and haggard. Thomasheen convinces Mike and Mena to organise the marriage – and they are to receive a sum of two hundred pounds as soon as Sive marries.
Leitrim’s Cornmill Theatre Group are staging a production of member Killian McGuinness, ‘The Door on the Left’. Set in South Leitrim against the backdrop of the Civil War, it tells the story of Mary Browne, who becomes the local curate’s housekeeper, giving her family ‘a bit of importance’. Saturday, March 26, sees Cork group the Palace Players bring ‘Chapatti’, by Christian O’Reilly, to the stage. Romance is a distant memory for two lonely animal lovers living in Dublin. When forlorn Dan and his dog Chapatti cross paths with the amiable Betty and her 19 cats, an unexpected spark begins a warm and gentle story about two people rediscovering the importance of human companionship.
For anyone looking to enjoy some bite-size theatre, be sure to check out the Fringe element Friday, March 25, when four 15-minute Fringe plays will be shown: ‘The Intruder’, by Peter Gould (Grand Productions); ‘By its Cover’, by Sarah Fahy (The Drama Heads – not suitable for children); ‘To Have and To Hold’, by Moira Mahony (BlenDiva Productions); and ‘My Dead Husband’s Hereford Bull’, by Ann Walsh-Donnelly (Parke Drama Group – also not a play for children.).

Season, five-night and individual night tickets are available to purchase on the Claremorris Town Hall Theatre Website,, or call 094 931 0999.