Wilde about the stage

Living

TENSE PSYCHO DRAMA Yvonne Geraghty and Catríona Geraghty during rehearsals for their drama group’s play ‘With All My Love I Hate You’.

Wilde River Drama Group aims for All-Ireland glory by the banks of the Moy

Oisín McGovern

‘With All My Love I Hate You’.
Some name for a play, isn’t it?
This weekend, the men and women of Wilde River Drama Group will be aiming for All-Ireland glory with their production of Lynda Marchal’s 1970s psychological drama. If the oxymoronic title doesn’t grip you, then the story certainly will.
Julia (Yvonne Geraghty) receives a visit from her old friend Claire (Catriona Geraghty).
Seems normal… until we learn that poor Claire has just after having a mental breakdown. We then learn that Julia has been having an affair with Claire’s husband, one that has even borne a child. Que a tense, gripping plot that simmers like an unexploded land mine right up until its ironic conclusion.
It’s fair going to squeeze all that into 40 minutes, but such is the task facing the finalists in the upcoming All-Ireland One Act Drama Festival.
At the helm of Wilde River is founder, director and producer Sighle Hughes.
“Amazing, it’s just surreal,” is how the Ballinrobe native – a woman imbued with a love of drama through her parents’ involvement with The Neale Dramatic Society – describes the feeling of getting to an All-Ireland final.
Wilde River began to flow in earnest in 2016. Today it has approximately 20 members, a number of awards to its name, and has staged everything from farces and comedies to dramas.
Like thousands more events, the cruel pandemic cancelled their 2020 production a fortnight before showtime. Even a scheduled, socially distant outdoor show fell foul of a last-minute change to the unpredictable carousel of Covid-19 guidelines in late summer. It all came together eventually, though, and there were laughs aplenty when Wilde River finally got to stage ‘Unforgiven’ a year-and-a-half after its original date.
Since then, the Wilde River has been in full flow, meandering from laugh-out-loud hilarity to the tense two-woman psychodrama that is ‘With All My Love I Hate You’.

Flying Mayo’s flag
“It’s hard to believe in such a short period of time that we have gotten this far,” Sighle says. “Even if we didn’t place, I’d be absolutely thrilled to have achieved this much.”
Simply getting to the final was no small achievement. To qualify, a group must enter six smaller competitions and score maximum points in three before they can compete with the cream.
Merry gaggles of drama enthusiasts will traverse the length of Ireland to for the finals at Ballina Arts Centre this weekend. However, Wilde River Drama Group will be only ones flying the Mayo flag by the banks of the Moy.
Home advantage will be a help, but the competition will be no less formidable.
“Bloody hard,” is how Sighle sums up the task of winning any competition.
“I’m sure next week I’ll be nervous, we’ll all be nervous,” she says, with a chuckle. “If you don’t have nerves, you don’t have that adrenaline and I think you need that for a good performance. I think for the moment we’re just basking in the joy of having gotten this far.”
On the night, audiences will only see Yvonne Murphy and Catriona Geraghty on stage.
But, as anyone involved with theatre will know, there’s plenty more that goes on long before the lights descend.
As Sighle explains, there would be no show without Seán Browne on light on sound, or Billy O’Carroll and his backroom team, who regularly spend weekends traversing the country to keep the show on the road.
“It’s seven or eight people on the go to every venue. Rehearsals would have been just the three of us. We’d have started those in September,” she explains.
“[It is] a very rewarding experience, especially now that we’ve done so well, this time in competition. We’ve got great feedback and we’ve got a chance to bring it to a whole range of different audiences and different venues.”
Excitement building
What would it mean to Sighle if herself, Yvonne, Catriona and Company were to go all the way on home soil this weekend?
“I would say personally, to place at this particular festival would be a massive achievement. You don’t just qualify for this,” she says.
“Of course, we’re going to do our damnedest to do well. But none of us can think about winning at the moment. We’d be up against very experienced groups. It would be amazing to do our best and to give a good account of Ballinrobe as well.”
She has directed, produced and acted in plenty of plays and dramas, but the busy national school teacher insists that she doesn’t have an original one in her.
Not yet anyway.
“Never say never. Maybe in the future. It’s a big challenge,” Sighle says.
“I don’t have the time with work and everything, and this is a hobby. A hobby that takes a lot of time, but all the same, a hobby.”
A hobby that could be about to bring an All-Ireland title from the River Moy to the River Robe.