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Tipperary Drama Festival Gets Under Way In Holycross, Thurles

Reporter: Tom Ryan.

County Tipperary Drama Festival Committee 2018
President: Very Rev. Fr. Celsius Tierney, Parish Priest of Holycross/ Ballycahill; Chairman: Tommy Lanigan; Festival Director: Donal Duggan; Treasurer: Maudie Bourke; Secretary: Clare Ryan; P.R.O: Geraldine Henchion; Sponsorship: Ger O’Dwyer; Raffle: Diana Lacey; Technical Support: Marty O’Neill and Paddy Connolly; Subcommittee Members: Peg Ryan, Elaine O’Dwyer, Derek Doherty, Jack Henchion, John Glasheen, Aisling Henchion and Gerry Kennedy.

Ms Imelda McDonagh

The 36th annual County Tipperary Open Drama Festival got under way in style at St. Michael’s Community Centre, Holycross, last Friday night, following a glitzy ‘Cheese and Wine’ reception, hosted by the Festival Committee and attended by many local dignitaries.

The festival was officially opened by International Festival Adjudicator, Ms Imelda McDonagh , who was welcomed by Mr Donal Duggan, latter Festival Director for over three decades and the amiable and informative Master of Ceremonies nightly.

Amongst those introduced to the attendance by Mr Duggan were:-  Archbishop Emeritus Dermot Clifford; Very Rev Celsius Tierney PP; Festival Committee President Mr Tommy Lanigan; an old friend to the festival and its Chairman Mr Michael Lowry, TD; County Councillors Mr Micheal Lowry and Mr Seamus Hanafin and Ms Kay Cahill, (sister of TD Mr Jackie Cahill).

As former adjudicator, Mr Larry McCluskey, pointed out that audiences are very perceptive and appreciative in Holycross and not only do Holycross host the actual annual festival, but they also compete themselves nationally, with great successfully.

There were lovely tributes in this year’s Festival Programme; to the late Eibhlis Quirke, former Secretary of the Festival Committee and to the late Dan Gallagher of Thurles. (Ar dheis De a n-anamacha). The late Dan and his wife, Breda, previously sponsored the “Gallagher Award” for “Most Promising Actor/Actress” and Breda Gallagher and her daughter Mary, were most welcome guests on the night, upholding a proud tradition for the popular Gallagher family.

The festival continues until next Saturday, March 24th, when results will be announced and prizes presented, including the “Tipperary Star Cup” for Best Play in the Confined Section, and the “Tipp FM Trophy” for Best Play in the Open Section.

Wednesday, March 21st (Open section) Noel Coward’s “Blyth Spirit”, – Thurles D.G.
Thursday, March 22nd (Confined) “Some Girls”, Curtain Call, Dungarvan.
Friday, March 23rd (Confined) “Bold Girls”, Holycross/Ballycahill D.G.
Saturday, March 24th (Open) “Duet For Two”, Nenagh Drama Group.

Festival fever is particularly strong in the Suirside village currently, with the Holycross/Ballycahill group’s Jenny Bracken winning “Best Actress Award” in the Rush, County, Dublin, Drama Festival and Aisling Henchion nominated for “Best Sound” at the same festival.

There is a lot of buzz about “Bold Girls”.
It looks like being a very successful year for the talented Abbeysiders. There is huge excitement about the group locally and a record attendance is expected next Friday night to see them on stage in “Bold Girls”.  Early attendance is certainly most advisable and note the ever-popular Festival Club Tea Room will be in operation on a nightly basis.

“Bold Girls”, is a stirring play based around the lives of three women; Marie, Nora and Cassie, all living in war-torn Belfast. Although their men have been either killed or imprisoned for their political activities; everyday life must go on. But the appearance of a disturbing young girl, and Cassie’s revelations, suddenly threaten Marie’s carefully structured widowhood.

This impressive Holycross/Ballycahill group, directed by Claire Ryan; winners of the Confined Section in the Roscommon Drama Festival, comprise the formidable cast of:- Joanne O’Neill, Jacqui Lacey, Eleanor O’ Dwyer and Jenny Bracken, together with a top-class backup team. At time of writing they still have more festivals in which to compete, to bring them even possibly more honour.

Looking back at the Tipperary Open Drama Festival.
A number of other groups in this festival are no strangers to both the Confined and Open All-Ireland finals. Simply only the best groups take to the stage in Holycross, offering that rare opportunity to meet; not only theatre enthusiasts, but also talented Thespians from all over Ireland.

Holycross-Ballycahill Drama Group are in existence for over fifty years. The group have reached the All Ireland Confined Finals on many occasions, including, 2016, in Castleblayney with “The Thrill of Love” by Amanda Whittington and in 2013 in Rossmore Co. Cork with “The God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza. They have won numerous acting, directing and set awards, not only on the country’s festival circuit, but also in All Ireland competitions.

“Sive” by J.B. Keane, “Run For Your Wife” by Ray Cooney, “Woman and Scarecrow” by Marina Carr and T.S. Elliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” are among the critically acclaimed productions that the group have performed around the country. They have even brought “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”, by Martin Mc Donagh to Germany, following a special request by the American forces stationed there to perform at their base in Heidelberg.

The above group have won a string of nominations e.g. Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Set (Andy Slattery) awards around the country. A magnificent achievement for Director, Claire Ryan and her talented cast and stage crew.

Ursuline Convent Secondary Win Glasheen Trophy in Schools Drama Festival
With a hugely impressive production, Ursuline Convent, Thurles won the coveted Glasheen Trophy in the unique Schools Drama Festival, in which Presentation Secondary School, Thurles and two groups from Doon also participated.  Sponsors were Stakelum’s Office Supplies here in Thurles, who were thanked. Mr Donal Duggan, Festival Director went on to thank the teachers for their committed involvement in and contribution to the festival and for fostering local drama and an interest in drama from an early age.

So, it remains a fact; to quote the words of Festival Adjudicator for the “Schools Drama Festival”, Mr Conor O’Connell, (to massive applause, I might add), “Drama is alive and well in Tipperary”.

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