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37th Co. Tipperary Drama Festival Under Way In Holycross.

Author, Poet and Press Correspondent Mr Tom Ryan Reports.

There was palpable excitement in the air last Friday night, when the celebrated actress of stage screen and television, Adjudicator, Ms. Anna Walker [Association of Drama Adjudicators], officially opened the 37th annual County Tipperary Open Drama Festival, which was last held two years ago in pre-Covid times.

Ms. Anna Walker

This festival “rooted in the community” of Holycross/Ballycahill, has been a feature of life in the picturesque village, alongside of the 800 years old Cistercian Abbey, for nigh on 40 years and for almost all that time Mr. Donal Duggan has been its very effective Festival Director.

However, there was added an unexpected drama off stage this year, when the Tuesday before the Festival, the Mullingar Drama Group, who were to stage “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, next Thursday (March 24th), had sadly to withdraw from the festival, due to circumstances outside their control, (believed to be Covid related).

But, in best traditions of theatre “the show must go on”, and instead the Abbeysiders; latter the host group of the festival and the All-Ireland Confined Champions of 2019, opted to stage their own production of John B Keane’s popular “Moll”, on next Thursday night (March 24th).

It was gratifying to see so many familiar festival faces, true theatre loyalists, including members of Drama Groups from Thurles and elsewhere. The attendance included David and Kate McElgunn, Jim Ryan and comedian Tim Curran (Thurles); Han Costello, (Inch); her sister Esther Duggan; Denis Carroll, (Clonoulty); Pat McGrath, (Holycross); Fintan and Frances O‘Gorman, (Athnid), and Mike and Breda Hennessy, (Tipp Mid West Radio, Tipperary Town).

The Festival committee, held their traditional raffle [in which this writer won a box of chocolates]. They also had their traditional tearooms open at the interval, as an excellent thriller, “The Beacon”, by Nancy Harris was played on stage by the Ballycogley Players.

Festival life has returning to normal in the St. Michael’s Community Hall, Holycross, Co. Tipperary and it was such a nice feeling after all the trauma of the recent years, experienced locally and nationwide.
As Mr. Donal Duggan stated, “The drama festival brings a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and will help us to move from the dark days of Covid to the healthier, brighter and longer days of Spring“.

The hospitality of Holycross, Co. Tipperary, is well known and it is great to see old friendships being renewed and new ones made, during the interval “over that cuppa”.

Mr. Duggan thanked patrons and sponsors, the local media and particularly Tipp FM.

The hard working committee, who deserve to be congratulated on their trojan efforts, comprised this year of Rev. Celsus Tierney (President), Donal Duggan (Festival Director), Tommy Lanigan (Chairman), Claire Ryan (Secretary), Maudie Bourke and Tommy Lanigan (Joint Treasurers), Geraldine O’Neill (PRO), Marty O’Neill and Ger O’Dwyer (sponsorship), Diana Lacey (Raffle), Marty O’Neill and Paddy Connolly (Technical), and Marie Spillane, Peg Ryan, Elaine O’Dwyer, Andy Slattery (Committee).
The Sub-Committee comprised of Jack Henchion, John Glasheen, Aishling Henchion, Gerry Kennedy and Derek Doherty.

Groups are competing for the “Tipperary Star” Cup in the Confined Section and the “Tipp FM Trophy” in the Open Category.

The Festival continues tonight (Tuesday, March 22nd), with “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”, by Martin McDonagh, played by Brideview Drama group.
Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 23rd) will be staged “The Quiet Moment” by Mick Finn (Kilworth DG.).
As already stated, on Thursday next (March 24th) the Holycross/Ballycahill Drama Group will stage “Moll”, [Note, which is not competing in this years Festival competition].
On Friday (March 25th), Skibbereen Theatre Society will stage “Brighton” by Jim Nolan
On the final night, Saturday, (March 26th), Camross Drama Group will conclude this festival fare with Jimmy Murphy’s much-loved “The Kings of Kilburn High Road”.

This will be followed by final adjudication and presentation of awards.

Mr Donal Duggan, who welcomed Ms Anna Walker on her first visit to Holycross, Co. Tipperary; on a poignant note said “Covid took a heavy toll on people and drama did not escape, as we lost one of our founding members, Tom Molony and also Joe and Sally O’Rourke, who were all involved with our local group for many years”.
The late Tom Molony was Chairman of the Festival, after it moved to its new home in Holycross, from Thurles in 1983 and he served on the committee for many years. He was one of the early members of the group and played parts in many plays over the years. “He will be remembered for his readily given advice, tempered with his ready wit”, continued Mr. Duggan.

He further added “I wish to thank our hardworking committee for their time and dedication to the festival which we all love”.

In thanking Tipp FM local radio, he also thanked and welcomed back the audience, “whose presence and support for live drama encourages us to keep trying to improve the festival each year“.

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