Arts Column with Conor Malone

Inspiring Local Produce

Inspiring Local Produce

The sheer volume of locally produced arts events cropping up in the programmes of various venues is quite remarkable. At The Balor, we’ve just hosted the Lifford Players with Shadowlands, Remembrances has been running all this week, next week The Butt Drama Circle’s Deadwood Dick will have a four night run (March 1-4) and that will be followed by five nights of Hairspray, – St. Columba’s College, Stranorlar’s annual musical.

Over at An Grianan in Letterkenny, Letterkenny Music & Drama Group’s The 39 steps on Saturday is followed by Millennium Forum Productions’ Carthaginians on Monday and Letterkenny Musical Society’s Oliver (March 6-10). Similarly, Ballyshannon Musical Society are just about to embark on a run of The Sound Of Music at The Abbey Centre.

In many ways, the harsh economic climate creates a perfect storm the benefits home produced work. People have more time on their hands than they had a few years ago. They’re looking to spend their free time in a way that doesn’t cost the earth, hence a noticeable increase in the number of people getting involved in local drama and arts pursuits. From a venue’s point of view, local shows are cheaper to programme and can be easier to promote than touring work. From the audiences point of view, admission to local shows is cheaper and the level of familiarity between the crowd and the artists on stage add a degree of enjoyment to proceedings. It really is a win-win all round.

What’s also noticeable is the level of expertise on show in these productions. Many of them are amateur only to the degree that people aren’t doing it for the money. The quality of acting, lighting, set design, production values etc. . is generally very impressive, easily holding its own with productions that are happy to term themselves ‘professional’. In many ways it’s quite inspiring to see what ‘ordinary local people’ are capable of. And God knows, we can all do with a bit of inspiration these days. After all, isn’t inspiration one of the things that art is meant to be about?

Playing for Laughs with Deadwood Dick

Normally at this time of the year, amateur drama groups are putting the final touches to the year’s festival entries. Ballybofey’s Butt Drama Circle are eschewing their usual drama festival offering this year. They’re choosing instead to have some good old fashioned fun with Deadwood Dick – a comedy set in the Wild West.

Festival plays can often be heavy, weighty, worthy, affairs, chosen with adjudicators in mind rather than the audience. Deadwood Dick is the exact opposite – slapstick laugh a minute comedy designed to be pure fun for cast and crowd alike.

Taking place in Calamity Jane’s Mantrap Saloon in the mining town of Deadwood Gulch, Deadwood Dick is crammed full of famous names, long lost daughters, stolen gold mines and kidnapped heroines. There’s a big cast, over 30 in all, who have been having a ball in rehearsal – a sure sign that the show is guaranteed to provide lots of laughs and entertainment.

Deadwood Dick is aimed at a family audience and the pricing mirrors that of the Butt Drama Circle’s annual Christmas pantomime with adults €12, children €8 and a family ticket of four available for €30. The show runs from Thursday, March 1 to Sunday, March 4 and you can contact the Balor Box Office on 074 913 1840 for bookings and information.

The 39 Steps

Well worth seeing is Letterkenny Music and Drama Group’s The 39 Steps at An Grianan, Letterkenny this Saturday. The original 1935 film was a gripping Alfred Hitchcock whodunit. This theatre version – first staged in 2005 – takes a more comic slant while remaining faithful to the films suspenseful plot.

Legendary scenes from the film such as the chase on the Flying Scotsman, the escape on the fort bridge and the finale at the London Palladium are all recreated and it’s worth price of admission alone to see how the bi-plane crash is staged.

The cast of four – Kieran Kelly, Elaine Gillespie, John Ruddy and Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhrighde - race through a staggering 150 or so parts in one hundred minutes of entertainment that’s as compelling as it is ingenious.

You can see The 39 Steps this coming Saturday Febraury 25 at 8pm at An Grianan. Admission is €12 (€10 concession), tickets available from the An Grianan box office on 074 912 0777.

What’s On

The staff and students of Muchadoo Stage School bring Beauty & the Beast to the stage at The Alley in Strabane tonight until Saturday. You also have until Saturday to see Carthaginians at The Millennium Forum.

On Friday, there’s new drama at The Balor, Ballybofey with Remembrances while Ego The Jackal, aka Connor McGowan, launches his new album Big Moon at The Playhouse in Derry. On Saturday, Letterkenny Music and Drama Group present The 39 Steps at An Grianan.

Carthaginians is at An Grianan on Monday next, February 27, while Grease begins a six night run at The Millennium forum in Derry until Saturday March 3. There’s more musical drama at The Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon with Ballyshannon Musical Society’s production of The Sound Of Music.


Balor Developmental Community Arts Group (Balor DCA) and The Alley in Strabane have been running a cross-border cross-community project for a few years now. Funded by the International Fund for Ireland, it’s led to an annual cross border summer drama camp and, also, the commissioning and production of a number of dramas exploring themes arising from the Irish/English dynamic.

The latest offering – Remembrances by Jonathan Burgess – has been playing to schoolchildren all this week at The Balor and there’s a free public performance tomorrow night (Friday, February 24).

The action takes place on Remembrance Sunday, 1938 as four men gather in a bar in Donegal. Throughout the course of the evening, the effects of the First World War and the questions posed on the eve of a second conflict are raised and discussed. At different times touching, harrowing and funny, the sharp dialogue and strong acting means that Remembrances manages to avoid the trap that many ‘issue-based’ plays find themselves in. It’s well worth the hour or so it takes to tell its tale and make its point. Besides – it’s free in so what do you have to lose?