Ballyshannon Drama Society, whose All Ireland winning production of Steel Magnolias swept the boards inthe Confined Section, are set to return to the road
The society has been competing strongly in the Open Section, most notably with a 3rd placing at the Ulster Finals in 2013 and this year the society will feature a largely unseen work - The Gingerbread Lady by the acclaimed author Neil Simon.
With a core team of award winning and vastly experienced actors, not to mention a similarly decorated team of set designers, sound and lighting directors, director Anne McHugh has been able to yet again put together a production which is strong on the values we have come to expect from Ballyshannon.
The play centres on Evy, a cabaret singer whose career, marriage and health have all been destroyed by alcohol.
Having just completed a ten-week stint in a rehab facility, she returns home to the welcome of friends with their own problems – Jimmy, a gay actor in danger of losing a part in a play and Toby, an overly vain woman who fears the loss of her looks. Then Polly, her devoted but anxious teenage daughter arrives on the scene, shortly followed by Lou, Evy’s worthless ex-lover. Crackling with the kind of hilarious one-liners we expect from Neil Simon, the play focuses on whether Evy will stay on the wagon or career towards a tragic end . . .
Rachel O’ Connor plays the lead role of Evy Meara. An extremely demanding role on which the play centres as Evy is rarely off stage during the entire performance.
A multi award winning actress, Rachel has risen to the challenge and delivers an outstanding performance full of complexity, which swings from exaberic wit to delusional depressive moments.
Evy’s hapless friends, Jimmy and Toby are played by Abbey veterans Richard Hurst and Patricia Keane. Patricia, fresh from a plethora of Best Actress Awards for her performance as Miriam in last year’s production of Snake in the Grass, she will again enchant audiences with her multi-layered portrayal of
Richard returns to the circuit this year having played the part of Frank in the 2012 production of The Memory of Water for which he won a number of acting awards. Richard delivers a perfectly pitched performance of Jimmy Perry whose good nature is exploited by those around him, not
least by Evy.
Perhaps the sanest character in the play is that of Polly Meara, the 17-year-old daughter of Evy who has been living with her father but moves in with Evy following her return home from rehab.
Polly is played by Sinead Luke who has been treading the boards since childhood and delivers a beautifully rounded insight into this character who ultimately perhaps reveals herself as the adult in the piece.
Newcomer Conor Beattie completes the cast. Conor has the none too easy task of playing two very different characters. He appears as Manuel the opportunistic grocery delivery boy and Lou Tanner, Evy’s ex-lover who proves himself to be less than ‘loving’ during his encounter with Evy.
Conor plays both parts with wonderfully accurate and detailed insights and the Society looks forward to working with him in the future.
The setting of a Brownstone Apartment in 1970’s Manhattan gives fantastic scope to the set team co-ordinated by John Travers who have designed and built a number of outstanding sets in recent years. Paul McGonigle, Carl Duggan, Aidan Mc Guinness, Rossa Byrne and Kevin Lilly complete the team.
Award winning lighting designer Mark Fearon continues his association with Ballyshannon Drama Society again this year and he is assisted in the technical department by Sean Gibbons and Cillian
Doyle on sound.
No production can compete successfully without a dedicated and largely unseen backstage crew who graft so diligently to ensure everything is spot on for the actors.
Led by Stage Manager Mary Daly the team of Linda Ritchie, Betty McIntyre, Mary Duggan and Jackie Lilly Lawne will be irreplaceable during the 13 performances the team will give during February and March this year.
Following the local presentation 11 – 16 February at The Abbey Centre the team will compete in eight festivals in Connacht and Ulster as follows; Newtownstewart 25 Feb; Castleblaney 2 Mar; Kiltyclogher 3 Mar; Enniskillen 12 Mar; Shercock 18 Mar; Glenamaddy 21 Mar; Strabane 25 Mar and Carrickmore 26 Mar.
There will also be a chance for Ballybofey/Stranorlar audiences to see the production at The Balor Theatre on
20 February. Tickets may be booked at the Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon on 071 985 1375.