Conna's 'Deathtrap'  by Ira Levin

This is the long-running Broadway hit from the pen of Ira Levin, known more for his novels such as Rosemary's Baby on this side of the Atlantic. A thriller comedy, it is a very demanding piece for an amateur group and, overall, Conna Dramatic Society dealt adequately with these demands. The presentation was quite good and the adjudicator, Tom Doherty, was particularly impressed with the lighting and the costumes, both of which designs were appropriate and of high quality. He said that a great amount of effort had gone into the set and, though it provided a more than adequate platform for the staging of the play, he felt that the design and colour scheme limited its overall visual impact. It could also have a more lived-in look.
With regard to direction, the adjudicator had significant praise for director, George Peet, saying it was very well staged but that audibility was an issue especially early on. Also, some scenes could be paced up which should lead to some more climactic scene endings.
Mr Doherty was particularly impressed with the performances of Dave O'Leary as Clifford and Marie Barry as Helga but also had much praise for Brendan Hurley who played Sidney and Anne Hurley in her role as Myra. He also felt that Edward Lynch as Porter added much verve and believability to the play.

Overall then, it was a good start to the Festival. Deathtrap it might have been but, as Mr Doherty exclaimed, "nothing died on stage tonight"

 

Dundalk's ' The Winslow Boy' by Terrence Rattigan

'The Winslow Boy' is set against strict codes of conduct and manners of the era 1914-1918 and is a play that has stood the test of time with its enduring popularity. To achieve success with this play you must have style, costume and delivery and this Dundalk gave us with aplomb. It was a clever presentation, well designed set with well chosen furniture and good detail. However, the adjudicator did question the blue light outside the window. The costumes were a highlight of the play and were excellent throughout.
Tom Doherty stated that the best direction is invisible and that is what we got tonight from Fergus Mullen -  the story unfolded without being aware of things being arranged.
Ronnie - The Winslow Boy, played by Sean Og Cairns was a well mannered characterisation but forceful when necessary.
Violet played by Meave Montogomery was suitably bossy and mothering and delivered her funny lines with impact.
Grace played by Gabriel Twomey was graceful, watchful with great posture.
Arthur Winslow played by Tim Ahern had the necessary stern authority but showed a softer side when dealing with Ronnie - it was a very credible creation.
Catherine the loyal daughter played by Aine Corcoran was cheerful,courageous and gave us the determination the part demanded.
Dicky played by Paudie Breen had the neccessary humour and sense of style. Overall a very strong cast.

Tonight, in Ballyduff  'The Winslow Boy' "grew up and matured"



Wexford's  'O
ther Desert Cities' by John Robin Baitz

 
This play premiered off Broadway in January 2011 and made Broadway in November of the same year. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012.  The play has been adapted for TV and its author, Baitz, is probably better known for his popular TV series 'The West Wing'. 'It is a play that has depth with complex characters, and the secrets lie in the betrayal', commented Tom Doherty the festival adjudicator.
And so ......Tom Doherty praised the set, saying it was well designed with some lovely features in particular the fireplace, the brick features and the detailed glass door. Costume was well chosen, while there was effective work done with the sound. He had some reservations regarding the lighting, commenting that, at times, the outside light did not match the inside light.
The play opened in a relaxed, low-key manner and Tom Doherty felt that this did not develop or 'pick-up' throughout the play. He would have liked to have seen more intensity and felt it did not engage or engross the audience. He also commented that the acting needed to be more demonstrative.
He felt Brooke  was composed but could loosen up a little more, while Polly was very animated in Act 2. He liked Lyman who was relaxed and also Silda who was ragged in her appearance and had a lovely down-to-earth confidence.Trip, he said had a striking presence on stage and had great clarity.
 
However, Doherty departed the stage saying he felt that the group tonight, at times, 'were a little lost in the desert'.
 
 
Kilrush's 'The Calvalcaders' by Billy Roche

The story explores the lives of four Barbershop singers who spend their days mending shoes and nights as singers of local legend. This play written by award winning author Billy Roche shows how history always repeats itself.
The set was well designed but the adjudicator felt that it needed further items to complete its furnishing such as signage, pieces of leather and a polishing machine. Despite the number of short scenes he felt the play moved along well, the singing was polished and experienced.
The direction was very good, the play unfolded with ease but at times needed more emphasis on individual lines with more pauses. The skill of this company made dull and everyday lives interesting through the conviction of their playing.
Rory played by Garrett Murphy had a good presence on stage,chatty with a good sense of humour but at times needed more definition in his gestures.
Terry played by Michael Dunbar had the attitude of a showman, his pushy demeanour and repressed anger came across very well, his character demands that he carries the weight of the play and this he did very well.
Ted played by Timmy Connaughton did very well and took all the opportunities that this script allows him.
Jane Kinsella found all the qualities that the character Breda needed, she had the ability to be quiet, a good listener, down to earth but passionate.
Nuala played by Ellie Condron stood up to the domineering Terry but at times her voice was a little light but the innocence of the character was well portrayed.
Josie played by Maurice Ruth was well played showing the characters quiet manner and engaging personality.

In conclusion - 'The Calvalcaders'' brought harmony to the play tonight'  
 
 
Brideview's '13 Rue De L'Amour' by George Feydeau

The play was adapted and translated by Feydeau, the father of French farce. It was set in Paris in 1892 and both the subjects and the audience were wealthy French Bourgeois. It unfolds an intricate plot at ferocious speed and movement. Tom Doherty described comedy as the most difficult of stage styles  and said farce is the most difficult comedy.
And so.... the adjudicator, Tom Doherty commented that this play needs style and tonight we got this through set and costume. He picked out the exquisite panelling, and great decor with some excellent touches such as the chair, mantelpiece and mirror. He gave special praise to the good 'outside' effects and the effective and efficient set change to Act 2. He concluded by saying that by putting all this together, it gave us a very impressive standard of presentation.
His thoughts on the production were that it was good with some very well staged set pieces. However, he felt that the play needed a little more than funny set pieces, he would have liked to have seen a little more pace and a heightened approach to some of the scenes. Generally, he said it was a very enjoyable night but still had more potential.
Cast..... Moricet, played by John Baldwin,  he felt was 'a very effective creation who carried the weight of the play easily and well’, while Leontine, (Niamh MacAuley) was played with conviction and energy and overall delivered a convincing and well sustained performance. Duchotel (Liam Roche) was strong and lifted the scenes he appeared in while Jean Pierre (Paul Martin) brought credibility to the part and always had the ability to ‘put his foot in it’! He liked both the Maid (Veronica Henley) and Mme. (Helen Aherne) , who, he felt, moved confidently and were very composed. The Inspector (John Roche) had an appropriate air of suspicion, as did the policeman (Jack Aherne).

Tom Doherty concluded his comments by saying ,"I feel we were happily at home with this production..Goodnight".
 
 
Skibbereen's 'No Romance' by Nancy Harris

Despite, or maybe because of advances in technology, the author highlights the lack of communication in today's world.
The play is written in three distinct acts with a 'coming together' at the end of Act three
Act One, presentation well done with a very good contrast in the two actors, but at times the voices were at the same level which gave the impression of a private conversation rather than a performance.
Gail played by Isobel Kelly had a business like approach, handled the emotion well and was very much her own woman.
Laura played by Mary O Driscoll had a strong presence on stage and showed her feminine side.
Act two, well staged with two excellent actors but with only two actors on stage they must be conscious of injecting energy into the playing at all times. 
Joe played by Fachtna O Driscoll, looked well, handled the comedy extremely well and took everything the part had to offer.
Carmel played by Carmel O Driscoll was composed, controlled, suitably suspicious but appropriately smug when required, a well rounded characterisation.
Act Three, great set and attention to detail where the movement of the wheelchair played a significant role.
Peg played by Catherine Field played with dignity and confidence with a wonderful curtness.
Michael played by James McEoin gave us a sturdy and credible characterisation with a strong delivery and good body language, well done on this performance.
Johnny played by Sean McCarthy was quiet and contained very much in keeping with the role.

In conclusion our adjudicator Tom Doherty said " With 'No Romance' we fell a bit in love tonight "
 
 
Nenagh's 'The Outgoing Tide' by Bruce Graham

Gunner Concannon hatched an unorthodox plan to secure his family's future but meets with resistance from his wife and son.
The play demands a challenging presentation with lots of different locations and flashbacks which puts huge demands on the company, overall the adjudicator was happy with how the company dealt with these challenges.
However he felt a rethink on some costuming might be worthwhile as some colours did not work with the lighting.
The sound effects were terrific and the opening music very good.
'The Outgoing Tide' had three very competent actors who handled the huge demands of this play very well.
Gunner, played by Kevin Walshe - did a very good job in presenting his part and had an excellent accent throughout.
Peg, played by Niamh Hogan - the adjudicator felt that the actress could have slowed down her opening scene to show her weariness more as she struggled to deal with her husband who has alzheimer's but otherwise it was a very well played performance.
Jack, played by Donal Bray - the script demands that he is a servant to the other two actors in his performance which he did competently, while the others moments offered to him he took well.

With three very good actors and a challenging presentation well met, Nenagh gave us a very good interpretation of this Bruce Graham work. 
 
Ballyduff's 'Curse of the Starving Class' by Sam Shepard

The play is a darkly comic exploration of the dysfunctional Tate clan as they struggle for control of the rundown family farm.
As the play is written in the style of Absurdism the presentation is not straightforward or realistic, Ballyduff achieved this very well with a lot of imaginative ideas but the adjudicator Terry Byrne did question the use of the black curtain on back wall.
The music was very appropriate to the mood of the play and costumes were adequate but may need to 'ruralise'some of them a bit more. Lighting was good and use of sound effects very effective.
The direction of this difficult piece of work was well combined and created by Ger Canning but maybe the pace needed to be slowed at the opening of the play to show the weariness of the mother, using more western rural based accents would help to slow the dialogue.
The assemble of actors was very strong and the play has been well cast.
Ella played by Valerie o Leary is a very accomplished actress with great class and ability, her accent however was very east coast and at times needed to show more exhaustion from dealing with a violent, drunk husband.
Wesley played by Courtney Canning looked very well and had a fine performance in every respect.
Emma played by Aoife Walsh - this actress any director would love to have available to cast, she had sharp clear dialogue but needs to look at speed of delivery especially in opening of play.
Weston played by Richie Walsh the father and husband bored by the stability of life and the cause of the chaos, his performance made a great impact on the show.
Ian McGurk ( Taylor) was very well played and Killian Collins (Ellis) gave us a believable characterisation

This gruelling Sam Shepard play was very well presented to us tonight by Ballyduff.

Kilmeen's 'The Walworth Farce' by Enda Walsh

An Irish dysfunctional family in a small council flat on the Walworth Road in London spend their days reinacting how and why they left their beloved Cork twenty years ago and how the vicious psychological control the father has over his two sons is threatened by an unwelcome visitor.
The presentation is highly prescribed in the script and Kilmeen produced a very good set, suitably beaten up and dirty.The music and lighting were also both very good.
In relation to the production the adjudicator Terry Byrne felt that in the opening of the first act more effort is needed to clarify what is actually happening in the play for the audience, this then would in turn would help with the funny moments and create more laughter as the high-wire farce moments were not always reached - this improved with Hayleys entrance at the end of act one and the second act found all the necessary elements.
You need four very good actors to attempt a play like this and Kilmeen had these with Christy O Sullivan (Dinny) in a mammoth role which was carried off very well. His two sons - Blake played by Donal McSweeney and Sean played by Denis O Sullivan - both had great delivery and were also very well played, Hayley played by Sonia Semedo was very right for the part, got good laughter and was suitably terrified when required.  
 
In summary the adjudicator said 'The Walworth Farce was flying by the end but needs a shorter runway'
 
 
 Palace Players 'Einstein's Gift' By Vern Thiessen

'Einstein's Gift' is a play based on the recollections of Albert Einstein which focuses on the life and career of German Chemist, Dr.Fritz Haber- it is one of Thiessen's best known and most produced works. Interestingly the word 'Gift' in German means 'Poison' and therewithin lies the basis of the story.  
The adjudicator Terry Byrne was very satisfied with the overall presentation. The set was creative and effective and facilitated the play well.
He felt the sound effects and lighting were good and the choice of music excellent. Costumes in general were good but maybe look at pastel colouring of some of the ladies' costumes which can sometimes blend into the set.
The direction was very good with a fine cast and good movement in and between the multiple scenes.
Einstein played by Sean Ahern looked the part, was calm and considered throughout most of play , he needs to resist getting too impassioned in the final scene as it is not needed but overall a good performance.
Clara Immerwahr played by Alison Lewis - the adjudicator liked this performance very much; she portrayed a believable academic and had a good connection with Haber.
Otto played by James Lenane - a very credible performance.
FJ Haber was described by the adjudicator as the 'strength and weakness of the show' - initially he was happy with this portrayal and was on top of this very challenging role but he needs to reign in his performance both vocally and with his gestures and let the writing do the work.
Overall a strong cast with solid performances from all.

In summary - 'tonight's show was a great end to the festival'

Tickets

40th West Waterford Drama Festival
Friday 4th March to 12th March 2022. Check out the festival line up and a synopsis of the plays being performed.

Bookings: On 058 60456 from Monday 21st February 2022 - 2pm - 8pm

Festival Ticket prices:
Nightly tickets are €15 and concessions €10
Season Tickets are €90 and includes Festival Programme

Location

If using Sat Nav, be careful when inputting. There are at least three Ballyduffs in County Waterford. In particular, there is a village called Ballyduff about five miles from Waterford City. This is not us! Coordinates 52° 08' 51" N, 8° 03' 06" W will get you pretty near the correct Ballyduff! more

 

About The Festival

Since 1981, West Waterford Drama Festival is held in Ballyduff during March. Over three decades of dramatic excitement, community endeavour, investment in friendship and sheer good fun. All driven by an ethos of volunteerism, community and good humour. more

Supported by Waterford City &
County Council's Arts Festivals Grants