Best yet - All Ireland Drama Festival receives high praise

RTÉ’s Fair City actors Maclean Burke and Rachel Sarah Murphy with Rosie Green, Grainne Cornally, and John O’Sullivan at the opening of the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival 2014 in Luan Gallery. Photo: molloyphotography

RTÉ’s Fair City actors Maclean Burke and Rachel Sarah Murphy with Rosie Green, Grainne Cornally, and John O’Sullivan at the opening of the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival 2014 in Luan Gallery. Photo: molloyphotography

With just one more performance to go in the All Ireland Drama Festival 2014, this year’s event is being hailed as the best yet. Eight outstanding plays from eight highly professional theatre groups from all over Ireland have left the audiences in tears of sadness and laughter, and they have been dazzled by cutting edge technical effects and gripping acting. Tonight it’s the turn of Wexford Drama Group to close the competition festival with their play Other Desert Cities and tomorrow sees the gala awards ceremony in the Radisson Blu Hotel. And this year’s fringe events, most of which are free, have mostly been full houses. Festival director Joe McCarrick is understandably delighted. “Here in the Dean Crowe Theatre there have been full houses for the entire run, and an amazing standard of acting,” he told the Athlone Advertiser. “I’ve never seen such a high standard in all the years from every single play. The adjudicator will have an extremely difficult job ahead of him on Saturday and I don’t envy him,” he said. The festival fringe has been phenomenal as well, and there’s been a major increase in attendance at events compared to previous years. “All short afternoon performances at Athlone Little Theatre have been full houses. Fringe theatre and entertainment in Savoury Fare, and Athlone playwright Jean Farrell’s soiree in the Sheraton Hotel have been a great success this year,” Mr McCarrick said. “The whole town has really come out of its shell and taken part and taken ownership of the festival,” he added, complimenting all the businesses who have drama festival window displays. “That has really made me very happy. What I’ve always wanted is this to be a festival for everyone to enjoy and it means that everyone gets a bite of the cake.” Sponsor RTÉ’s initiative to introduce uniform black and red branding across festival signage and printed material means “the whole town is painted in red and black and really it’s very striking”. The competition adjudicator Dr Russell Boyce is hugely impressed. He knows of nowhere else which offers this consistent standard of theatre all at the same time. Athlone has seen some of the best pieces of theatre all year - amateur or professional. “It’s not that there’s an amateur world and a professional world. The people of Athlone are so lucky, it’s a feast of joyous, joyous theatre,” he said. His adjudications have been humorous and entertaining with a focus on what each cast, crew, and director does well. Each group also receives practical advice on voice and staging. Dr Boyce, who is a director himself, is in his element in Athlone. “I come along to the theatre and see great theatre every single night. Of course I’m enjoying myself!”

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