Moving statues back in town

HIT PLAY, The Year of the Moving Statues, is coming to the Town Hall Theatre. A side-splitting satirical comedy by Kinvara playwright Gerry Conneely, it captures the madness and excitement of summer 1985 when the country’s grottoes began to move en masse.

From Ballinspittle to Ballydehob, from Blanchardstown to Bohola, there was shaking and shuddering, weeping and lamentation. Ireland was transfixed and tens of thousands took to the roads, in pouring rain and driving wind, to witness the supernatural spectacle.

The play is set in a pub in Ardbo, in the rural fastness of south Galway. The atmosphere is tense in Tom Molloy’s Bar as a summer of ceaseless rain means the hay cannot be saved, the crop has been decimated, and a fearful anxiety has taken possession of the denizens of this rural public house.

Into this scene of desolation come a couple of elderly Americans with a peculiar mission of their own. With a penchant for hard liquor and psychic phenomena, the Yanks attempt to interpret the strange forces at work in the country and to glean where they might be leading.

The result is a sharp insight into 1980s Ireland when our traditional agrarian society gave way to modernism.

More than just a hilarious comedy, The Year of the Moving Statues offers a vivid take on the Irish attitudes to authority, responsibility, self determination, and particularly to religion. It is written with an uncanny appreciation for the subtleties and humour of the rural dialogue.

The play is produced by The Rural Vernacular Company, a group dedicated to capturing this colourful idiom in theatrical form. It features Gerry Conneely (the publican ), Iggy Bownes and Colmcille Donnelly (pub regulars ), while ‘The Yanks’ are played by American actors Anna O’Donnell and Gary Hetzler and the Virgin Mary by Hanna O’Donnell.

Iggy Bownes describes his character in the play, Dan.

“Dan is like a reflection of the greater collective ‘crackedness’ that was going on,” Bownes declares. “He’s really bought into the whole thing and is very passionate and excited about it all. I remember that period very well myself, lots of people really believed it, even people who would be entirely rational in all their other doings.

“At the time I was driving a bread-van and one of my colleagues had to deliver to this country shop and often the owner wouldn’t be there, he’d be up at the local grotto looking at the statue. And that was happening everywhere.”

While the play finds plenty of humour in its exploration of the subject, Bownes asserts there is no mockery involved.

“The play doesn’t pass any judgement on those who believed,” he tells me. “Dan does get teased a bit in the pub by the others about it but they’re not laughing at his faith in it all. I think the play is quite even-handed in its treatment of the topic.”

The Year of the Moving Statues runs in the Town Hall from Thursday May 29 to Saturday 31 and tickets are available online through 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie The show is presented in the Town Hall Theatre in association with Croí, the heart and stroke charity.

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