The 2009 RTE All Ireland Drama Festival will get off to a flying start on Friday May 1 next as Kilmeen Drama Group from Cork take to the stage with Jimmy Murphy's touching play The Kings of the Kilburn High Road. Successfully adapted for film as Kings, this award winning work, which tells the tale of a group of Irish emigrant workers who meet up 25 years after they first set off seeking employment in England, will set the standard at this year's festival.
Nine groups have qualified for the event with each group making up the nine-night programme. Three groups are previous winners: Kilmeen, who open the festival; Estuary from Dublin who are the current holders; and Silken Thomas Players from Kildare who won two years ago.
“Also through this year are two groups who make their debut appearance at the Athlone finals,” explained festival director Billy Nott. “They are Balally Players from Dundrum, Co Dublin and Bunclody/Kilmyshall Drama Group from Co Wexford.” Both groups have impressed audiences and adjudicators alike on their way to the finals with each of them presenting works by Irish playwrights. Balally present The Great Hunger, Tom McIntyre's stage adaptation of Kavanagh’s epic poem, while Bunclody/Kilmyshall present The Wake by Tom Murphy.
International writers are well represented with Estuary Players presenting The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis, an American playwright who has had major success off Broadway in recent years. Sam Sheppard is considered by many as the best contemporary American dramatist and his play True West will be performed by Ulster group Bangor Drama Club. Neighbouring players, Theatre 3 Newtonabbey will present the Neil Simon hit comedy Plaza Suite on the final night Saturday May 9.
Two groups from Co Kildare will mount a strong challenge. Bradán Players from Leixlip will perform Brian Friel's Faith Healer, a classic from the pen of arguably Ireland's greatest writer of modern times. Meanwhile, Silken Thomas Players from Kildare, who never balk at a challenge, will present Equus by Peter Shaffer, a play that has seldom been without controversy, not least because of the nude scenes which form part of the performance.
A Night to Remember will be just that as this award winning comedy by Belfast born writer Marie Jones will be performed courtesy of Shoestring Theatre Company. The play requires all 14 parts to be played by one actor which makes this presentation all the more interesting as well as being a masterful feat of entertainment.
Tickets are now on sale at the Dean Crowe Theatre and Arts Centre and bookings can be made at the theatre box office (090 ) 6492129. Bookings can also be made on-line through the link on the festival website at www.dramafestival.ie