Curtain up on All Ireland Drama Festival as celebration of amateur theatre awaits

ronan fagan

An air of theatrical vibrancy is certain to resonate in Athlone as the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival commences on the renowned Dean Crowe Theatre stage with curtain up on the opening performance (tonight ), Thursday, May 2, at 8pm.

The jewel in the social fabric of Athlone, this year marks the 20th year of RTÉ as title sponsor of the All Ireland Drama Festival, drama enthusiasts flocking to the heart of Ireland to witness nine stellar stage performances and in the process, embrace a celebration of amateur theatre.

The Abbey Theatre Dublin was the setting for the formal launch of the showpiece occasion, the hosting of a gala awards ceremony in the Radisson Blu Hotel Athlone on Saturday, May 11, marking the culmination of the 10 day festival.

Addressing those present at the launch, Festival Director, Regina Bushell, noted the calibre of the amateur drama groups who will have the honour of presenting their work on the Dean Crowe Theatre stage.

“I cannot help but marvel at the calibre of the groups that had made it to the hallowed ground of the Dean Crowe Theatre. In their midst were the multi-award winners, the true masters of their craft, but the real spectacle has yet to come.

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“The Athlone RTÉ All Ireland drama festival, the ultimate test, where the cream of the crop will take to the stage and battle it out before the discerning eyes of our esteemed adjudicator, Tom Byrne.

“Of course, there is that other grand prize – the Abbey Award. To perform on the hallowed stage of the Peacock Theatre, a dream come true for the victorious group. The directors of the Abbey have once again afforded their support to this celebration of amateur drama and the groups will eagerly awaited the awards night at the Radisson Hotel,” Ms Bushell said.

Performance Schedule

Former All Ireland winners, Bridge Drama, will perform ‘The Wake’ by Tom Murphy, tonight, Thursday, May 2.

Directed by Trish Doyle the play is a story of family, loneliness and resilience told with poignancy, humour and devastating truth.

On Friday, May 3, Wexford Drama Group will perform ‘How I Learned to Drive’ by Paula Vogel. Directed by Paul Welsh the play tells the story of an abusive relationship between a niece and her uncle during her adolescence.

On Saturday, May 4, former festival winners, Ballyduff Drama Group present ‘The Ferryman’ by Jez Butterworth. Directed by Ger Canning, the play is set during the Troubles, the Carney farmhouse a hive of activity as they prepare to celebrate the harvest. However, this year they will be interrupted by a visitor.

Former festival winners, Prosperous Dramatic Society, will perform ‘A View from the Bridge’ by Arthur Miller on Sunday, May 5. Set in an Italian-American neighbourhood on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge the play is directed by Connie Broderick.

On Monday, May 6, first time qualifiers, Clontarf Players, will premiere ‘Radium Girls’ by D.W. Gregory at the festival. Directed by Myra Maguire, the play is inspired by a true story and follows Grace Fryer, a dial painter, as she battles for her day in court after falling ill to a mysterious ailment.

The 2023 All Ireland winners, Dalkey Players, will present ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller on Tuesday, May 7. Directed by Emma Jane Nulty, the play tells the story of one man’s fight to save his identity in a repressive Puritan community where intolerance collides with lust and superstition.

On Wednesday, May 8, former festival winners, Newpoint Players present ‘In the Shadow of the Glen: Reimagined’ (after JM Synge ). Written by writer/director Seán Treanor, the original story is elaborated and expanded, with some characters being developed further.

First time qualifiers Ballycogley Players, directed by Pat Whelan, will perform ‘Out of Order’ by Ray Cooney on Thursday, May 9. When a Government Junior Minister plans to spend the evening with one of the opposition’s secretaries, things go disastrously wrong leading to a hilarious chain of events.

Finally, regulars at the festival, Ballyshannon Drama Society will premiere ‘Margaret’ a new Irish play by Shaun Byrne on Friday, May 10. This is the third of Shaun’s plays to be performed at the festival in recent years. Directed by Monica Doherty, the play centres on Margaret Thatcher in her final years.

Tickets, priced €22, with concessions (€20 ) also available, remain on sale from and the theatre box office, phone (090 ) 6492129.


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