Kilmeen Drama Group from Rossmore in West Cork were crowned all Ireland drama champions for 2011 at the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival gala awards ceremony in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Athlone last Saturday night. The group won the event for the second time in their history with their production of Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark as well as picking up the awards for best actor - Declan Price, and best actress in a supporting role - Irene Kelleher.
The group appeared midway through the festival and came up against stiff competition from Prosperous Dramatic Society, who came second with their production of November by David Mamet and from Silken Thomas Players, Kildare who came in third place with Angels in America by Tony Kushner.
In announcing the award, adjudicator John P Kelly commended the overall acting, technical, and production skills of all the participating groups, but when it came to deciding which group was true to the writer’s intentions, Kilmeen’s production had the edge.
The group’s director, Tim Coffey, picked up the award for best director which was presented by Tom Savage, chairman of the board of RTÉ. In his address, Tom Savage said that the importance of drama in local communities was immense and that “amateur drama is one of the most special threads in Irish culture”.
Valerie O’Leary of Ballyduff Drama Group, Co Waterford won the award for best actress for her portrayal of Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, while Corn Mill Theatre Group’s Seamus O’Rourke won the award for best actor in a supporting role for his performance as Pato Dooley in The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh.
Kilmeen’s Michael O’Donovan won the award for best set; Cailean Dunlea of Ballyduff won the best lighting award and the award for best stage management went to Maria Flanagan for Silken Thomas Players production of Angels in America by Tony Kushner.
Summer school scholarships went to Brian Fenton and Claire Mullane of the Palace Players, Fermoy and to Paddy Smith of Ballyduff Drama Group.
As the 2011 festival drew to a close, festival director Billy Nott congratulated Kilmeen Drama Group and all the award winners on their successes. Expressing deep gratitude to RTÉ for their valued association with the festival, Billy also thanked the qualifying festivals, the local businesses, the media, and the local authorities for their support. With unprecedented attendances at this year’s festival, plans are already afoot for next year’s jubilee event which will be the 60th All Ireland festival.