FRESH FROM a triumphant visit to Listowel Writer’s Week, Truman Town Theatre’s Shortcut To Hallelujah makes a welcome return to the Town Hall Theatre for a five night run.
Written and directed by Mick Donnellan, Shortcut To Hallelujah is a hilarious drama set during the run up to an All-Ireland football final. Mayo are playing Kerry and the clientele of Quinn’s Bar in Ballinrobe are certain Sam McGuire is coming West at last. There is only one problem. Rumours surface of a curse on the team.
The last time Mayo won they celebrated so loud that they upset a Traveller’s funeral and it was decreed they would never win another All-Ireland again until everyone on that team was dead.
It is now more than 60 years later and only one player remains alive. His name is Christy Hession and his health ‘isn’t great’. All ears are glued to the radio’s death notices in the hope that the curse might be lifted before the upcoming match.
Meanwhile, young Chris McGuire is in a bitter dispute with local landgrabber, Black Tom Tully. The argument dates back to an incident with McGuire’s father some years before. A land deal went wrong when Tully accused Old McGuire of refusing to buy his round of brandy and the two men became sworn enemies.
Chris has inherited the quarrel and is adamant that Tom Tully will not get “a blade of grass”. Eimear, Chris’s fiancee, cannot reconcile herself to life in Ballinrobe, but her attempts to leave are always thwarted.
The play climaxes as the day of the big match arrives and nobody can say for certain what is going to happen. Will Christy Hession survive? Should the bookies take the curse into account when considering what odds to give Mayo? And will Tom Tully succeed in wresting the bitter land from Chris by force if his legal conniving fails?
Perhaps we should ask Doc, the simpleton bachelor who is never without a sandwich or a sausage in his pocket, and who always finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, his only excuse being “sure I’m only saying what everyone else is thinking anyway!”.
Ahead of his play’s Town Hall run, author Mick Donnellan met up for a chat about its Galway return and began with an account of its visit to Listowel.
“It went great for us in Writers’ Week, we had a big house and it was very well received,” he tells me. “Out of that show we got strong interest from Cork’s Everyman Theatre and it’s looking like we’ll be taking it there for a run in August. I always wanted to be part of Listowel as a writer growing up, I’d be sending them scripts and stories - then ‘bang’ we’re down there performing so that was great.”
Shortcut was first staged in the Town Hall studio last August and Donnellan is relishing the opportunity to now have a run on the main stage.
“It’s such a powerful thing doing it on the main stage, doing it in front of a few hundred people and to hear that amount of people responding to the play,” he declares. “The studio is more intimate and that can be good as well but on the main stage it feels more theatrical, you have more sense of possibility. Shortcut is our biggest production to date, it’s our most challenging and I think it’s going to be our best as well.”
Donnellan reveals that he got some important advice about the play from the Town Hall’s Mike Diskin before he passed away.
“Mike used to call me into the theatre and he’d say: ‘I hear you have a show in Dublin and Listowel and Mayo and so on, but you have to remember you have this major production coming up here in June on the main stage and that’s bigger than anything for you, it represents a jump into the real professional sphere of theatre. If you want to be a playwright or producer or any kind of theatre artist you have to be doing things like five night runs on the main stage not just little tours. You have to think big and produce big.’
“I put a lot of stock in that advice, so we’ve put everything into this, we’ve invested in PR, the sets, rehearsals and we’re doing all we can to make it the best possible show and make that jump up to the next level.”
Shortcut To Hallelujah is raw and honest, yet beautifully lyrical. Irish Theatre Magazine hailed it as “powerful theatre” and its Town Hall run is guaranteed to delight audiences. See it from Tuesday June 26 to Saturday 30 at 8pm nightly.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie