The Playboy of the Western World, by John Millington Synge, is arguably the Irish playwright’s greatest masterpiece. In order to mark the centenary of JM Synge’s death – he died, aged 37, on March 24 1909 – the Erris Players, under the direction of Bridie Quinn, will be staging a powerful performance of this noted drama in Belmullet and in Bangor Erris. Interestingly, this is not the group’s first performance of the play – they first staged it 17 years ago and that very successful production is still recalled by local actors and audiences alike.
It is becoming increasingly acknowledged that the Barony of Erris has a very strong connection with JM Synge. Indeed, The Playboy is set entirely in the area, with no fewer than 15 local placenames mentioned in the play. Synge’s famous poem, Danny, is evidently about a local character, and the “gap of the hazel glen” – the scene of a terrible crime – has been located on the Bangor–Belmullet road in Glencastle. The spot is marked with a stone — a large, flat-topped boulder, in which a cross is engraved. RTÉ’s Charlie Bird unveiled this historical stone during the Erris Literary Festival in 2004, which celebrates the area’s association with Synge.
Many of you will know that when The Playboy opened in the Abbey, in 1907, there were riots in the theatre, due to the language and content of the play, which prompted WB Yeats (one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre ) to deliver his famous speech on the narrow-mindedness and snobbery of the audience. The riots continued, especially during the American tour, but Synge is now, as we know, regarded by many as one of Ireland’s greatest dramatists.
The Erris Players, which was set up by Bridie Quinn, has been actively participating in drama festivals, parish festivals, and charity events since their establishment in 1987. All their work is carried out on a voluntary basis. For this legendary drama, the players are quite aware that they have set themselves a challenge. However, with their experience and determination, they will no doubt achieve their usually high standard. Indeed, the fact that the Erris Players were awarded the Mayo County Council Amateur Drama Award in 2006 is a true testament to their efforts. The cast of The Playboy includes experienced local players Gerard Sweeney, Josephine Geraghty, Sharon Reilly, John Cosgrove, Seán Ó Coisdealbha, PJ McHale, Mac Cosgrove, and Anne Carey.
This extraordinary drama is not to be missed! See the Erris Players’ performance in the Parochial Hall, Bangor Erris, on Saturday March 21 and Sunday March 22; and in Áras Inis Gluaire, Belmullet, on Saturday March 28 and Sunday March 29. Performances commence at 8pm.