After a successful run in its home base High Street Drama Group takes its fine production of John Murphy’s acclaimed play The Country Boy to the delightful surroundings of Tuar Ard in Moate.
It represents a progressive move for the group which has entertained audiences in West Offaly on a continuous basis since 1992 and is now following in the footsteps of the many drama groups in the midlands that are getting out of their comfort zone by bringing their productions to a wider audience.
Indeed one of the highlights of amateur drama has been its revival in a number of rural areas and the opportunity presented by such as Tuar Ard and Birr Arts and Theatre Centre to enable these groups to present their shows in a purpose built environment, offering comfort to casts and audiences alike.
Ferbane Drama Group first produced The Country Boy in the now disused Parish Hall in 1968 and it was reproduced in 1993 by its antecedent in High Street Community Centre.
The common link in all three productions is Brendan Ryan, as he has graduated from being a member of the cast in 1968 to being a co-director in 1993 and to being the sole director in the present show.
Brendan is synonymous with the High Street group as he has been involved as its director for all but a few of their productions. Brendan is also well known for his writing and is currently putting the finishing touches to his most recent book about the history of national schools in the local area.
The Country Boy is written by John Murphy about whom there is very little information. He was born in Charlestown Co Mayo in 1924 and emigrated to America at some point. He returned and is buried on the slopes of Nephin Mountain. The song ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ was sung at his graveside upon his burial in 1998.
That song and mountain had significance for Murphy, as both feature in the play. It seems a scant history on the man but that is all that can be found in the great fund of knowledge that is Wikipedia. The Country Boy appears to be his only published work and, considering its merits, it is surprising that this is so.
Perhaps less surprising is the likelihood that the play mirrors Murphy’s own life experiences. It is set in the farmhouse of Tom and Mary Kate Maher in Mayo in the late 1950’s. It is summertime and they await the arrival of Eddie, their eldest son, as he returns for his first and only holiday, having spent the previous 15 years in America.
He brings with him his American wife Julia. This visit was prompted by a letter from their other son, Curly, who is anxious to follow in Eddie’s footsteps and emigrate to America also. He is sick of the servile nature of his life on the farm and the lack of independence granted to him by the domineering Tom. Like Eddie before him, it means leaving a good friend In Eileen Tierney behind. What enfolds is a simple and classic tale as the characters are slowly revealed.
The drama may not be as acerbically explosive as a John B Keane, as farcical as a Ray Cooney or as quirkily sinister as a Martin McDonagh but it certainly engages the viewer.
There is a feeling throughout that the author is writing from experience and this makes it easier to empathise with the emotions that are on display. It has sadness and humour, it has anger and hope, it has hurt and it has healing. It can genuinely be described as a comedy-drama.
In the experienced hands of Brendan Ryan this is a quality production. Tom and Mary Kate are played by Paddy Egan and Aideen Ryan respectively. Paddy is a long time member of the group while Aideen made a memorable debut in last year’s showing of The Plough & the Stars. Christy Ibbotson and Sharon Newman are also experienced members, and they fill the parts of Eddie and Julia with great verve and emotion. Steven Kelly is Curly, despite having been severely wounded on his debut last year! Caitriona Rourke completes the cast as Eileen.
It marks a return for Caitriona as she previously featured in the 2004 production of Same Old Moon. The drama takes to the stage in Tuar Ard on Saturday, April 14 and Sunday, April 15 with an 8.30pm start and should be well worth attending.