Grassroots diary: Comical 'Charolais' play wows Birr vintage week
Love, longing and one woman's intense rivalry with a Charolais heifer stole the show at 48th annual Birr vintage week and arts festival.
The black comedy tells the tale of how a farmer's devotion to his prize heifer fuels hilariously jealous and murderous thoughts in the head of his heavily pregnant, disgruntled girlfriend.
Siobhan, described as a lonely but determined woman who is looking for love, keeps coming up against certain obstacles preventing her from achieving the sense of belonging that she craves. One such hurdle happens to be a terribly attractive Charolais heifer, who appears to be vying for the affections of Siobhan's fella.
Other bumps in the road include a pass remarkable mother-in-law and a less than committed companion in the form of farmer Jimmy.
The award-winning play Charolais starring author Noni Stapleton, who plays both protagonist Siobhan and her love rival the cow, was a rip-roaring success during last week's festivities in the Georgian heritage town.
Organisers say it has been their bestselling matinee performance to date.
Janine Wilson, event PRO, said: "Birr vintage week started out as a agricultural show back in 1968 so we knew local and neighbouring farming families and communities would come out in droves to see the play.
"Rarely in Irish theatre are the challenges of farming life and the joys of love and desire expressed so frankly or with such charm," she said.
Writer Noni Stapleton says the character of Siobhan "just came out one day" while talking to her Mam in an emphasised midland accent. "The first monologue of the play poured out of me as I was amusing myself and chatting away as this random character," she said.
She grabbed a pen and started writing.
"It contained all the main strands of the play, a lonely pregnant country girl, somehow living on a farm but not from one, in love with the farmer and insanely jealous of the very beautiful Charolais heifer that she sees as her main love rival."
The professional actor says doing research on a farm added depth, richness and an authenticity to the storytelling. "There is something about the raw life and death issues that are part of everyday farming life and that unsentimental earthiness that are very appealing elements to work with in play writing and perhaps that's added to the success of the play," she said.
"Farms are pretty dramatic places, or certainly places full of real drama but those dramas are dealt with in a completely down to earth way…that's great fodder," she laughed. Charolais is currently playing at The Viking Theatre, Clontarf until August 20. It will also be performed at the Terryglass Festival, Tipperary on August 18.
'International Miss Macra 2016'
Cork beauty, Sinead Guiney, has been crowned ‘International Miss Macra 2016’, at the prestigious festival and glamorous award ceremony in Thurles, Co Tipperary.
Miss Guiney, a primary school teacher representing Avondhu Macra Club, dazzled judges with her personality, talents, style and grace during a series of events and interviews over the August bank holiday weekend.
Wearing a stunning mint coloured lace and satin gown, Sinead was presented with a specially designed sterling silver tiara, embellished with cubic zirconia, designed and hand crafted by Michael Carew jewellers, West Gate, Thurles.
Congratulations are also extended to Miss Josephine O’Dwyer, representing south county Tipperary, who achieved second place, while Miss Aileen Sheehan, representing Muskerry Macra Club, Co Cork, claimed third position.
Meanwhile, the semi-finals of the ‘FBD Young Farmer of the Year’ competition are under way. County finalists for each enterprise are taking part in the contest and six finalists will be chosen to go through to the national final in Louth on September 6.
There will be enterprise prizes for beef, dairy, sheep, tillage and other categories.