Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht officially opened Sliabh Luachra Drama Group's production of The King of the Barna Men, by the late Abbey Theatre playwright and Kerry man, George Fitzmaurice, at the Heritage Centre, Scartaglin on Sunday night last, February 10th.
This, the Kerry premiere of the play, directed by Nora Walsh and Fiona Brennan, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Abbey playwright's death. It originally premiered at the Abbey Theatre in 1967 and was subsequently revived by Druid Theatre Company in 1993.
The group has been rehearsing the play since early last October and co-director, Fiona Brennan lectured on the life of George Fitzmaurice. She also wrote and published a book, George Fitzmaurice 'Wild in His Own Way' on his life and times in 2005.
Guests who attended the official opening night included: Nuala Hayes, actress and broadcaster, who performed in the Abbey Theatre's 1967 premiere of The King of the Barna Men and internationally-renowned theatre director, Conall Morrison.
"North Kerry has consistently produced an abundance of world famous writers of which George Fitzmaurice was one of the most talented. The people of his birthplace of Duagh are rightly proud of George's immense contribution to Irish Theatre. His plays are rooted in the culture of North Kerry and his upbringing in Duagh was central to his development as a writer," said Minister Deenihan in his address to the packed audience on the occasion.
"Sliabh Luachra Drama Group is fast becoming one of the most innovative in the country and its ongoing work advocates a love of drama and theatre in the spirit of all that is good about community enterprise," said Mr. Deenihan.
Guests who attended the opening night included: Nuala Hayes, actress and broadcaster, who performed in the Abbey Theatre's 1967 premiere of The King of the Barna Men and internationally-renowned theatre director, Conall Morrison.
Tom Fleming, TD strolled the hundred yards or so from his public house to the lovely theatre down the village from him; Senator Paul Coughlan came over from Killarney as did Senator Marie Moloney and Cllr. John Joe Culloty.
They were joined by theatregoers from all parts of the county with a noticeable North Kerry presence.
The wickedly comic play, The King of the Barna Men is set in North Kerry where its dramatic action revolves around a somewhat ludicrous national wrestling tournament. Written by Fitzmaurice during the 1920s as an acerbic commentary on the new Free State, it sends up the idea of a heroic and strong nation.
Fitzmaurice was born in North Kerry in 1877 to a Catholic mother and a Church of Ireland clergyman father. Moving to Dublin in 1901, his work was first produced by the Abbey Theatre in 1907. His subsequent experimental and absurdist drama was very much before its time. The rejection of his masterpiece, The Dandy Dolls, by WB Yeats in 1913, eventually resulted in Fitzmaurice turning his back on the Abbey to concentrate on the publication of his work in the Dublin Magazine. During the 1940s, his work was revived by small Dublin companies such as the Lyric Theatre Company and Earlsfort Players. The playwright died in May 1963 after which the Abbey Theatre revived five of his plays between 1967 and 1976. It was not until 2004 that Fitzmaurice's work was produced at the Abbey Theatre once more when The Dandy Dolls was directed to great acclaim by Conall Morrison.
This is Sliabh Luachra Drama Group's thirteenth production and it is a source of immense pride that Minister Deenihan, one of Fitzmaurice's tireless advocates, officially opened this production.
The King of the Barna Men has run for its first three nights last weekend : Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 8th, 9th, and 10th and will be staged again on the coming weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 15th, 16th and 17th at 8pm nightly, at the Heritage Centre, Scartaglin. Bookings: 087 2434000.