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Sunday 19 January 2020

Stages set as Blackwater Fit Up Festival returns

2020 programme 'the most ambitious and exciting to date' featuring eight new plays

Bill Browne

The programme for the fifth annual Blackwater Valley Fit-Up Festival has been unveiled, with five plays set to run at seven intimate venues along the course of the River Blackwater across January and February.

A colourful feature of Irish country life during the post-war period, Fit-Up theatre saw professional companies featuring popular actors of the day touring the country, bringing productions of plays to small venues in rural towns and villages. 

In 2009 the West Cork-based Blood in the Alley Theatre Company, in association with Cork County Council and the Arts Council, resurrected the tradition bringing contemporary Irish plays to the stages of venues across the region. 

Fast forward to 2016 and the decision was taken to expand the initiative to North Cork with the inaugural Blackwater fit-Up Festival aiming  to bring rural communities across the region together though the medium of theatre. 

The festival's artistic director and curator, Geoff Gould, said Fits-Up's were a hugely popular part of rural life during the middle part of the last century. 

"Popular actors of the day such Harold Pinter and Andrew McMaster would regularly visit small towns and villages, often performing plays in tents or even on the back of trucks," he said. 

Mr Gould said that since its inception the Blackwater festival had proved to be an unqualified success and that he anticipated this years events to be just as popular with theatre goers. 

"The festival is a wonderful opportunity for people across the region to see some great new Irish plays performed by a talented groups of exceptional actors," he said. 

"This year's programme is the most ambitious and exciting to date with the company planning to tour eight new plays for five new venues across the Blackwater area," promised Mr Gould. 

The 2020 edition of the festival will kick off on Wednesday, January 22 at the Town Hall in Mitchelstown with Katie Holly's critically acclaimed play 'Crowman' starring Jon Kenny. 

The intimate one-man show is a window into the soul of crow-hating Dan, who measures his life by the amount of funerals he attends each week. However, one day, hearing a death announcement on the radio, his world is shattered.

The play will also run at the Community Hall's in Bartlemy and Ballynoe on Thursday and Friday, The Mall in Youghal on Saturday and the Palace Theatre in Fermoy the following Monday. 

Week Two will see 'Maura Laverty This was Your Life' - a play about the tumultuous life of the broadcaster, cookery expert and agony aunt dubbed 'the Mammy of Irish cookery' who was a household name for three decades and 'The Experience of Being' - a thought-provoking drama about ageing at the same venues. 

Week three will the venues host Fishamble's production of 'Before' written by and starring award-winning Cork actor Pat Kinnevane as a father struggling to choose a last-minute gift for his estranged daughter whom he has not seen for almost 20-years. 

The penultimate week of the 2020 festival will see another double header at the venues in the form of Seamus O'Rourke's 'Indigestion' - a bitter-sweet drama about the life of man who emigrated to London as a teenager and 'The Man from Moogaga' - a hilarious tale of growing up in rural Ireland during the 1980s written and performed by award-winning comic actor Aindrias de Staic. 

The final week of the festival will feature Sarah Jane Scott's 'Appropriate' - a comedy about Sorcha who has just run away from her own wedding reception and 'Spliced' - a visceral account of one man's obsession with GAA and his struggle to become an individual outside the sporting institution that raised him.  

For more information about the festival including venues, times and tickets for each of the performances visit www.fit-uptheatrefestival.com.

Corkman

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