|Druid cast at Glór for 10th anniversary|
|New Glór director Gemma Carcaterra|
Before the performance, Glór hosted a pre-show reception to acknowledge the support of its various stakeholders; sponsors, friends, local press and Clare County Council. There was a convivial glass of wine and delicious canapés courtesy of Dromoland Castle and Old Ground Hotel with both Mark Nolan and Allen Flynn in attendance. Among the guests, I met Terence Mangan, of Mangan Holdings Bros long standing sponsors, with his antipodean guest Alan Aughney and Madeline McAleer of Clare Focus, Eoin O Neill of the Ceili Bandits and media expert, Ciana Campbell .
Review of Big Maggie: There was a full house for the set piece of the evening, the Druid Theatre's production of John B Keane's 'Big Maggie'. The play is at the early stages of a national tour, it recently finished a week in Dublin, and is selling out in most venues. The eponymous Big Maggie character is a rarity in drama or literature; a malevelont female lead, her blackness exceeded only by Greek anti heroine, Medea. Aisling O'Sullivan dominated the play as she delivered a compelling performance as the grotesque matriarch that overpowered her family. Recently widowed, Maggie is driven by the need to instil independence in her children and to protect her recently secured financial freedom after the death of her husband. All this within a valley of the squinting mirrors type community when an anonymous letter updates her an the indiscreet daliance of her daughter. In a brave move (with perhaps an eye on expanding their audience demographic), Druid cast Keith Duffy, the pop star and soap actor, as Teddy Heelin the playboy charmer and he was quite convincing in the role. It was good to see Abbey Theatre veterans John Olohan and Des Nealon among the cast, a blend of youth and experience. I particularly liked Olohan's performance as as the gossipy stonemason and would-be suitor.
John B Keane wrote Big Maggie in 1969 and whilst as a country we have undoubtedly moved on from the vice-like-grip of church imposed morals of that time, the play stands up well and the timeless tale of divvying up family assets amongst children is a good plotline.
|Anna Managhan the original Big Maggie|
There is of course room for nostalgia, particularly when it is as well executed as this production. But, I believe current theatre programming in general lacks the rough edgy sense of drama of recent decades when premiers were more prevalent. Is theatre in Ireland in the 21st century 'a glorious anachronism, a form revelling in its own afterlife? as claimed by Fintan O'Toole in a recent piece. Where are the Brenton, Hare, Churchill and John B Keane's of this era who are not afraid to tackle heavyweight modern social or political plotlines? The truth is, I can't think of an Irish contemporary equivalent and yet there is a wealth of good source material. My impression is that we look outside mainstream theatre for our commentary and satire of the present age. The success of the recent Kilkenomics Festival, where relatively young audiences in great numbers paid good money to hear comedians debate with economists might seem bizarre but suggests a demand for a live forum for airing of weighty topics. Comedian Mario Rosenstock sells out regularly in his solo stand comedy routines lampooning major figures in our contemporary national scene. Aristophanes must be turning in his grave.