Compántas Lir hosted their twelfth annual supper theatre in Carnmore Community Centre on October 16th–18th. The productions were in keeping with the form of this dynamic and forward looking group, and are always much anticipated. They are a committed group of volunteers, whose creativity is matched only by their hard work. The Group seem thankfully to have recovered from the set back of last Spring’s foot and mouth crisis, which led to the cancellation of the drama festival. For those who may not have been, the supper theatre consists of two one act plays, with a meal served in the interval. There is also tea, coffee and wine, all served with great speed, efficiency and good humour.
The first play was Losers by Brian Friel. Briefly, a young woman lives with here bed-ridden dependant mother, while being courted by a local man. He was the chief narrator of the story, and was played by Eddie Fitzgerald. He brought a bemusement and solidity to the role, and engaged well with the audience. This is not the easiest of roles, as he must turn and address many monologues to them, while shifting in and out of sequence. His feel for the character was evident. The full comic potential of the play was brought to the fore, with a spirited performance from Liz Hession, as Hannah Wilson, who was the very essence of frustrated womanhood. Even the way she straightened her skirt and pulled down her jumper, conveyed repressed emotions. The courting scenes were a howl, played to perfection by both. Evelyn Casserly was superb as the bedridden, pious, hag of a mother, manipulating those around her, and calling all together for the nightly rosary.
Patricia’s Carton’s portrayal of Cissy Casey as the nosey, religious, rosary bead-wielding prissy neighbour who comes in for the nightly rosary, caught the subleties of this character. The tightly knotted headscarf and the scurrying walk and sidelong looks, showed wonderful characterisation. Ably directed by Lilyan Hannon, whose feel for the nuances of a character, shone through all of the characterisations.
A tasty and efficiently delivered supper followed. It is one of the mainstays of the supper theatre that all of the characters help out in the serving and clearing—no room for prima donnas here, the workmanlike nature of the venture is one of its most attractive qualities.
The second play was Muldoon’s Oriental Café, a comedy which called for noisy buffonery. The play was fortunate in having such an enthusiastic cast, as it called for the most stereotyped characters ever likely to be found on a stage. Picture this, the first customer was a Chinaman called One Lung Flem, complete with conical hat, long moustache. The next was Sitting Bull, in full Indian regalia, followed by an English Lord and Lady, in Edwardian style.
The last customer was Mickey Noviskey, a Russian, in complete Russian furry hat and long boots. The costume department did their usual impeccable job of getting it exactly right, and certainly added greatly to the effect. The jewel here was Paddy Greaney’s interpretation of Moses Mulligan the waiter. The way he moved on stage and his facial expressions got every ounce of comic potential out of the part.
The cast suffered a set-back the previous weekend, when Kevin Duffy broke his leg, and he had to be replaced. The subsequent reshuffle had Malachy Noone taking the part of the chinaman. His efforts to eat sausages with chopsticks brought peals of laughter from the audience. Michael Fleming was imposing as Sitting Bull, while Patsy Cahalan took Kevin Duffy’s part as Lord Buckfaster. His accent was spot on, as was Marie Kavanagh’s as his wife.
Simon Kavanagh played the russian, with great verve. Mike Hession and Carmel Kenny appeared briefly at the beginning as the owners, the Muldoons. The whole cast threw themselves into their parts. It is a physical play, requiring much on-stage antics, with mayhem at the end. The hyperactivity called for by the play was, to my mind, not this company’s style, but what is drama without risk? It is heartening to see them trying something different, and the supper theatre provides them with a forum for innovation. It says much for the acting ability of the cast that they made the experience enjoyable. The audience certainly appeared to lap it up, and laughed all the way through, which is the aim of comedy.
The back up team who designed the set are Regis Goudling, John Whelan and John Brennan. They made a great job of putting a set together suitable for two widely different plays. Lighting was by Adrian Moran, Francis Moran and David Greaney, with sound by Thomas Maguire. There were many volunteers helping with serving meals and selling tickets. It was a real community effort which deserves the highest praise. The amount of behind the scenes work can only be guessed at, but must be considerable. Chairman Seamus McNulty was a welcoming and efficient M.C.
Compántas Lir are a class act, and it is wonderful to see them perform on home ground. They bring all that is best in amateur theatre right to our doors. This group of people deserve all the local support they can get, as the quality of their productions can reach national levels. The supper theatre is their main fundraiser, and is a uniquely enjoyable experience. If you have never been, look out for next year, as it is an experience not to be missed. If you have been, you’ll know what I mean, and are probably already anticipating it.
P.S. Sincere get well wishes to Kevin Duffy for a speedy recovery.