The Barnstorm-Watergate joint production of Seán O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars gearing up for its run from November 29th to December 2nd.
In our Meet the Cast articles, actors and crew from The Plough and the Stars will give us insights into their acting experiences, their earliest visit to the Watergate Theatre, as well as memories of the Leaving Cert plays that they studied. As with Translations, The Plough and the Stars is being presented under the banner of ‘Curriculum Play Live’, and the producers are confident that it will very much appeal to both the general public and schools, and that it will enhance insight and understanding of this great work.

 

Here, we feature Paula Drohan from Kilkenny City, who now lives in Ballyfoyle.

What is your acting background? I have over 25 years’ experience in plays, musicals and films in Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary, and at ADCI festival venues.

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I was in Lovers by Brian Friel, The Winter of ’69 and The Good to Suffer, by Willie Egan, The Loves Of Cass Maguire, by Brian Friel, The Diamond Spider & Darby’s Castle by Willie Egan, Boeing Boeing by Mark Camolett, Scrooge, Carousel and God Bless Archie Dean.

What play did you study for the leaving cert? It was the wonderful Philadelphia, Here I Come!

What are your memories of this? I absolutely loved it and it gave me a lifelong interest in Brian Friel’s work. It was set in Ballybeg, as is common with many Friel plays. The use of the alter-ego in Gar private and public was fabulous as a dramatic tool.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars. I am playing Mrs Gogan, a charwoman. But Mrs Gogan is more than a cleaner – she is the quintessential nosey, pass-remarkable, busy body who likes to have her nose in everything. She has the role of comedienne in the play but as the play comes full circle we see that Mrs Gogan has a softer side to her in the way she deals with the tragic passing of other characters in the play.

What would be your dream role on stage/film? I would love to play the character of Voilet Weston in August: Osage County – when I am the right age of course!!!

 

Mary McGuinness, Costume Designer, is from Kilkenny.

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate? I have attended many over the years but I can’t remember the very first, but one of my favourites was Arsenic and Old Lace – it was excellent on all accounts!

Tell us of your experience of working on the Watergate Stage. I worked with the costume team from the Watergate Theatre on the 2016 Pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk and again on last year’s joint Barnstorm-Watergate production as part of last year’s ‘Curriculum Play Live’. The Plough and the Stars is my third time to work with both Barnstorm Theatre Company and Watergate Theatre.

What play did you do for the Leaving Cert? Hamlet, which I still love today – it has many great quotes!

What are your memories of this? My English teachers, Mr Cullen and Mrs McCarthy at Presentation Secondary, (when it was on Market Cross site) had a passion for the subject. This was passed on to their students through live and active discussions of the play and characters. My all-time favourite piece is the speech by Polonius to Laertes as he sets off on his own life journey (solid advice from parent to child): ‘to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man’.

Tell us about your work with The Plough and the Stars. This is a well-established play so we have been busy sourcing authentic costumes for our production. It is a collaborative effort between myself, the Watergate costume department and the Kilkenny Military Barracks, who are making the archived uniforms available to us.

If you could choose ANY film/play to work on, ever, what would it be?

It would have to be Hamlet in a contemporary setting with nuanced references to the original time.

 

Next up we have, David Brydone who is from Emo, Co. Laois and lives in Kilkenny.

What is your acting background? I joined Kilkenny Musical Society in 2011 and have taken part in their annual productions ever since.  I have also performed in the Watergate pantomimes, and with KATS Theatre group.

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I have been on the Watergate stage many times, mostly with Kilkenny Musical Society, and last year I was in Roddy Doyle’s War.

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate? It was By the Bog of Cats in 2012 by Watergate Productions.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars. I play two characters in the show: Lieutenant Langon, a civil servant and lieutenant of the Irish Volunteers, and Sergeant Tinley, a sergeant of the Wiltshire Regiment of the British Army. I am both delighted and excited to be part of this production, and am looking forward to the challenge of undertaking two characters in the same show!

What would be your dream role be on stage? I would love to have a go at playing Fagin in Oliver

 

Seán Walsh, who is originally from Clontubrid, lives in Kilkenny City.

What is your acting background in brief? My first role was in Clontubrid National School’s rendition of Oliver Twist in 1994, playing the Artful Dodger (and I have been dodging ever since…) I was also was in Medb Lambert’s site-specific Antigone (2003). I am a fond admirer of the theatre, though it has been a long time since I tread the boards and this is my debut performance on the Watergate stage. Currently I am studying Media Studies and Filmmaking in Kilkenny.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars. The Young Covey is a young man that thinks he know everything and feels like he is surrounded by idiots. He is not very smart really – he just knows big words, and is a coward at the end of the day.

If you could choose any role character to play, what would your dream role be on film? The Joker from Batman.

 

Delia Lowery is from East Sussex, England and grew up in Co Mayo. Lives in: Kilkenny City

Tell us about your acting background. The Plough and the Stars marks my second production with Barnstorm Theatre Company and my thirteenth on the Watergate stage. I’m an active member in the Kilkenny Musical Society and of Watergate Productions, both on and off the stage. I was many pieces, including: Big Maggie, The Full Monty, Sweeney Todd, The Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz, Grease and Beauty and the Beast. I’ve also worked behind the stage in a variety of roles: costumes, set, make up, and producer.

Tell us your experience of acting on the Watergate stage. I have performed in various Watergate Production pantomimes between 2012 and 2014. and in various concerts. I was also a member of the Kilkenny Musical Society from 2012.

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate? I believe it was One who flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

What play did you study in the leaving cert? I think it was The Playboy of the Western World

What are your memories of this? It was based in Mayo and represented the people; as I lived there at the time, and my family background was in farming, it really resonated. I thought Christy was a symbol of how, in small rural villages, a new arrival always sparked the locals’ interest, irrespective of their circumstances. I liked studying it. My English teacher was inspiring; she was completely cracked, but she got us to really understand the different plays and enabled us to discuss them.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars. Rosie Redmond is just a girl who is trying to get on in the world, to keep food in her belly and shoes on her feet. I dare say she’s had no education and life is her ‘school’. True to form she has learned that men are often after the one thing, and one thing only. If she can be street-smart and can learn how to plamás the men, they’ll pay for drink, food, and more often than not, for the service she provides (and if you don’t know already – she’s a prostitute). Rosie is an opportunist to the core but ultimately just wants to be loved and looked after; life really hasn’t been kind.

What would be your dream role on stage/film? I’ve always wanted to play Calam in Calamity Jane. However, I do love period dramas and think I would be very torn if I had to decide between this and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and prejudice.

 

Peter Healy is from ‘the posh end of Crumlin’, and lives in Kilkenny City

What is your acting background in brief? Peter began acting at a young age and since then he played Jacob in Joseph and his Technicolor Dream Coat and has twice been in Kilkenny Musical Society’s production of the award-winning Michael Collins The Musical and The Full Monty. More recently Peter was in Roddy Doyle’s War, as well as having various roles from KATS’s production of Spoiler Alert. Recently I was in KATS’s The Man Who Thought He Was In A Short Play.

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate stage? It was the Starlight production of Dirty Dancing.

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I was War in 2016, as well as having chorus parts in Micheal Collins The Musical and The Full Monty in 2013 and 2015

What play did you study for the leaving cert? Macbeth and Philadelphia Here I Come.

What are your memories of this? I enjoyed both and I got to see Philadelphia Here I Come in the Tivoli, Dublin; the outing was organised by our English teacher, Bobby Buckley.

Tell us about the two characters you play in The Plough and the Stars. Tommy the Barman runs a tight ship and doesn’t want any trouble in the pub. He doesn’t say too much but when he speaks, people listen. Corporal Stoddart is an English soldier of the Wiltshire Regiment of the British Army and he believes in following orders.

If you could choose any role character to play, what would be your dream role on film?

Would love to play a part in a comedy series like Monty Python or maybe get the chance to play a mob boss in a gangster movie.

 

Mary Byrne, who is originally from Wicklow, lives in Carlow.

What is your acting background in brief? I joined Barnstorm’s Adult Theatre club in 2012 and I have been active with the Barn Owl Players ever since. I was in War Brides and another Sean O’Casey play, Bedtime Story – I am very excited to be involved in this O’Casey production, and this time to be at the Watergate Theatre!

What play did you study for the leaving cert? King Lear.

And what are your memories of this? I liked it, especially the story of three daughters and their different personalities, especially Cordelia, who is my favourite Shakespeare character!

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars:  ‘Woman (from Rathmines)’ is utterly divorced from all the activity. She is self-absorbed and at the other end of the social strata to other characters: she thought the uprising was a joke!

If you could choose any role character to play, what would be your dream role on stage? Medea – I had the opportunity to see the opera of the same name in Wexford last month and I enjoyed the sheer range of emotions; it was one of the most challenging female roles I have ever witnessed!

 

Aoibhín Murphy, who is from Dublin originally, lives in Kilkenny.

What is your acting background in brief? I worked with Young Irish Film Makers and Dreamstuff Youth Theatre from the age of fourteen and studied drama and performance in DIT and Columbia College Chicago. I work with Devious Theatre (Kilkenny) and 3-In-The-Bed Theatre Company (Dublin).

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate Theatre? Probably the Cinderella panto!

Have you acted acting on the Watergate stage: Yes! Many, many times with Dreamstuff Youth Theatre.

What play did you study for the leaving cert? I studied Dancing with Lughnasa by Brian Friel – another iconic Irish play! I loved the strong female characters in it, and I quite like playing Nora in The Plough and The Stars! Seeing the play is a far more effective way of portraying to students the context, themes and characters it contains, and it gives students a more visceral way to connect with the play.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars: Nora is a 22-year-old newly-married woman. She is quite a motherly character, despite being so young. Her nervous energy around the house suggests that she is eager to establish her home and family life. To many, Nora is a selfish character, but she is always kind and loving, trying to protect her husband and family. In the ultimate act of bravery, she searches war-torn Dublin streets looking for Jack, risking her own life. Not to be cocky, but I really feel as if Nora is the heroine of the play!

If you could choose any character, what would your dream role be? THIS ROLE!

 

Next up is Philip Brennan, who is from Kilkenny.

What is your acting background in brief? I was raised on the boards, acting since as far back as I can remember and I have been in consecutive shows since I could walk. Most recently in Kilkenny with Devious Theatre, KATS, Heritage Tales, Barnstorm and Watergate Productions.

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate? I was brought here a lot as a child, but the earliest show I remember enjoying was Scrooge in 1999.

Experience of acting on the Watergate stage: I was in all the Dreamstuff Theatre shows at the Watergate when I was younger, and more recently in Roddy Doyle’s War with KATS. I also acted in the 2016 Watergate Pantomime.

What play did you study for the leaving cert? Macbeth, which I very much enjoyed. It helped that I was acting in Dreamstuff Theatre’s production of it at the same time so I’m sure I had a more intimate understanding of the characters than if I had just read it. Our English teacher in St Kieran’s College, Larry Cotter, was very encouraging and he was very nurturing of the students who didn’t show a flair for hurling (that school being the ‘nursery’ of hurling in Kilkenny) by helping to develop our other skills in poetry, drama, writing etc. He used to hold lunchtime classes midweek and he organised masterclasses for students with established writers.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars. Captain Brennan is a butcher by trade and an officer in the Irish Citizen Army.

If you could choose any character, what would your dream role be? I enjoy playing strange characters.

 

Jim Carroll lives in Rathdowney, Co Laois

What is your acting background? I have been with the Barn Owl Players since their formation in 2007, and I appeared in Moll with Watergate Productions, Shadow of a Gunman with KATS, The Brewery Project, and the 1917 commemorations in Kilkenny.

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I was in The White-Headed Boy; Dancing at Lughnasa, Lone Star, Moll, and last year’s Curriculum Play, Translations.

What play did you study for the leaving cert? Hamlet and The Playboy of the Western World.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars: Peter Flynn is the Uncle of Nora Clitheroe, one of the central characters. He has a sense of victimhood – a belief that he is teased and taunted by other characters, particularly The Covey. Peter’s sense of purpose is given to him by his involvement in the political ferment of the time. He is treated like a bold child by his niece, Nora, for his quarrelling with The Covey; and he delights in the outlandish uniform he wears.

If you could choose any role character to play, what would your dream role be on film?

Well, Bad guys are a lot of Fun so I suppose Blofeld would be a good bad guy to play – plus I like animals so acting with the cat would be no problem.

 

Harry Harris is a Set Designer and Builder, who is originally from England and lives in Baurnafea, Kilkenny

What is your background in the arts? I have been designing and building sets since 1992, including for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (KYT), Parade, and Big Maggie (BOPs) earlier this year. Oedipus in 2016, Alice in Wonderland and Moll in 2015, and many others over the past twenty-five years, as well as installations at Ploughing Championships & Electric Picnic 2010-2016. I also designed and built the set for last year’s Curriculum Play, Translations.

Experience of working at the Watergate Theatre: Many of the plays that I worked on were on the Watergate stage.

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate? Crimes of The Heart by Sam Shepard in 1993 – I also designed and built their set.

What play did you study for the leaving cert? As I lived in England until 1992, I did A-Levels instead of the Leaving Certificate, and I studied King Lear, which I loved, and it became one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. I loved the darkness of it and the degeneration of Lear as everything falls apart in his world. I was lucky enough to see a production of it at the RSC in Stratford, starring Michael Gambon as Lear and Anthony Sher as The Fool – Awesome! And my teacher was amazingly inspiring as well.

Tell us a bit about your work with The Plough and the Stars: I’ve worked with Philip Hardy many times, and we have a very constructive way of developing set ideas. The challenge with the design for The Plough of the Stars was not to fall into the trap of making it too naturalistic, particularly as there are four very specific settings which would demand a vast budget to create in a naturalistic style! Hopefully you will find that we have come up with an intriguing alternative to this. It’s always a challenge to come up with an environment to set a piece of theatre in, and hopefully to complement and enhance the drama. It would be wonderful to have bigger budgets to make some of my more fantastical ideas a reality!

If you could choose ANY film/play to work on, what would it be? Mad Max or Brazil.

 

Natasha Murray is from Kilkenny.

What is your acting background in brief? I first got involved in drama when I joined Barnstorm’s Adult Drama Club in 2012. The following year, I was in a series of excerpts from plays, called Shorts, which was produced in The Barn Theatre. I joined the Barn Owl Players in 2014 and have been in several one-act plays, including War Brides and Bedtime Stories, as well as in cabaret-style theatre nights: Christmas Crackers, Blood, Bats and Barn Owls and Is This Love?

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I was in the first Barnstorm-Watergate co-production, Translations last year.

What play did you study for the leaving cert? I studied The Plough and the Stars so I am excited at being involved in this production!

What are your memories of this? I found it interesting: the characters are colourful and it was a representation of the time coming up to and around the 1916 Rising, which was not presented to us in our history books. However, I do remember finding the play’s language difficult.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars:

Mollser is Mrs Gogan’s teenage daughter and she is suffering from consumption(TB); she has already lost her father to the same illness.  She is quite literally facing death in a very real way, especially when compared to the idealistic notion of death that some of the other characters portray. For this reason, coupled with the fact that her illness causes her to be an observer of all that goes on around her, she is wise beyond her years, this is shown in her simple observation to Nora Clitheroe: “Is there anybody goin’, Mrs. Clitheroe, with a titther o’sense?” We can learn a lot about the other characters in the play by how they speak of and treat Mollser.

 

Here we have John Prendergast, who is from Gowran and lives in Kilkenny City.

What is your acting background in brief? I acted in a play and some college video projects in Maynooth College and I have featured in many productions as part of theatre groups in Kilkenny over the last three years.

What was the first play you ever saw at the Watergate? The Cripple of Inishmaan.

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I was in KATS production of Roddy Doyle’s War last year.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars: Jack is a man who loves his wife and loves his country; which one he loves more is the question!

If you could choose any role character to play, what would your dream role be on stage/film? Probably Michael Corleone from the first two Godfather films. His character arc from being the good celebrated war hero son to ruthless gangster, is fantastic!

 

Niall Bambrick is from Kilkenny City and lives in Paulstown.

What’s your acting background in brief? I was in numerous shows with KATS, Kilkenny Musical Society, Watergate Productions, and as a guest director with Devious Theatre.

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and War (by KATS), Da (Watergate Productions), Little Red Riding Hood (a pantomime by Watergate Productions), Jack and the Beanstalk (a pantomime Watergate Productions), and Pirates of Penzance (Kilkenny Musical Society).

What play did you study for the leaving cert? Philadelphia, Here I Come! which I really enjoyed. I remember going to see it in the Watergate Theatre where the great Declan Taylor played the part of ‘Public Gar’. We had an English teacher in Junior Cert, Mr Murphy; he loved teaching English and it did inspire a lot of us in the class. Unfortunately, we didn’t have him for our leaving Cert years.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars. Fluther is a bit of a character. A carpenter by trade, he often talks of giving up the drink, but never seems to last longer than a few days. His rivalry with The Covey is evident throughout the play and Fluther can often be seen standing up for the female characters in the play. He gets braver and braver as the porter flows. I think overall Fluther is a very likeable character and has some very funny lines also, even when he doesn’t intend to be funny.

If you could choose any character, what would your dream role be? The part of John Merrick in The Elephant Man is one that comes to mind. However, after seeing Fergal Millar’s portrayal of this in a KATS version of it I don’t think I could top that. To this day, it was one of the best individual performances I have seen on the Watergate stage!

 

A familiar face to theatre audiences in Kilkenny is Mags Whitely, who plays Bessie Burgess. Mags hails from Cork and married into the Whitely clan in Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny.

What is your acting background? I Started with Kilcumney Players Goresbridge, and took part in Dancing at Lughnasa, Camp Confidence, Arsenic & Old Lace. Then I joined the Barnstorm Adult Theatre Club in 2012 and have been with the Barn Owl Players ever since. Among others, I acted in Shadow of the Glen and directed both The Bear by Brian Friel and Mother Figure by Alan Ayckburn. Earlier this year I had the title role in the Barn Owl Players’ Big Maggie.

What’s a memorable play you’ve seen in the Watergate Theatre? The one that really stood out for me was Druid Theatre’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane with Anna Manahan.

What is your experience of acting on the Watergate stage? I was in My Fair Lady as Mrs. Eynsfort Hill, and in the chorus.

What play did you study for the leaving cert? Macbeth, which I loved! We were fortunate enough to have an amateur actor as our teacher so she really brought the play to life.

Tell us about your character in The Plough and the Stars: Bessie Burgess is a voice of dissent against the rebellion, and she is angry at the world. 

 What would be your dream role on stage? I got to play Big Maggie this year, which is a great role! Lady Macbeth would be one that I would like to try.

The Plough and the Stars at Watergate Theatre: Wed 29 November to Sat 2 December; nightly at 8pm with matinees on Thursday and Friday.  More information wtergatetheatre.com/ Box Office:  056 7761674