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New Era - An Evening of Irish Plays and Poetry

10th to 12th and 15th to 19th Jund 2010.

Here is the NWN review.

Synge double bill

New Era Players: An Evening of Irish Plays and Poetry, Shadow of the Glen & Riders to the Sea, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, on Thursday, June 10 to Saturday, June 12 and Thursday, June 15 to Saturday, June 19

The New Era Players celebrate an Irish theme in their latest production An Evening of Irish Plays and Poetry, using two short plays by the famous author JM Synge, better known for his successful A Playboy of the Western World.

The evening started with a prologue, read by Keith Keer and Roger Follows, that set the scene for the evening. The first play, The Shadow of the Glen, was located in an isolated cottage in a glen in County Wicklow. The set was beautifully designed, with great attention to detail that made you empathise with the starkness and poverty of living in such conditions at the turn of the last century.

Newly-widowed Nora Burke, a fine performance from Kathleen Ray, was mourning the loss of her farmer husband (Peter Hendrickx). She had a hard life, bereft of love and began to realise that her husband's demise offered her opportunities to develop her relationship with a local farmer, Michael Dara (Tim Stanton).

However, not all was as it should be, and as Nora cursed the corpse, the deceased revealed a final hoax. Richard Colley was the passing tramp who offered solace and sympathy to Nora. There was much humour in this well-acted melodrama and the Irish accents were convincing.

As an interlude, Marie Jacobs, Roger Fellows, Richard Colley and Keith Keer performed poems by Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh and JM Synge. These were well chosen and complemented the themes of loneliness, hardship and the role of women in that past society.

The second play of the evening, Riders to the Sea, was a much darker piece, set on a remote island off the west of Ireland, where fishing was important to their livelihood and survival. Maurya had lost four of her sons at sea and now Bartley, the youngest (Jak Ford-Lane), was due to take their place on the boats.

This was a heart-wrenching story, as the mother tried to persuade her last son not to leave her. Her two daughters Cathleen (Charlotte Allen), the eldest, and Nora (Freya Poole/Sara Sheperia), the youngest, were grieving for their lost brothers and at their mother's feeble, tortured state.

Disaster struck and Bartley was also drowned, spending nine days in the sea before his body was recovered. Maurya, sensitively played by Sally Hall, returned to the cottage, a distraught, old, broken woman, who could bear no more pain. This was a powerful and moving play.

Both plays were confidently directed by Keith Keer and this evening that reminded us of the hardships and strife of Irish life, was well received by the audience.