By Michael McDonagh and Adam Shaw
The inaugural London Irish Short Play Festival was deemed a huge success after it sold out for all four nights at Camden’s London Irish Centre.
The festival, an ambitious project run by theatre company ‘Biscuits for Breakfast’, covered a range of themes relevant to the Irish community in the UK. Starting off in the middle of Soho and gradually moving to rural Ireland, each play provided the audience with something different.
Sharon Sexton, who organised the event along with her husband Cillian O’Donnachadh, explained how they were inundated with submissions and that whittling it down to just six was something of a challenge.
She added that formulating a running order had also been stressful, with the aim of getting “more Irish” as things went on. Brenda Keneghan had previously written a story based on a series of letters from rural Ireland from friends and family to a young man who had left home in the 1990s to live in London.
She adapted this format to create the play Dear Michael which set up the evening and loosely linked the other pieces through film and narration. Plain Speakby Cork’s Dorothy Cotter sets an Irish girl, Siobhan, played by Emma Moohan, on an awkward first date in a bar with Englishman Danny, played by Stephen Bradley, after using an on-line dating website.
This was followed by a more serious and moving two-handed drama, Home is Calling by Siubhan McNally – a piece examining the notions of home and homesickness for a lesbian couple who have been living and working in London for many years.
The third play, The Parting Glass, was another excellent and relevant work for the London Irish community dealing with the post funeral emotions of two second generation siblings in their late father’s favourite pub.
After the interval the audience was treated to The Recession of 1884, a light hearted play within a play based irreverently on the true story of the formation of the GAA in a Thurles pub in 1884. Written by Tipperary native Brendan Kenny – originally to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the event – it gave the cast of James McKenna, Annette Flynn, Leah Egan and Robert Bannon the chance to show off their slap stick skills.
The final short play, The Gold Of Boggerah by Peter Brassett, was an uplifting comedy set in rural Irish farmhouse. With milk prices low and the cost of cattle food going up, the young farmer and his pregnant wife are facing financial ruin until the grandfather’s belief in an ancient legend, assisted by their amadan teenage son, comes to the rescue.
The last and perhaps predictable twist in the tale of Michael’s new life in London was revealed through the last Dear Michael letter accompanied by some iconic imagery, rounding off an enjoyable evening for everyone in attendance.
The aim is to make this a more regular event, and Sharon hopes they will be able to include more plays during the next festival and, despite the stresses of this occasion, move to a larger venue.
For more info go to http://biscuitsforbreakfast.co.uk/