Formed by Aideen Walton (Artistic Director) in September 2016, Greystones Players is a community drama group that aims to bring people together from Greystones and surrounding areas to work collaboratively in making theatre and to add to the cultural life of the area.
Why Greystones Players? According to Aideen: ‘There are great community theatre groups all over Ireland, but Greystones has not had a group for many years, since the Greystones Operatic & Dramatic Society (or GODS) wound up in the 1980s.
Greystones is now a large town of nearly 20,000 people, and the more it grows, the greater the value of community organisations that are both culturally enriching and bring people of all ages and from diverse backgrounds together in a meaningful and creative way.
‘As I was taking the first steps towards creating the group in August 2016, I was hugely fortunate to meet Ross McParland, the owner of Greystones Studios @ Theatre Lane.
Ross was in the middle of refurbishing Greystones Theatre and had already decided that, among his many ambitious plans for it, a community drama group would be an essential element of the theatre’s purview.
The new theatre, which promises to be a great asset to Greystones’ cultural and social life (for more news, watch that space!), is at the heart of the town and seemed the perfect home for our group.
There was a meeting of minds, and with Ross’s practical support (generously providing the group with rehearsal space in the studios, as well as a beautiful venue to stage our
performances), moral support and invaluable advice, Greystones Players was born.
‘Since the group’s launch in September 2016, when I began running weekly drama workshops, followed by our first Friends & Family production of three one-act plays in December, we have developed a dedicated core group of over thirty members, including actors and those who wish to be part of the group’s activities
and production support.
We are currently rehearsing for our first public performance of Brian Friel’s great play, Dancing at Lughnasa.
‘The play is a challenging one, combining comedy with dark and tragic elements that reflect so many aspects of Ireland’s past, the effects of which, sadly, are still resounding today; at the same time, it explores the nature of individual memory, how it works, and how much our past and our perception of it is part of the
fabric of who we are.
The characters are all heroes in their own ways, in particular the five Mundy sisters, and Friel had his own aunts and mother in mind when he wrote and dedicated the play to “those five brave Glenties women”.
‘When I was casting the play, there was such interest and enthusiasm from the Players that I decided to double-cast the parts of the Mundy sisters, with the result that we are effectively presenting two productions of the play.
There will be five performances, and each cast will perform at least twice over the course of the run. The Players have invested a huge amount of time and commitment to this project, and
each has developed a special relationship to his or her character.
We look forward to presenting this wonderful play to the community and hope it is just the beginning of the Players bringing the best kind of drama to our town.’
About the Play
In the summer of 1987, Brian Friel and another playwright, Thomas Kilroy, were walking along the bank of the river Thames after a performance of Kilroy’s stage adaptation of Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons at the National Theatre.
As they walked, they passed a number of homeless people sheltering in doorways and alleys. When they heard Irish voices, Friel turned to Kilroy and remarked that two of his aunts had ended up like that.
Kilroy suggested to Friel that he should write a play about them. That play became Dancing at Lughnasa.
First produced in 1990, when it won both the Tony Award and Olivier Award, Dancing at Lughnasa is one of the greatest and best loved Irish plays of recent times.
Dancing at Lughnasa takes place in August 1936, during the harvest festival of Lughnasa, and tells the story of the five unmarried Mundy sisters – Kate, Maggie, Agnes, Rose and Christina (Chris) – as well as their brother Jack, a priest who has recently returned home from the missions in Africa after 25 years away.
A memory play, it is told from the perspective of Michael, Chris’s seven-year-old son in the play and also a middle-aged man whose narrative sets the scene and frames the action.
Like 14 of Brien Friel’s 31 original plays, Dancing at Lughnasa is set in the fictional Ballybeg (‘small town’) in Co. Donegal. Of all the Ballybeg plays, it is the closest to Friel’s personal experience.
The characters of the five Mundy sisters are reminiscent of Friel’s own aunts and mother, the McLoone sisters; the cottage that the Mundy sisters inhabit is based on the actual cottage
where the McLoone sisters lived in Glenties, Donegal; Father Jack is based on their brother Bernard, or Father Barney, whose obituary in the Derry Journal described him as the ‘wee Donegal priest’ who had come home ‘broken in health after 35 years of heroic service in the mission service in Uganda’; and Michael was born in the same year as Friel (1929).