Dramatic treats in store at annual Larne festival

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THE curtain is to rise on Larne’s 67th annual drama festival on Monday week, March 21, in the McNeill Theatre.

All performances start at 7.30pm, and following each one, there will be a public adjudication by Biddy White Lennon, member of the Association of Drama Adjudicators who was last in Larne in 2002.

Biddy is one of the busiest members of the Dublin-based organisation, and has officiated at festivals all over Ireland. A professional actress she was seen for many years in the long running RTE series, The Riordans. radio, television and film work continues to occupy her time when she is not adjudicating on the amateur circuit.

Biddy is also a journalist and writer – a whole series of books on Irish cookery can be found in bookshops and libraries. Nine of her books have been translated into different European languages.

This year the festival features performances by five leading companies, staging four English and one Irish writer. It opens with Holywood Players in Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy, “Absurd Person Singular”. Set in three kitchens on three successive Christmas Eves, the play examines the ups and downs of three couples of very different social standings, and how their relationships develop over the period of two years.

On Tuesday night, there’s a chance to see Peter Quilter’s play, “Glorious”, directed by Seamus Steele for Rosemary Drama Group. It’s the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the legendary New York heiress and socialite who wanted to be a great operatic diva despite the fact that she had one of the worst singing voices in history. Money, charm and will power made it happen!

Clarence Players return on Wednesday with “Entertaining Angels”, the story of Grace, widow of a clergyman, who finds herself freed from the restraints imposed by her former existence and decides to celebrate her new found freedom and do exactly as she pleases. But her eccentric missionary sister Ruth turns up , and things don’t go exactly to plan.

Bart Players have chosen one of the best known comedy of manners in the English language – “Present Laughter” by Noel Coward. It’s the sort of stylish piece that Bart do so well, and features the character Gerry Essendine. He’s suave and sophisticated and is very fond of flirting with infatuated debutantes. That’s all right until his mind gets fixed on someone nearer to home, and his wife decides enough is enough.

Finally Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” comes to the McNeill Theatre stage, courtesy of Newry’s Newpoint Players. It’s the story on the five impoverished Mundy Sisters, living in Donegal, whose lives are turned around by the events of a couple of months in Donegal in 1936. It’s a play of great warmth, compassion and humour and will make a fitting final night for the festival.

Admission to each performance is £6, with season tickets costing £20. These are available now from the leisure centre or Larne Tourist Information Centre.

Once again the festival is supported by Larne Borough Council, with the Co-operative Community Fund coming in as main sponsor. Financial help has also been received from from Allan Dorman & Son, Arkham Gaming Centre in Gleno, Ballygally holiday apartments, Bon Marche, Curran Court Hotel, Donnnelly Dental, East Antrim Electrical, Jim Penney Kitchens, Longmore Electronics, Marty’s Catering Service, McIlwaine Fine Art, Owen Donnelly family butcher and the Ulster Bank.