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78th Ballymoney Drama Festival

Saturday 4th March, Monday 6th March - Saturday 11th March 2017
8.00pm Ballymoney Town Hall (7.30pm on Final Night)

Saturday 4th March
Lifford Players
Abigail's Party by Mike Leigh
Produced by Eddie Flanagan

The British writer and Director, Mike Leigh, is well known for his lengthy rehearsal and improvisation techniques. He sketches out ideas for possible situations and then meets each actor individually, encouraging them to research and create the character they have been given. Only when the characters come together does the plot begin to develop. The script is refined during months of rehearsal. During a long, illustrious career, Leigh has worked with many of the most respected actors in Britain.

Abigail's Party is one of his best known plays. It caused a TV sensation in 1977 as a BBC Play for Today and has been regularly performed ever since. The eponymous Abigail is never seen. She is a teenager who is having a party for her friends a few doors away from the house where the action takes place. Here, the pretentious Beverly and her husband, Lawrence, attempt to entertain a few of their neighbours for a 'drinks soiree' that turns into an evening of domestic hell. This is a beautifully observed and moving play in which marital tensions, obsessions and prejudices are ruthlessly and hilariously exposed.

Monday 6th March
Rosemary Drama Group
Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale
Produced by Ian McDonald

In 1896, the term 'blue-stocking' was a derogatory one used for intellectual women who ran the risk of being considered unnatural and unmarriageable. Set against this background, Jessica Swale's first full-length play follows the fortunes of a group of students and college principal, Elizabeth Welsh, as they battle animosity and misogyny to win girls the right to graduate from Girton College, Cambridge.

Jessica Swale is an award winning director-turned-writer; The Independent described her as "the stage's brightest rising star". Audiences cheered, laughed and clapped through performances of Blue Stockings when it premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in 2013. The published text of the play honours Malala Yousafzai, international campaigner for the education of girls.

Tuesday 7th March
The Clarence Players, Belfast
The Mai by Marina Carr
Produced by Carole Stewart

Marina Carr was born in 1964 and grew up in County Offaly; she has been called "Ireland's leading female dramatist". Many of her plays are influenced by her interest in Greek Myths and The Mai, which won Best New Play from the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1994, has classical resonances rising from questions of truth, legacy and fate but the central character takes her name from a figure in Irish mythology.

The play is set in the West of Ireland on the shores of the legendary Owl Lake where The Mai has built a dream house and waits for the return of Robert, her cellist husband, who left her four years earlier. We see the effect of his return on four generations of women in this moving story about romantic and platonic familial relationships.

Wednesday 8th March
Theatre 3, Newtownabbey
Heroes by Gerald Sibleyras, translated by Tom Stoppard
Produced by Alex Macauley

The original title of this 2003 French play translated as The Wind in the Poplars but fears that it might be mixed up with The Wind in the Willows necessitated a change. It is based on Sibleyras's discovery that veterans of the First World War were regularly retired at relatively young ages, often living-out the remainder of their lives in French military hospitals - in some cases for 30 years or more.

The play takes place on one of the terraces in a veteran's hospital.Three former soldiers while away their time in discussion about fellow inmates, or the nuns who care for them, or make plans for a journey to the distant poplar trees. Sibleyras says his gentle comedy is not only about 'human mortality' but also about 'the universal desire to escape from the confines of your life'.

Sir Tom Stoppard is one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation. In 2008 The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 11 in their list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture".

Thursday 9th March
The Bart Players
Summer by Hugh Leonard
Produced by Gillian Porter

Perhaps best known for Da and A Life which were hugely successful, particularly on Broadway, Hugh Leonard was a prolific and award winning Irish dramatist and a leading spirit of the Irish dramatic revival of the 1960s. Towards the end of his life he said he thought Summer was his best play. He wrote: "I began with the idea of two picnics six years apart. I wanted to see what time had done to my people. At the beginning, a metaphor was in the back of my head, and it was that at a certain point in our lives we move from a bus to a tramcar which travels along an ordained route, unable to change its course. We, the passengers move around inside it, giving ourselves the delusion of freedom of choice and destination."

Summer is a warm-hearted, wistful comedy about three friendly middle aged couples along with the teenage son of one and the young daughter of another, who meet for a quiet picnic lunch in the country on a midsummer afternoon in 1968 and then again in 1974.

Friday 10th March
Holywood Players
Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones
Produced by Steve Emerson

Felix Humble is a modern-day Hamlet. A theoretical astrophysicist, he returns home on the death of his father to find that his difficult and demanding mother has got rid of all her husband's belongings, including his beloved bees, and is planning to remarry. This is an award-winning and intelligent comedy about broken vows, failed hopes and the relationship between a mother and her son.

Charlotte Jones won the Critics' Circle Most Promising Playwright award in 1999. Her fourth stage play, Humble Boy premiered at the National Theatre in 2001 starring Simon Russell Beale and Diana Rigg. Jones writes extensively for stage, film, radio and television where her credits currently include The Halcyon, an eight part series now showing on ITV.

Saturday 11th March (starting at 7:30p.m.)
Bangor Drama Club
Lovers by Brian Friel
Produced by Michael Ivers & Aileen Tyney

Audiences in Ballymoney need little introduction to our former patron, Brian Friel; many of his plays, including Dancing at Lughnasa, The Loves of Cass Maguire and his translation of Hedda Gabler have graced the Town Hall stage in recent years and won international accolades. Lovers is a perennial favourite with drama companies and audiences all over the world.

Set in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, it is a play in two sections. In the first, Winners, two young lovers are preparing for their school exams, their wedding and the imminent birth of their first child. In the second, Losers, the couple find love later in life but their relationship is overshadowed by the presence of her demanding mother. Although they could stand alone, Friel intended both sections to be seen together as they investigate the possibility of happiness within the confines of marriage, religion, and community.

Followed by the Final Adjudication by Chris Jaeger, MBE