Compelling drama and rolling in the aisles at City Festival

Ballyshannon Drama Group's production of 'Steel Magnolias' has already proved a big hit in Donegal theatres. (40311JC1)
Ballyshannon Drama Group's production of 'Steel Magnolias' has already proved a big hit in Donegal theatres. (40311JC1)

Tonight sees the opening of the 31st City of Derry Drama Festival in the Waterside Theatre, and with a lineup of six former festival winners and five All-Ireland or Ulster winners, it promises to be a diverse and entertaining event for both seasoned audience members and those new to the theatre.

The festival runs for nine consecutive nights with a different play every night as experienced drama companies from all over the island of Ireland compete for festival silverware, as well as for the coveted points that could take them to the All-Ireland or Ulster finals.

Strong contenders this year must be the Lifford Players with their production of ‘Our Town’ by Thornton Wilder.

This classic play about life in a small American town in 1901 is considered to be the most popular American play ever written.

The Lifford Players swept the boards last year, picking up a cabinet full of silverware and they’ll be keen to make it two in a row.

Ballyshannon Drama Group, on the other hand, might be considered the rank outsiders but their very funny production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ has already proved a big hit in Donegal theatres.

Judging this production against the opening night production of the hilarious ‘Glorious’, by the Rosemary Drama Group from Belfast, which tells the true story of a would-be opera singer whose fortune and contacts allow her to sell out Carnegie Hall even though she can’t sing, will undoubtedly prove to be a challenge, albeit an enjoyable one, for the festival adjudicator, Michael O’Hara.

To add to the hilarity, ‘Immaculate’ by the very popular Backburners Drama Group, is a quick-witted black comedy which questions the role of religion in 21st century society.

The script provides laugh after laugh and according to a recent review “…will have the audience rolling in the aisle within five minutes of the curtain opening…and is guaranteed to leave them wanting more.”

By contrast, Butt Drama Circle will present ‘Stolen Child’, the story of one woman’s search for her natural mother bringing into sharp focus the oppressive regime that existed in the Industrial School System in Ireland during the 1940s, alongside KATS from Galway’s production of Marina Carr’s ‘Portia Coughlan’ whose central character lives life in limbo, haunted by a yearning for her spectral twin brother lying at the bottom of the river, unable to find any love for her husband and children and deeply afraid of what she might do.

Friel’s classic ‘The Loves of Cass McGuire’, to be performed by St Dympna’s Drama Society, the American classic ‘A View from the Bridge’ by Bangor Players, Ulster champions on their last outing, and a final night production of the raucous ‘The Kings of the Kilburn High Road’ by Droichead Nua from Co Kildare, will all add to the variety of theatre experience that audiences have come to expect from the City of Derry Drama Festival and will ensure a hard-fought and hugely entertaining competition. Don’t miss it!

For further information on the festival programme, check out the festival website: www.cityofderrydramafestival.org.

Tickets are £8 (£6 concessionary) per night

But there are bargains to be had with season tickets at £40 for all nine nights (£30 concessionary) - a huge saving - and you can also book for two nights at the same time and get a third night free!

For bookings, phone: 71. 314000 or visit: www.watersidetheatre.com.