The tragedy of MacNaghten returns - with a new Mary Ann

Derry actress Carleen Melaugh who takes on the role of Mary Ann Knox in Stan McGowan's acclaimed play, 'The Wood of The Crows' at the Forum. (2704JC1)
Derry actress Carleen Melaugh who takes on the role of Mary Ann Knox in Stan McGowan's acclaimed play, 'The Wood of The Crows' at the Forum. (2704JC1)
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The Playhouse’s triumphant play based on the famed local tale of John (Half-hanged) MacNaghten returns to the stage due to popular demand - this time at the city’s Millennium Forum and with a new Mary Ann Knox!

From the pen of local playwright Stan McGowan, ‘The Wood of The Crows’ deals with the tragic events that led to the death of the young Prehen heiress Mary Ann Knox by the hand of her much older lover John MacNaghten in the year 1761.

Set against the background of Georgian Ascendancy Londonderry, the play will now be returning to the Millennium Forum on Thursday, May 17, and Friday, May 18.

The play, which was commissioned by The Playhouse to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the tragedy in November 2011, was hailed as a storming success over it’s sell out five night run.

An exciting new addition has also been made to the cast, with accomplished local actress Carleen Melaugh replacing Sinead Sharkey as Mary Ann Knox.

Speaking to the ‘Derry Journal’ ahead of her latest role, 21 year-old Carleen, from Cashelmore Park in the city, said: “I’m delighted to become a part of The Wood of the Crows. I did a lot of Living History work on the city walls with Northern Period Productions, so this period drama really appealed to me. I do have a passion for the Georgian period and the costumes are just beautiful, I love wearing them. When else do you get the chance to wear clothes like that!”

Previously, Carleen has appeared in a range of productions, including the documentary Agnes Jones (Ambient Light Productions), the short film Jam, (Brassneck Productions), the feature Film The Keening, (DDH Productions) and the musical Evita (Bill Kenwright Ltd).

Currently immersed in her final year of a BA (Hons) in Drama and Film Studies at Queen’s in Belfast, Carleen still finds time to squeeze in three rehearsals a week back home. “Commuting back and forth from Belfast can be tiring, but I’m really enjoying it and it is worth it. I actually work at the Brunswick Moviebowl too, and I have to say, they have been brilliant at accommodating all my various rehearsals and have really supported me.”

Carleen missed out on the original auditions because of her studies in Belfast. “When I heard about it this time I jumped at the chance,” she says. “I made sure I went to the auditions looking the part too, with my hair done up high in a bun and no make-up as Mary Ann Knox was only 15 years-old!”

With just weeks to go before the play takes to the Forum stage, Carleen hopes it will attract younger audiences.

“It would be great if more young people came to see the play - I really think it would help generate an interest in local history in young people,” she says.

“Besides, it’s funny and informative and above all, of course, it’s a love story.”

As well as Carleen in the role of tragic heroine Mary Ann Knox, Connor Barr will return to play the infamous John MacNaghten, along will the rest of the sterling cast, Helen McLaughlin (Honoria Knox), Bill Waters (Andrew Knox), Marie Dunne (Angel Knox), and Eaman Craig (George Knox).

‘The Wood of The Crows’ will play at The Millennium Forum on Thursday, May 17, and Friday, May 18, at 8pm. Tickets are £15/ £12.50.

To book contact The Millennium Forum Box Office on: 71. 264455 or visit: www.millenniumforum.co.uk.