HUGE LOCAL INTEREST IS FOCUSED ON UNIQUE ‘BLAYNEY COMMUNITY PLAY

21 January 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

By PATSY McARDLE

FINAL preparations are under way at the Iontas Arts Centre in Castleblayney for “The Common People”, an extravaganza in drama, and one of the centre’s biggest and most exciting projects to be staged at the Co. Monaghan venue to date.
“The Common People” is a truly original play, depicting the reality of life locally, with a cast of some thirty-five local people, and focused on four generations of a Monaghan family.
Deferred from its original pre-Christmas slot due to severe weather, “The Common People” will now take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 25th, 26th and 27th January.
“Thank God for the snow” quipped writer and director, Declan Gorman, when we caught up with him last week, “I don’t know if we would have been quite ready for Christmas….this is really a huge undertaking!”
No stranger to epic dramas, Monaghan man, Declan is the writer and director behind several professional and community theatre projects in the North East in recent years.
Formerly Artistic Director of Upstate Theatre in Drogheda, his play “I Love Mullaghmatt” (2009) undertaken with the Family Resource Centre, is still the source of many an animated conversation in Monaghan town. It tackled politics and local history head-on in a humorous and moving production that involved 24 local people. He is also the man behind the hugely popular “Green Fool”, based on Patrick Kavanagh’s book, which packed out theatres all over the country in 2005.
Funded by the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, “The Common People” is the biggest community theatre project to date, however. “There are 35 people altogether in the cast.” he says. “They range in age from 8 to 80. They come from the North and the South, from Blayney, Monaghan, Newtownhamilton, Keady, Ardee, Dundalk and places between and beyond.” He goes on to mention that there are two Polish women in the cast as well as a young girl from Lithuania. “It’s a truly intercultural and inclusive event if you want to look at it that way” he says, “but to be honest, we don’t really dwell on that side of it. We’re too busy enjoying ourselves. Rehearsals have been great fun”.
So what’s it all about? Project researcher Carmel Rudden explains: “It all started with a project called Castleblayney Commonalities under the Peace III Programme, which seeks to unite our common histories and shared experiences. This thread galvanised the idea of demonstrating commonalities within our society regardless of individual and group cultural identity.”
Carmel set out to interview older and some younger people in the community. “I was deeply touched by the candidness, honesty and enthusiasm of all the groups and individuals I interviewed,” she says. “Without their contribution the wealth of research material for this project; the personal, funny, sad, and at times strange stories this journey would not have been realised.” From these shared histories an invitation was then extended to Declan Gorman to write an original play based loosely on the oral stories collected. “We are indebted to Declan for his meticulous and compassionate rendering of the material” Carmel comments.

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