Some of the cast of 'Barney McGuigan' at rehearsals
The bitter chill of February dissipated instantly as St Mura’s Drama Group gathered in Tooban’s Fowler Hall to rehearse John Craig’s latest play ‘Barney McGuigan.’
There may have been torrential rain beating down outside but the actors from all over Inishowen chatted animatedly about
costumes, scenery and lines.
‘Barney McGuigan’ is premiering in the Fowler Hall in Tooban non Sunday, March 1. It continues on March 3, 5 and 6 at 8.00pm before transferring to St Mary’s Hall in Buncrana on March 9,10 and 11. Admission is adults €10 and children €5, with all proceeds going to parish funds.
Prolific playwright, John Craig, was born in Mullinadee on Inch. Laughing he related how his father James and his mother
Jennie had been next door neighbours in Binault.
Now a director, John told Inish Times about his own acting days in the self-same Fowler Hall.
He said: “I have always loved drama. When I was younger, I appeared in John B Keane classics such as ‘The Field’, which
was directed by Oliver McGrory and ‘Many Young Men of Twenty’.
“However, there was one thing which I did not like about those plays, the Kerry idiom. Sometimes we had different sayings in
Donegal and our audiences did not fully understand what was meant. Even then I remember thinking, some day I am going to
write a play with the language which Inishowen people use and understand.
“In the year 2000 I did just that. My first play was called ‘My Home On The Farm’. And I found that the audiences, especially
the young ones strangely enough, loved plays, which had a farming theme and were set in rural Ireland. My milestone tenth
play was called ‘The O’Reilly’s,’” said John.
As those in the hall chuckled at the onstage antics, John said: “’Barney McGuigan’ is a romantic comedy set in a farmhouse in
1950s rural Ireland. It is about bachelor, Barney McGuigan, and the various people who come in and out of his farmhouse.
“As is usual in my plays, there are a few twists and turns along the way, and a sting in the tail at the end, but I don’t want to
give too much of the plot away,” smiled John.
A prodigious playwright, John attended St Patrick’s School on Inch, where he loved writing essays.
He said: “After ‘My Home On The Farm’ I wrote ‘Harry’, ‘Kidnapped’, ‘The Lady From Leitrim’, ‘Dr James Muldoon’, The O’Leary’s’, ‘The Morrison’s’, ‘Mrs Miller’ and ‘Sweetie’.
“I was very proud of the fact that ‘The Lady From Leitrim’ was booked out when we took it to The Alley Theatre in Strabane.
Although, one of the locals wondered afterwards why the lady from Leitrim spoke with a Donegal accent. It was John B Keane
all over again!
“Writing plays is a strange experience. One night I could write four or five pages. Another night I might only manage two lines.
But once you get into plays and acting, it is hard to stop. It is great fun seeing how the words on the page can be brought to
life by an actor. When you consider the scenery, costumes, lighting and audience response, it is a bit like putting a jigsaw
together,” he reflected.
John was quick to acknowledge the actors who supported him in past years.
He said: “James Doherty from Inch was a really entertaining actor. Paul Walker has now emigrated, and Paddy Gill and Neill
Crossan have retired. The craic was always great with them.
That is why we are still going strong after 20 years. Generally, it takes six weeks to rehearse a play,” said John.
John’s wife Josie, daughters Caroline and Tanya and sons Sean, Paul and Karl did not share his acting bug.
He said: “I think I just like being onstage. It is only since New Year’s Eve 2010 that I retired from my band ‘Rodeo’. We played all around Donegal for more than 30 years. One of my favourite venues was always The Squealing Pig in Muff. You could not beat the Derry people for the craic and the fun.
“’Rodeo’ sang country and western, Neil Diamond, Joe Dolan, whatever the audience wanted to hear. It all started with the
Christmas Rhymers, which I used to do every year. I needed an accordion so myself and David McLaughlin who played the
accordion did the Rhymers.
“Eventually we were joined by Denis Eccles on the Saxophone and bass and Jim Barber on the drums. At one time or another
Eamonn Cutliff, Joe ‘Cooey’ Doherty, Damian Harkin and Michael Gallagher were also in the band. I just loved being part
of it and entertaining folks.”
Not only is John giving nothing away about ‘Barney McGuigan’ he is revealing nothing about possible his next play either.
However, if the warm community spirit present in the Fowler Hall that winter night is anything to go by, drama is thriving in
Inishowen. Thanks to people like John Craig, actors will pass the winter rehearsing. Audiences will be mightily entertained.
John then turned his attention to his actors and chuckled and smiled at one of his own comedic lines.
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