19 Jan 2022

Longford: are you not entertained?

Spring is off to a good start with top quality entertainment taking over the Longford stage

Waiting for Godot

Aaron Monaghan, Garrett Lombard and Marty Rea in action as Estragon, Lucky and Vladamir in 'Waiting for Godot', which comes to the Backstage Theatre next week. Not pictured: Rory Nolan who plays Pozzo

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the Backstage Theatre was filled with Samuel Beckett fans as they filed in to see the Druid Theatre Company perform one of Beckett's most popular plays, 'Waiting for Godot'.

There was a real hum of excitement as people took their seats, greeting fellow theatre-goers and falling into the easy conversation of people who have a common interest.

“Did you see that one by the Ballinalee Players? 'Mother Knows Best',” asked one man.

Read: Ballinalee Players to stage 'Mother Knows Best'

His neighbour admitted that no, he had not seen it, but he was looking forward to seeing Mikel Murfi in 'Loch na hÉala' this week, and that the show is sold out, so he's glad he got his tickets.

Not far away from them, another pair of North Longford men were discussing John Connell's 'The Cow Book', noting the huge attendance at his book launch in early March, and debating their favourite chapters.

“I grew up on a farm, but this book gave me a great insight into farming,” one of the men pointed out.

Read: Huge crowd turns up to support Killoe author

Another couple further up the row were discussing the meaning of 'Waiting for Godot' with another theatre-goer who had never seen the play. He was in for a rough ride, as it's hard going at the best of times, they explained, but he'd leave here with a lot of food for thought.

They were all oblivious to the fact that this Longford Leader reporter was nearby - not eavesdropping on the conversations, but simply soaking in the atmosphere as the crowd filed in to take their seats and wait in anticipation for the show to begin.

I was there, not as a reporter, but as a member of the public, out to enjoy a show at my local theatre. And yet the reporter in me was picking up on the public's reaction to the various theatre performances, book launches and musical shows covered recently in this newspaper.

Read: 'Waiting for Godot' comes to Longford's Backstage Theatre

There's an unbelieveable amount of talent on display in Longford at the moment. This has been a fantastic spring for arts and entertainment so far and there are no signs of it slowing down - not by a long shot.

One of the big stories in entertainment at the moment is the launch of John Connell's 'The Cow Book'.

The Ballinalee farmer has really made a name for himself by putting rural Ireland - specifically rural Longford - on the map. And he's done that both nationally and internationally.

It's amazing how the people of Longford have rushed forward to support the local writer. As he said in this week's Longford Lives feature, the people of Longford wanted their story told, and that's exactly what 'The Cow Book' has done for them.

John's story is the story of every family farm in rural Ireland and 'The Cow Book' has really highlighted the importance of farming families in Ireland. It really is an excellent read - even for someone who, like me, has never really had an interest in farming.

He's not the only one to hold attention this past month, though. Dervla McTiernan has certainly drawn a lot of support from the locality with the launch of her debut novel 'The Ruin', which is also a great read, full of twists and turns to the end.

Read: Emerging from 'The Ruin' with a new lease of life

Dervla came all the way from Australia to launch her novel here in her home county, surrounded not only by her family and friends, but hoards of locals eager to support one of their own. It really is great to see.

And, despite the recent media attention, they're not the only writers to be talked about in recent weeks. In fact, there are two others that come to mind who have launched their own additions to the local literary scene.

Edward Denniston came back to Longford in February to launch his latest collection of poetry, 'For Crying Out Loud' at the Backstage Theatre.

And Edgeworthstown native, Dani Gill, has also recently launched her own book of poetry, 'After Love', which is a moving read about how her life has changed since ending a long-term relationship and going out on her own.

Read: Dani Gill exploring life 'After Love' with poetry and art

That's a huge amount of positive news for Longford's arts scene - and that's only covering the writers. There's plenty more to discuss yet: theatre, for example.

Yes, 'Waiting for Godot' was certainly one of the most highly-anticipated plays of the spring and it certainly lived up to the standards that fans of Druid Theatre Company have come to expect, but it is by no means the only great show to come to Longford this season.

I had the pleasure of going to the Roscommon Arts Centre in January to see Andrew Keegan-Dolan's hauntingly beautiful 'Loch na hÉala', which merges 'Swan Lake' with 'The Children of Lir', and rural Irish society.

Read: Micheal Keegan-Dolan's production of 'Loch na hÉala' comes to Longford in April

The show comes to the Backstage Theatre this week and the fact that tickets are completely sold out is a testament to the play's popularity.

But the smaller productions around the county also have to be commended.

The Bea Masterson Amateur Drama Group, for example, recently staged John B. Keane's 'The Field', to a great reaction from locals.

The Ballinalee Players, meanwhile, put on 'Mother Knows Best', and the Latin School Players this week performed 'Nobody's Talking to Me' - both plays were very well-received locally.

Read: John B Keane's 'The Field' to be staged in Legan's Aurora Hall

Furthermore, Strokestown National School are currently working on an Irish play, 'Mac Rí an Longfort', which they'll perform in the Leinster finals of Cumann Scoildramaíochta this month.

In terms of art, there has been a lot of work done between Brian McCann's photography exhibition, the Schools Photography Programme photography book, which was launched last month, and the Space Between exhibition, which is currently on display in the Backstage Theatre.

Read: Longford drama group to perform 'Nobody's Talking to Me'

Dance has been another big thing in the Backstage Theatre recently, with the powerful 'State of Exception' being staged by choreographer, Catherine Young (Backstage Artist in Residence) a couple of weeks ago.

'State of Exception' was a moving performance that followed on from the success of 'Welcoming the Stranger', transcending all cultural boundaries and bringing something of worldly beauty to Longford.

Read: Powerful dance act set for Longford's Backstage Theatre 

If you're lucky enough to have booked a ticket to this weekend's performance of 'Loch na hÉala', you'll be treated to a simply breathtaking dance performance that will stay with you for days afterwards.

Speaking of dance, St Mel's Musical Society is on track for one of its most popular productions yet. 'Sister Act' has been selling out fast, with only a few tickets remaining at this early stage, so get in there quick if you want to see what the fuss is about.

Read: St Mel's Musical Society in Longford have got the Power

Let's stick with the music scene for the moment: it's astounding to see how much young talent is bursting out of Longford in recent months.

I recently found myself once more in the audience of the Backstage Theatre enjoying some of this local talent - namely Katie Gallagher and Painted Skies.

Read: Ballymahon musician prepares to launch her new single, 'Man on a Mission'

Both acts are extremely talented, with Ballymahon woman, Katie, continually on the rise as she releases more and more of her music and builds more of a fan base every month.

Painted Skies are certainly a standout act in Longford. The four talented musicians work well together and Adam Fenelon has an amazing voice that you won't soon forget.

Read: New EP and headline gig for Longford's Painted Skies

The main attraction on that night, though, was headline act, State Lights. The foursome met in college in Dublin and one of the band's members, Joe Regan, is from Granard. The band is incredible and they're proper showmen to boot.

If I were to list out all the spectacular artists, musicians, photographers, writers, actors, dancers and other creatives in the county, I would be here all day.

But one thing is for sure: you certainly don't need to travel outside the county to enjoy some top quality entertanment. We've got it all right here in Longford.

Read: Longford musician and his band release new single 'Peace Will Come'

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