Cathy on song as she returns to Galway

Renmore actress Cathy Belton is back in her native city this July, to perform in the world premiere of Mark O’Rowe’s play Reunion for Galway International Arts Festival. She compares this family drama to a symphony as she tells JUDY MURPHY how she’s looking forward to being at home, enjoying the Festival that inspired her as a child, and spending time with her own family.

“Mark has written a beautiful symphony about a family,” says Galway actress Cathy Belton, about Mark O’Rowe’s new play, Reunion, which will receive its world premiere at this year’s Galway International Arts Festival. It’s being presented by the festival in conjunction with longtime collaborators, Landmark Productions.

Mark is also directing the piece, reuniting with the Renmore woman who has featured in many of his works, most recently in last year’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts at the Abbey Theatre, which he also directed and in which Cathy shone as Helena Alving.

“It’s a big play with 10 people,” she says of Reunion.

And rehearsals are intense.

“We are all on stage at the same time, so if you lose anyone, you lose a day’s work,” she says of the brief time set aside for her Tribune interview.

Cathy describes Reunion “as a play about being alive and how we live as a family, with all our different traits”.

Mark O’Rowe’s father died in January 2021, during Covid and she finds it fascinating that he has now written a play about a family without a father.

“But what you have is the absence of a father,” she says of the resulting drama.

There’s a mother (Cathy), who with the couple’s children, partners and grandchildren are holidaying on an island, which has been their retreat for years, “a bit like Inishbofin”, Cathy says. They are returning now after a period of absence.

“And, as you know, when families get together, nothing goes according to plan,” says Cathy with a laugh, explaining that “truth and events start to emerge in the space of 24 hours”, as a former love of one of the children, someone who lives on the island, comes back on the scene.

This wonderfully understated actress loves Mark O’Rowe’s writing and has featured in many of his creations, including The Approach, a three-hander which he wrote for her, Derbhle Crotty and Aisling O’Sullivan. A Landmark production, it premiered in 2018 at Dublin’s project, where it was a hit with audiences and critics. It went on to tour Ireland, including Galway, and enjoyed success also at the Edinburgh Fringe. Cathy’s performance style reflects O’Rowe’s style of writing, which makes for a happy working relationship.

“It’s very subtle the way he writes – there’s so much going on underneath,” she observes. “And I’ve been very lucky to have collaborated with him.”

The icing on the cake for Cathy on this occasion is that Reunion is being staged in Galway, which means she’ll have a chance to spend time with her mother, Anna, and her extended family – her father, Liam, a much-loved pharmacist who worked in Lohan’s on Prospect Hill for many years, died in 2006.

Cathy’s husband, Brian, her sister Orina, her brother-in-law, Larry and her nephews Oisin and Ben, will all be descending on Galway for the weeks of the Festival.

Pictured: Cathy, standing, with fellow cast members, Venetia Bowe, Simone Collins and Robert Sheehan in Reunion. PHOTO: KRIS ASKEY.

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