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Powerful Brian Friel drama at the Town Hall Theatre poses challenge for actors

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Privileged” is how Belfast based actor Lalor Roddyfeels about playing the of Frank Hardy in Brian Friel’s powerful drama, Faith Healer, which opens in the Town Hall Theatre on August 25 and runs until September 3 before embarking on a major tour of Ireland.

 

Faith Healer is the story of Frank Hardy, the faith healer of the title, who has roamed Scotland and Wales with his wife Grace and their manager Teddy, healing the sick before returning home to Ireland to try and restore his ailing powers.

“It is one of the most profound plays in Irish literature and Frank is one of the great parts, when you and you alone are in charge of what happens in the theatre and with the audience,” says Lalor.

That’s partly because the play is written as a series of monologues. The first and last are from Frank, the character he is playing.

Then it’s the turn of Grace, who left behind a comfortable life to join Frank on the road and stays with him despite his sometimes shabby treatment of her.

The third version of events is from their agent, Teddy, who has remains loyal to the pair through thick and thin, although even he doesn’t understand why.

The three characters are basically telling the same story, but the perspective and sometimes, even the facts are different in each version.

Faith Healer, which was first staged on Broadway in 1979, is regarded as a “written masterpiece”, says Lalor, but transferring it from page to stage hasn’t always been successful.

“You can look at the piece and get three entirely different stories about the same thing and that can be difficult both for actor and audience.

“Another challenge is that all of the characters are telling the truth in their own ways. We all think we own the truth. But what each person goes through is entirely different.”

The play is being presented by the Town Theatre and it is a major production. Grace is played by Ali White, a multiple Irish Times Theatre Awards nominee, while the part of Teddy is taken on by Galway based actor Rod Goodall, whose extensive CV includes working with Footsbarn and Macnas. The director is Andrew Flynn, who directed of the award winning ART/ Cork Opera House touring production of Juno and the Paycock and has just finished directing Dockers for the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

The three actors spent the first four days of rehearsals working out what they felt the play was about, explains Lalor. Since then they have rehearsed apart, but meet up every few days to keep the dynamic going.

Lalor describes the play as “one of the great challenges for an actor and an audience”.

“In a peculiar way, it’s a holy piece of writing. High theatre works best almost as a spiritual experience. It’s not about making people laugh or making them cry, it’s about sharing your soul and spirit with a community of people. And that’s true in abundance with Faith Healer – at least.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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