Portadown Drama Festival 2024: all you need to know about this year's event, which plays to see and when it's on

The curtain is set to rise on this year’s Portadown Drama Festival, offering an exciting and varied programme of nine plays.
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This is the 87th annual fesitival, running from Wednesday, March 13 to Friday, March 22 in Portadown Town Hall.

Once again drama secretary Susan Gates and her committee have put together a fine programme of plays. Portadown Festival is held in such high esteem that it is always over subscribed and Susan has the difficult task of making the final selection with groups travelling from all over Ireland to compete.

Curtain goes up each night of the festival at 8pm, except on the final night when the performance will start at 7.30pm. Tickets can be bought at the box office each night. Season tickets will be on sale the first few evenings.

David Grant is making his first visit to Portadown Festival as adjudicator.David Grant is making his first visit to Portadown Festival as adjudicator.
David Grant is making his first visit to Portadown Festival as adjudicator.

Making his first visit to Portadown Festival as adjudicator is David Grant who has a long association with Portadown, having spent his teenage years on the Killycomaine Road. Mr Grant is a senior lecturer in Drama in the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s University, Belfast, where he has worked since 2000.

A former managing editor of Theatre Ireland magazine, programme director of the Dublin Theatre Festival and artistic director of the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, he continues work as a theatre director alongside his academic work, having recently directed revivals of Owen McCafferty’s ‘Mojo Mickybo’ for Bedlam Theatre Company, Patrick McCabe’s ‘Frank Pig Says Hello!’ for An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny; Oscar Wilde at Home, a site-specific event in Florence Court in Enniskillen for the Wilde Weekend and ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’ by Frank McGuinness for the Waterside Theatre in Derry / Londonderry.

Mr Grant has a long association with youth and community-based arts, most recently devising Days in the Bay with the Tiger’s Bay Men’s Group in Belfast.

What is the programme for the 2024 Portadown Drama Festival?

  • Wednesday, March 13 – Slemish Players ‘The passing day’ by George Shields (social comedy / Irish).

Old John Fibbs is ill. His relatives are at the hospital sick with worry – that they might not be in his will. John has been a committed miser accumulating a fortune of £40,000 over a lifetime of parsimony. Where is the money to go?

  • Thursday, March 14 – The Clarence Players ‘Gaslight’ by Patrick Hamilton (Victorian thriller / straight).

This is the powerful story of Bella Manningham, a young woman psychologically dominated by her husband Jack. While Jack is in town each evening, his wife stays at home, believing she’s losing her mind, unable to explain the disappearance of familiar objects, mysterious footsteps overhead and the flickering of the living room gaslight. Questions about her husband’s behaviourand identity however are aroused, following the arrival of a police detective.

  • Friday, March 15 – Dunmore Amateur Drama Society ‘Faith healer’ by Brian Friel (Straight / Irish).

This is a play about the life of faith healer Francis Hardy through the shifting memories of Harry, his wife Grace and stage manager Teddy.

  • Saturday, March 16 – Dalkey Players ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller (Straight).

The Crucible tells the story of one man’s fight to save his identity in a repressive Puritan community where intolerance collides with lust and superstition, fuelling widespread hysteria with tragic results. Written more than 60 years ago, Miller’s play is both profoundly chilling and also deeply hopeful.

  • Monday, March 18 – Newtownstewart Theatre Company ‘The New Electric Ballroom’ by Enda Walsh (dark comedy / Irish).

Staring back behind the blusher and the eyeshadow a girl who’s yet to be kissed. Properly kissed. Trapped in the years that have passed since their halcyon days at The New Electric Ballroom, three sisters in a remote fishing village are still obsessed by darker memories of something resembling romance. Contains some strong language and adult themes.

  • Tuesday, March 19 – Enniskillen Theatre Company ‘The Lonesome West’ by Martin McDonagh (dark comedy / Irish).

Valene and Coleman, two brothers living alone in their father’s house after his recent death, find it impossible to exist without the most massive and violent disputes over the most mundane and innocent of topics. Only Father Welsh, the local young priest, is prepared to try to reconcile the two before their petty squabblings spiral into vicious and bloody carnage. Contains some strong language.

  • Wednesday, March 20 – Ballyshannon Drama Society ‘Margaret’ by Shaun Byrne (straight / Irish).

‘Margaret’ joins Margaret Thatcher nearing the end of her life and explores her various troubled relationships with the Irish, the nurses, her children, the public, her male cabinet, as past dreams, guilts and successes return to torment, matter and deceive her.

  • Thursday, March 21 – Bart Players ‘The Actress’ by Peter Quilter (comedy).

‘The Actress’ dramatises the events backstage as a colourful, complicated actress makes her emotional finalperformance. Various people from her life invade her dressing room to say goodbye, declare love, spit insults, roar with laughter, grab and embrace and renew old battles.

  • Friday, March 22 – Rosemary Drama Group ‘She stoops to conquer’ by Oliver Goldsmith (comedy / Irish).

This play tells the story of how a young man is tricked into thinking that the house of a woman he wants to marry is an inn. Despite the misunderstandings and inappropriate behaviour that ensue, his potential fiancée sees the good in him.

The 2024 drama awards will be presented following the performance on Friday, March 22 which will start at the earlier time of 7.30pm.

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