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GAA centred drama currently running in Offaly arts centre explores crippling fear of failure

May 15, 2024
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Two men standing on bar set, one older holding a broom, the other younger dressed in a GAA kit holding a hurl
Frank of Brien as Ambrose Doyle and Ivan Hanamy as Ambrose the Younger in TADS 'The Incarnation of the Prodigal Son'

By Ger Scully

A crippling fear of failure and prolonged shame about perceived missed opportunities haunt the main character in Tullamore Amateur Dramatic Society's production of “The Incarnation of the Prodigal Son” which is currently being staged in Esker Arts.

The show opened to wide acclaim on Monday night with prolonged bouts of laughter and applause from a packed theatre with audience members hanging on the performers every word.

Set in a very authentic rural or small town pub, the dialogue and characters were very much relatable to theatre goers, who could see the resemblance to friends, family members or acquaintances in the roles being portrayed on stage.

The plot revolves around the drama's main character, Ambrose Doyle, whose mental anguish at past failures is perfectly captured by veteran actor, Frank O'Brien.

He has taken on the role of manager of his beloved hurling team Knock na Geena's quest to win their first ever county final and is spurred on to greatness by his youthful self, “Ambrose the Younger'. Ivan Hanamy is superb in a demanding role and captures the physicality and thirst for success of a young hurler.

Ambrose's wife, Marian, is at the centre of a related plot involving a health scare and her frustrations are deftly portrayed by Jacinta Dillon who is a tour de force on stage dominating many of the scenes.

The play evokes sentiments of pathos, redemption and hope and the trials and tribulations of the local hurling outfit is seen from the prospective of the players, the management team and locals who frequent the pub.

Begrudgery and criticism of unsuccessful past attempts at county glory dominate many of the scenes with Bog Hagget voicing the critical opinions and pessimism of a certain type of GAA aficionada many of us are all too familiar with. Padraic Seery captures the cynicism of Bob Hagget though as the play progresses we come to realise he is a far more genuine character than we originally thought.

The fortunes of the team as they try to progress to the county final and win the cherished trophy form the backdrop to each scene and the chance for redemption and glory, which has previously eluded them, appears as a slim possibility.

Other central GAA back room team personalities, Jim the Van, Murty Maher and Young Mole are ably portrayed by David Hughes, Peter Milemade and Paddy Broder.

The confidence (and lack of) and commitment of the young hurlers, Andrew Doyle, Billy and Hodge, are captured by Sean Doyle, Damian Mitchell and Andy Lowbridge, while Andrew's love interest, Katie, is played by Claire Lemass. She moves the audience to silence at the end with a stunning musical number while her two cohorts, and the centre of much male attention, wanted and unwanted, Muireann and Louise, are played by Sandra Berry and Gillian Harrington.

Proving comic relief in many of the scenes is Mary Moone, expertly portrayed by Susan McDonnell, while Aidan Lenaghan sympathetically plays the priest, Fr Mitchell, who is a true shepherd to his flock.

The stage set is a credit to the production team, led by Mark Quinlan, for its realistic recreation of a rural or small town public house.

Judging by the audience reactions to Monday's night opening performance “The Incarnation of the Prodigal Son” will be a deserved major success for TADS.

It runs tonight, Wednesday, May 15 and finishes tomorrow night, Thursday, May 16. Doors open at 7.30pm and the show starts at 8pm.

Tickets are on sale on Esker Arts Centre website, with all links and more information available on the TADS Facebook and Instagram pages.

TADS has been growing as a group each year, seeing new members join their amateur dramatic society in earnest. They run two productions on average each year, with another production set for November this year. TADS are a voluntarily run group, committed to the promotion of theatre in the area and offering opportunities to its members to experiment and grow in the theatrical realm.

Originally published by Offaly Express.