We had a lively and entertaining start to the Newry Drama Festival last evening. Your editor ended the evening in the pleasant company of Barry and Donna Crawford and reminisced of Mark Burns, Donna's brother in faraway San Francisco. Greetings Mark! There were a number of uplifting performances on stage, not least incidentally that of adjudicator, Tony Rushforth. He spoke (largely without notes) with authority, insight and sensitivity on the performances, the play and the presentation, ever with an acute eye to facilitating rather than demeaning the amateur cast. Already I suspect this is the best adjudicator we've had in years! Olive Melville as Florence Foster Jenkins of course commanded the stage. I suspect this actress really CAN sing and it must have been extremely demanding to continually produce those awful performances. The trick, as Tony pointed out, with comedy is never to allow it to descend into farce or characterisation. She did not. Nor did the fine supporting cast. There will be some gongs here. Tonight we are in for a treat from The Palace Players of Fermoy. Twenty-three years on the circuit they have never missed a year since, staging such masterpieces as Miller's 'Crucible', 'Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', 'Playboy' 'Lovers' 'Lughnasa' and 'The Communication Cord'. Tonight's play 'Doubt- a Parable' by John Patrick Shanley is a Pulitzer prize-winning play and a successful film (Meryl Streep etc). The play is set in a Catholic school in the U.S. Sister Aloysius, the principal learns from Sister James that Fr Flynn has been meeting alone with the only black student in the school. Serious conflict develops between the priest and the principal, with threats and charges made and out of this grow the themes of moral responsibility, of consequences and of doubt. There is no pat solution for the audience, left divided as to who is right and who is wrong. A second night of great theatre is guaranteed!