Newry Drama Festival begins

So rich in anecdotes has Newry Journal been in recent days and weeks that I have sometimes forgotten to highlight my favourite week of the year, Newry Drama Festival.

The Festival kicks off tonight with Phoenix from Lurgan offering Stuart Carolan’s topical ‘Defender of the Faith’. I am confident that my old friend and colleague Brendan Magee will as usual have a leading role. I am curious to learn how well the Lurgan cast will mimic the South Armagh accent. I know that only a few miles divides them physically from their County counterparts but it sounds to the ear almost like a different language!


Stuart Carolan’s debut play tells the story of a fractured family in present-day Ireland, entrenched in violent and uncompromising republicanism, which finally shatters when a senior figure in the IRA visits the farm to hunt out a suspected informer.  Blackly comic and chillingly real, “Defender of the Faith” explores the conflict between family loyalty and political beliefs.

I hope like me you bought a Season Ticket and that, if unable to attend every night you will loan your ticket to another to ensure full houses for all performances!

Belvoir Players of Belfast offer the ever-popular Steel Magnolias tomorrow (Saturday) night.


  Steel Magnolias by playwright Robert Harling was made into a film  starring some of the Hollywood greats including Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Daryyl Hannah and Sally Field.   Based on the author’s experience with the death of his sister, Steel Magnolias is a  comedy about the bond among a group of  women in northwest Louisiana.

The action centres around Truvy’s beauty parlor and some women who regularly gather there. The drama begins on the morning of Shelby‘s wedding to Jackson and covers events over the next three years, including Shelby‘s decision to have a child despite having diabetes and the complications that result from the decision. We also get a glimpse of the unlikely friendship between Clairee and Ouiser;  Annelle’s transformation from a shy, anxious newcomer in town, to a partying woman, then  religious fundamentalism and Truvy’s relationships with the men in her family. Although the main storyline involves Shelby, her mother, and Shelby‘s medical battles, the underlying group-friendship among all six women is prominent throughout the drama.

The stage play is still popular today and has frequent productions mounted throughout America.  All of the action of the play takes place solely on one set – Truvy’s beauty salon (which is part of her house). There are only six characters (all female) that appear on stage. There is the voice of a DJ on the radio that is heard during the play. All the other characters (like the male characters) that appear in the film version are only referred to in the dialogue.

The film would go on to gross more than US$183.7 million. Robert Harling adapted his own play, which was heavily rewritten to incorporate many more characters. It was his first produced screenplay, and he also appears in the film as the preacher. The film’s director was Herbert Ross.

The casting and sets of the film go far beyond the modest means of the original play to include male characters, ensembles, and outdoor scenes. The sequence of the action as well was more tightly linked with major holidays in the film than in the play. Much dialogue was added, and several lines in the play were cut or assigned to other characters than originally intended. In addition, Truvy is given only one son instead of two.


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