It is because your editor has been a lifetime patron of Newry Drama Festival and has continually afforded free advertising space on this site, that I feel justified in expressing a few serious reservations in advance of this year’s festival launch.
Attendance has been on the decrease for many years. This is not a local phenomenon but it requires to be addressed by the Festival Committee. Amateur dramatic companies and team leaders in particular have, certainly in recent years, chosen plays they feel best suits their team’s strengths, without reference to the traditional audience. There are too many alternative sources of entertainment for this forever to be tolerated by a dedicated audience. The more popular plays performed in the confined circuit has seen the margin between the two narrow, in terms of audience, and some would say, in performance.
None of the prior publicity I have so far witnessed has admitted that only SIX different plays are offered this year, compared with the usual NINE. Nor has the price of a season ticket come down accordingly, nor the nightly admission price. Many old favourites are not appearing this year, to the great chagrin of this and many other patrons. Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa will be performed twice: by Rosemary and Phoenix. Was there no alternative? I have always before been led to believe that performing at Newry was considered a great prize by amateur drama groups. So why choose two who are staging the same play? Very occasionally this has happened before but then there were SEVEN other plays to see.
I ordered three season tickets (which I haven’t yet received). Already I feel like I’ve been had! The very least that I and others deserve is an immediate explanation of this strange turn of events.