P is for Peter

P ..... is for Press 


Review    Munster Express.  4/3/2011.    Liam Murphy.

Come The Dawn

Ballinrobe Musical society won the much sought after AIMS Best Overall Show Award with a stunning production of The Pirate Queen and this year they turned their attention to Peter Kennedy, their director of thirteen years. They gave his revised premiere of Come The Dawn a technical production that you would not see on the professional stage.

 In a stunning, emotional, sledge hammer of a second act, they brought the conflict of pre-Treaty Belfast to painful life in a Community School auditorium. A helicopter descended from the roof (no fly floor here) that would put Miss Saigon to shame. It had two passengers, a lighted control panel, a functioning door and a roaring realistic sound and fumes. In a twenty-minute period, there were four onstage shootings and at times it looked like Martin McDonagh meets Midsomer Murders.

The conventional wisdom is that musical theatre cannot sustain such bloodshed and cruelty as a cast sang love songs, torch songs and Our Day Will come amid revelations of betrayal, dark politics and madness. Then a finale where a pub exploded, blowing out doors and windows and a chorus stood on a partially burning (clever gas fuelled flames) and sang a song of hope and renewal – Come The Dawn. I had seen the first outing of this show in Galway in 2006 and was rightly impressed with a no-frills, raw emotional evening of strong political and social significance. I have been a Peter Kennedy fan since he brought Ham to the Waterford Festival in 1986. There were little technical or big production values and it was still a positive milestone in Irish musical theatre.

Theatre needs such a slap or explosion of reality and Ballinrobe, a town of 2,500 souls gave their audience, a blockbuster of a production and that is a major achievement.

 The storyline of opposing factions within and Orange and Green tribe is deep and complex and with hindsight frighteningly accurate. The villain of the piece is a rogue RUC superior, Davy Saunders who deals from both sides of the divide. There is a tragic Orange Order Grand Master whose wife was killed in a boobytrap bombing and his daughter is in love with the hero John Thompson an RUC Constable. The Sinn Féin/IRA side are represented by a ceasefire pro-Treaty political figure in a three quarter length leather coat. There’s a hot heat Danny Quinn who suspects a sell out as does a Loyalist paramilitary, Jimmy Reid who is frighteningly manic. Into that web you have a series of quality female roles (some burdened with banal love songs) who give the work a stark emotional tone of some depth and understanding.

 There is a lot of exposition and position setting in Act I with big songs like They’ve Built a Bloody Barricade, Nationalist People, Is This Empire Great, This Night of Madness and the emotional finale of Act I – Come The Dawn.

Act II is a blockbuster of helicopter, killings, betrayal and cruelty amid revelation and a clunky back story of mistaken parenthood. A British junior official sings a comic G&S style parody about solving conflict with A Cup of Tea. There is an almost surreal Political Cabaret a daft fairytale of killings and a stunning, numbing pub explosion.

 Padraic Costello was a chilling loyalist. Jimmy Reid who created a revulsion in the audience as did John Murphy as the hot-head Danny Quinn. Walter Donoghue was a credible Emerson in a much under-written role. Richard Crumlish was a strong Robert Wilson and Michael Coen was a powerful Davy Saunders. Lisa Parsons was a fine Lisa Wilson, Siobhán Campbell and Ann Kirrane shone in a wickedly satirical Donegal. Paula O’Neill was a very sympathetic Carmel Gallagher and Sinead Heneghan was an excellent Catríona who was minx, temptress and tower of strength who had some of the finest songs and duets in the show.

 This production was an outstanding example of what Irish musical theatre can deliver. Ballinrobe have once again laid down the marker and brought a new reality to musical productions.



Ballinrobe Musical Society reach for the stars again

Mayo Advertiser, October 01, 2010.

Ballinrobe Musical Society have launch their new production for 2011, the revised world première of Come The Dawn, written and composed by Peter Kennedy. Kennedy has been with the society for some 13 years as producer/choreographer; however this will be the first time the society has undertaken one of Peter's own shows. As the society had been so warmly received and rewarded for the efforts of The Pirate Queen earlier this year, it was felt that it was important to continue telling our stories.

 Come the Dawn is not an historic document, nor a true story, despite being firmly rooted in the reality of the Ulster 'troubles' of the pre-Good Friday Agreement era. It is, rather, an artistic representation of the fears and nightmares that haunted the generations who grew up amid the turmoil. It recognises that both good and evil exist on every side of the equation, and acknowledges that each group's aspirations are passionate, and valid, depending upon which side of the fence one is standing.

Peter Kennedy was born in Belfast in 1958, and was taught from an early age to respect all people equally, regardless of race, religion, or creed. It was an incident in the early 1990s, however, that gave Peter the desire to create a lament to the Troubles. Having watched members of his own family narrowly escape tragedy at the hands of terrorism, it became his mission to write something meaningful and poignant about the effect that bitterness and hatred can have upon a society. “When we realise how similar we all really are, maybe we'll stop fighting and start to truly respect each other,” he said. “That, I suppose, is the message I would like Come the Dawn to be remembered for.”

“On reading it, I was immediately impressed by the courage of the man in taking on such a huge and delicate subject matter. I was even more impressed with an end product which was and which is totally non-partisan and non-judgemental in its construction,” said Pat McGovern, chairperson, Ballinrobe Musical Society. “I am delighted and very excited that next February we will have the opportunity here in Ballinrobe to present to the public a work of musical drama which I believe to be one of the most important ever to come out of this Ireland.”

 The show will enjoy a run of eight nights from Saturday February 19 to Saturday February 26 in Ballinrobe Community School. Pat McGovern also expressed his sincere thanks to the local dignitaries, media and the business community of Ballinrobe and its surrounding areas for their unwavering support and commitment to the arts. “Their contribution and endorsement of our efforts is vital and very much appreciated by us and that we are very much looking forward to working with them again this year,” he said. McGovern also welcomed the return of musical director John Roe, who received a nomination for his work with the society as musical director on The Pirate Queen. Also returning this year is assistant choreographer Aoife McClafferty. Auditions will take place this Sunday, October 3 from 2pm in the CBS Parish Centre.


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