A look back at the original Kings

This Wednesday 17th & Thursday 18th February we welcome Livin’ Dred Theatre’s production of Jimmy Murphy’s emigration drama The Kings of the Kilburn High Road. But back in the summer of 2000, not long after An Grianán first opened its doors,  we were fortunate to host the original Red Kettle Theatre production of this play.

“it’s a very funny play. Every character has their own story to tell – the dreamers are still talking about coming home while the realists know that will not happen.” Charlie Bonner

Back then the Celtic Tiger was in full roar and the emigration of whole generations of young Irish people was seemingly becoming a thing of the past. How times have changed! And how relevant The Kings of the Kilburn High Road remains.

Our ticket sales rocketed when an elderly Australian nun rang in to Highland Radio to complain vociferously about the content and strong language. Audience member Laurence Blake takes up the story:

‘The last time I saw the show it was a very moving experience and not without some controversy. I found the show very real, relevant and upsetting for it brought to life many stories that I had heard from local workmen who had spent years working as navvies throughout the UK.

“It’s hard to believe that was 16 years ago and some commentators actually argued that these events never took place. I ended up on a “head to head” with a visiting nun on local radio who argued that a land of saints and scholars could never have produced such depraved, broken and drunken men. Sadly nothing could be further from the truth and the depiction as outlined in the play was very real and all too true to life.  But be sure to go and see the show for yourself and make up your own mind.

“In more recent times and again as a result of recession, hard times and unemployment, many of our skilled and unskilled workers were forced to emigrate once more. However most of these ended up not just in the UK but in far flung corners of the world and especially Australia. From what I hear from the returning Aussie workers, especially those on building sites and the mines–events and happenings as portrayed in the Kings of the Kilburn High Road are just as applicable today in such areas as Perth, Sydney, The Northern Territory or Queensland.”

Cast of The Kings of the Kilburn High Rd. JAP Phelim Drew GIT Malcom Adams SHAY Aurthur Riordain MAURTEEN Seamus O’Rourke JOE Charlie Bonner

Today’s Kings: GIT – Malcolm Adams, SHAY – Arthur Riordan, JAP – Phelim Drew, MAURTEEN – Seamus O’Rourke, JOE – Charlie Bonner

This revival features a fantastic cast including well known Donegal actor Charlie Bonner. Here he is talking about the play in the Donegal News: “They were a group of six…There is a lot of history between them so, when they start drinking, there’s singing, dancing and a lot of stories start to come out. There is also a lot of resentment there – it’s a very funny play. Every character has their own story to tell – the dreamers are still talking about coming home while the realists know that will not happen.”

Places like Kilburn may have changed out of all recognition as Jimmy Murphy describes in this article in the Irish Times: “they’re all gone now, the Kilburn High Road isn’t what it was and you’ll be hard pushed to see a Paddy these days, sober or drunk, the length and breadth of it. All that’s left are their stories, and for that we’re all the richer”.

Livin’ Dred Theatre present
The Kings of the Kilburn High Road
Wed 17 & Thur 18 Feb at 8pm Book now

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Our new Arts Magazine is here!

An Grianán Extra – A Wee Bit More is our new arts magazine.

Designed to compliment our standard events brochure, Extra offers a slightly more in depth look at some of our upcoming shows.

We have a profile on Donegal playwright Frank McGuinness written by Jessica Trainer, Literary Manager of the Abbey Theatre as well as a piece by theatre-artist-in-residence Guy Le Jeune talking about what he has planned for his residency.

Cover art for An Grianán Theatre's arts magazine by Laura Buchanan.

Cover art for An Grianán Theatre’s arts magazine by Laura Buchanan.

Our cover art is by artist Laura Buchanan and is inspired by photos from the 1916 Rising.

We also have a look back at the controversy surrounding The Kings of the Kilburn High Road when we first had it back in 2000.

Writer and local historian Kieran Kelly introduces his new play Beneath An Irish Sky which looks at how the events of the 1916 Rising affected Donegal. We will be holding a rehearsed reading of it as part of our short series events remembering 1916 which you can also read about in Extra.

Our director Patricia McBride offers her pick of the season as does well known writer and performer Little John Nee. What shows did they pick? Read the magazine now to find out!

You can read An Grianán Extra – A Wee Bit More online now. Hard copies are available at our box now.

Back cover art for An Grianán Theatre's arts magazine by Laura Buchanan.

Back cover art for An Grianán Theatre’s arts magazine by Laura Buchanan.

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National Campaign for the Arts Organises Donegal Hustings

3 February 2016

The National Campaign for the Arts will be holding a hustings for candidates in the Donegal Constituency prior to the forthcoming General Election 2016 at 1pm on Wednesday February 10th at An Grianán Theatre Letterkenny. Letters of invite have been sent to all declared candidates for Donegal. Members of the public are also invited to attend and air their views.

The National Campaign for the Arts is a volunteer-led, grass roots movement that makes the case for the arts in Ireland. It seeks to ensure that the arts are on local and national government agendas and are recognised as a vital part of contemporary life in Ireland.  The convenors for the campaign in Donegal are Patricia McBride, Director of An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny and Conor Malone, General Manager of The Balor Arts Centre Ballybofey.

Says Patricia: “Although Ireland is one of the most renowned nations in the world with regards to its arts and culture, as a country we are at the bottom of the European League table for percentage of government investment in arts. To redress this, as an organisation we are asking candidates to commit to an investment of 0.3% of GDP over the lifetime of the next government – a commitment which would take us halfway to the European average.”

“There may be some people out there who don’t watch films or television; who don’t listen to music or read a book”, says Conor, “But I would imagine that they are in a very small minority. What we refer to as ‘The Arts’ has an importance and relevance to almost everybody and we would urge interested members of the public to attend this event.”

In addition to the aforementioned commitment to increase government investment in the arts other key points of the Campaign’s GE16 manifesto include:

  • The appointment of an expert panel of Artists/Cultural Managers to function as Policy and Strategy Advisors to the Minister and the Department
  • The implementation of tax efficiencies/strategies to stimulate corporate and philanthropic investment in the arts
  • The creation of a new arts fund from National Lottery income which is separate and distinct from Arts Council funding
  • To actively fund creative industries and arts activity through Local Enterprise Boards and LEADER
  • The shifting of government investment policy from STEM to STEAM (Science, Technology, engineering, ARTS, Maths)
  • The National Campaign for the Arts Donegal GE2016 hustings will take place next Wednesday February 10th at 1pm at An Grianán Theatre.

Admission is free and is open to all.

Time: 1pm
Date: Wednesday 10 February  2016
Venue: An Grianán Theatre Letterkenny

For further information contact Patricia Mc Bride (eMail) or Conor Malone (eMail)

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After Miss Julie: A Closer Look

Rehearsals got under way in Belfast this week for Prime Cut’s latest production, After Miss Julie. Featuring an outstanding cast, this play comes to us in March and will appeal to fans of period drama and romantic intrigue.

After Miss Julie is Patrick Marber’s rework of August Strindberg’s 1888 iconic play Miss Julie. Originally Marber’s version was set within an English Manor during celebrations for the Labour Party victory in 1945. However Marber has worked closely with Prime Cut’s Artistic Director Emma Jordan and moved the action to Co, Fermanagh during the World War II VE-Day celebrations, placing the play within an Irish context.

After Miss Julie portrays the complex relationship between chauffeur John [Ciaran McMenamin] and the lady of the house Julie [Lisa Dwyer Hogg]. The ill-fated pair is caught up in a lustful tryst during VE-Day celebrations ultimately sealing their fate. Both characters’ moral foundations are repeatedly disrupted once John’s fiancée Christine, played by Pauline Hutton, is introduced to the love affair. What seems like a simple one-night affair develops into a complex chain of events that will fascinate audiences.

Patrick Marber's work includes Closer, which won three awards including the Laurence Oliver Award for Best New Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play. His screenplay Notes of a Scandal won best screenplay at the British Independent Film Awards and the screenplay was also nominated for a BAFTA and an Academy Award.

Marber’s screenplay for Notes of a Scandal won best screenplay at the British Independent Film Awards and the screenplay was also nominated for a BAFTA and an Academy Award. His play Closer was adapted into a hit movie which was nominated for two Academy Awards.

Patrick Marber is an award winning playwright and screenwriter. He has won three awards for his stage play Closer including the Laurence Oliver Award for Best New Play and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play. His screenplay Notes of a Scandal won best screenplay at the British Independent Film Awards and was also nominated for a BAFTA and an Academy Award.

Emma Jordan is a critically acclaimed director with this production coming hot on the heels of her acclaimed production of Stacey Gregg’s Scorch. “I am so excited to be directing After Miss Julie – I can honestly say that I think Marber’s rework of this classic play is genius. The placing of the action of the play at such a time of seismic change in Ireland and Britain is truly inspiring – the breaking down of the class relationships between the characters is directly mirrored in a world radically changed by World War II and the imminent rise of Labour government”

The cast of three are all experienced established actors on both stage and film with exceptional stage performances seen from each throughout their careers.

Pauline Hutton, Ciaran McMenamin and Lisa Dwyer Hogg star in Patrick Marber's After Miss Julie at An Grianan Theatre March 2016

Pauline Hutton, Ciaran McMenamin and Lisa Dwyer Hogg star in Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie at An Grianan Theatre March 2016

Ciaran McMenamin is best known for his film and television roles in such productions as Primeval, Pulling Moves and The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce. This is his first show with Prime Cut Productions. Lisa Dwyer Hogg is best known for her roles in theatre including The Importance of Being Earnest, Marnier and Heartbreak House but also for her TV roles in Waking the Dead, Casualty and the world acclaimed BBC drama The Fall. Pauline Hutton is best known for her career on the Stage for roles in such plays as Brendan At The Chelsea, Antigone and Macbeth, however Pauline has now starred alongside Lisa Dwyer Hogg in BBC Drama The Fall season 2 & 3, and also starred in Five Minutes Of Heaven, BAFTA winner for best drama Channel 4 films.

Saturday 26 March 2016 at 8pm
After Miss Julie
Prime Cut Productions
Tickets: €15/€12 Book now
NB: recommended ages 14+

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Meet the Kings of the Kilburn High Road

The Kings of the Kilburn High Road is our first drama of 2016 and what a way to kick off a season of outstanding plays here at An Grianán.

Director Padraic McIntyre and his company Livin’ Dred Theatre have assembled an stellar cast for this powerful Irish drama.

About the play

The Kings of the Kilburn High Road tells the story of group of young men who leave 1970s Ireland in the hope of making their fortunes in England.  Twenty-five years later only one, Jackie Flavin, makes it home, but does so in a coffin.  The Kings of the Kilburn High Road takes place on the day the winners and losers of the group meet up to drink to Jackie Flavin’s memory and looks at their lives, lost dreams and their place in the new Ireland.

The cast

Fresh from his excellent turn as Michael in the Lyric’s recent production of Dancing at Lughnasa, we are pleased to welcome back local actor Charlie Bonner to An Grianán so soon. A regular with the Abbey Theatre appearing in some 14 different productions since 1995 including the Friel plays Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Living Quarters, Charlie worked with us on our Rediscovering Friel project for the 2013 Earagail Arts Festival. He also recently appeared in RTE’s 1916 drama Rebellion.

Seamus O’Rourke is a writer, director and actor and his comedy drama Ride On! was performed at An Grianán in 2011, also from Livin’ Dred. He has been heav­ily involved in the ama­teur drama scene for more than twenty years, fea­tur­ing in the All Ire­land Drama finals in Athlone on fif­teen occa­sions.  In the finals, he has won: RTE Best Direc­tor in 2005 (Stolen Child by Yvonne Quinn & Deirdre Ní Chaoimh), RTE Best Actor in 2010 (for John in Con­nor McPherson’s Shin­ing City), RTE Best Sup­port­ing Actor in 2011 (Pato in the Beauty Queen of Leenane by Mar­tin McDon­agh), as well as being nom­i­nated for direc­tion and act­ing on eight other occasions.

One of Ireland’s best known actors, showbiz is in Phelim Drew’s blood – he is the son of the Dubliners’ Ronnie Drew. Recent roles include Billy in the hit musical Once at the Olympia. Phelim made his film debut in Oscar winning hit My Left Foot and has also appeared in movies such as The Commitments. Appearances at An Grianán include a memorable turn in the Abbey Theatre’s The Seafarer and Decadent Theatre’s Port Authority.

Arthur Riordan is a founder member of Rough Magic Theatre Co and has appeared in many of their productions, including Peer Gynt, Improbable Frequency, Solemn Mass for a Full Moon in Summer, and more. He has also worked with the Abbey & Peacock Theatres, Gaiety Theatre, Corcadorca, Pan Pan, Druid, The Corn Exchange, Bedrock Productions, Red Kettle, Fishamble, Project, Bewleys Café Theatre and many others.  Arthur has also written several plays including The Train, Improbable Frequency, Peer Gynt (a new adaptation) and The Emergency Session, all for Rough Magic; Slattery’s Sago Saga (adapted from the unfinished Flann O’Brien novel) for the Performance Corporation; Shooting Gallery (co-written with Des Bishop for Bedrock Productions); Rap Eire, (also with Des Bishop for Bickerstaffe); and Love Me?! for the Corn Exchange.

Originally from Cork, Malcolm Adams trained as an actor in The Actor’s Space in New York.  He was in the original cast of John Breen’s brilliant rugby drama Alone in Stands, touring with it for three years including stints in London’s West End. He also toured in Marie Jones’ Stones in his Pockets, performing in it more than 300 times in the West End and on a 40 city tour of the UK. Between 2005 and 2010 Malcolm was nominated four times for an Irish Times Theatre Award, once for Best Actor (for Arthur Riordan’s Slattery’s Sago Saga, Performance Corporation) and three for Best Supporting Actor (Belfry, Livin’ Dred; The Taming of the Shrew, Rough Magic; and Only an Apple, The Abbey Theatre).

The Kings of the Kilburn High Road by Jimmy Murphy
Wed 16 and Thur 17 February 2016 at 8pm
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Celebrating Opera Theatre Co’s 30th Anniversary with La Bohème

Opera Theatre Company return to An Grianán with Puccini’s magnificent La Bohème as they celebrate their 30th anniversary.

[box style=”red” closable=”un-closable”]Happy anniversary! To celebrate OTC’s 30th anniversary we are offering the first 30 tickets for La Bohème at a special early bird rate of €20. That’s a huge saving of €10 on the standard ticket price.[/box]

Known for its fresh and innovative approach Opera Theatre Company celebrates 30 years touring opera throughout Ireland this year. Founded to create and tour high quality professional opera, the company always implements a daring, imaginative approach to creating work, whether staged in a remote island slate quarry or in a plush 1,000 seater opera house.

Their national tour of La bohème is one of the highlights of OTC’s 30th anniversary programme. A romantic tale of love and loss, this touching new production follows a group of struggling artists in 1930’s Paris. A chance encounter between poet Rodolfo (Pablo Bemsch) and seamstress Mimi (Máire Flavin) results in a passionate love affair, thwarted by Rodolfo’s consuming jealousy, the lovers are only reunited when Mimi lies perilously ill.

The company is delighted to welcome back Ben Barnes to direct this anniversary production of La bohème. Founding artistic director of Opera Theatre Company, Ben Barnes has worked extensively in Canada and the US and was artistic director of the Abbey Theatre from 2000 to 2005.

“I think OTC’s project of presenting popular opera in places where it is rarely seen is commendable and I am pleased to be asked to direct La bohème this coming season with a really first rate cast and creative team. It’s hard to believe that OTC is entering its thirtieth year and as one of the original founders I’m glad to be in a position to help celebrate this important milestone” Ben Barnes.

(l to r) Rory Musgrave as Schaunard, Soprano Sinead Campbell Wallace as Musetta and Val Sherlock, Hair & Make up. at the announcement of the Opera Theatre Company national tour of La bohème at the Chez Max, Palace Street, Dublin.

(l to r) Rory Musgrave as Schaunard, Soprano Sinead Campbell Wallace as Musetta and Val Sherlock, Hair & Make up at the announcement of the Opera Theatre Company national tour of La bohème at the Chez Max, Palace Street, Dublin. PIC: NO FEE, MAXWELLPHOTOGRAPHY.IE

The opera boasts a sterling cast of Irish and international singers, including rising star soprano Máire Flavin (Mimi), Argentinian tenor Pablo Bemsch (Rodolfo), Sinead Campbell-Wallace (Musetta), Charles Rice (Marcello), Padraic Rowan (Colline), and Rory Musgrave (Schaunard), together with a professional chorus of twelve and a thirteen member chamber orchestra conducted by Andrew Greenwood.

One of the most popular operas ever, Puccini’s melodious and memorable score, with ravishing music and thrilling arias and ensembles will enchant audiences of all ages, and this timeless classic promises a breathtaking and emotional experience. La bohème will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Acclaimed Irish soprano Máire Flavin will make her role debut as Mimi in this production, and is currently working in Così fan tutte for Opera North. A former OTC Young Associate Artist, Máire has also appeared with Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne and is a regular soloist with RTÉ NSO.

The role of Rodolfo is sung by Argentinian tenor Pablo Bemsch, who is a regular performer at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and has also performed at Zürich Opera House and Opera de San Juan, Argentina. Pablo studied at Musikhochschule Stuttgart and was a member the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme and also a member of Zürich Opera Studio.

2016 is an exciting year for OTC and will also see a concert performance of Handel’s Ariodante in association with Irish Baroque Orchestra at Christchurch Cathedral for MusicTown Festival and Verdi’s Don Giovanni in a new translation by Roddy Doyle staged in Dublin Theatre Festival and at Cork Opera House.

Opera Theatre Company would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Arts Council.


La Bohème

Wednesday 25 May 2016 at 8pm

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Last postal dates for Christmas

Buying vouchers or tickets as Christmas presents this year? Here are the cut off dates for postage.

Republic of Ireland – 21 Dec

Northern Ireland – 18 Dec

Great Britain – 18 Dec

Europe – 18 Dec

See full details on

You can buy vouchers online here.

Use the ‘your comments’ for any special instructions such as a greeting you want included or if you want it mailed to a different address. Vouchers are valid for one year from date of purchase and can be redeemed against events on sale through our box office which includes some events in the Regional Cultural Centre and most Earagail Arts Festival events. Vouchers cannot used in our cafe/bar.

You can also purchase vouchers and tickets in person at our box office – here are our Christmas opening hours.

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Christmas Box Office opening hours and holidays

Here are our box office opening hours for the festive period. Remember you can book online anytime and as we’ve removed online booking fees you can so at no additional charge.

Sun 20 Dec: CLOSED

Mon 21 Dec: 9.30am to 5.30pm

Tues 22 Dec: 9.30am to 5.30pm

Wed 23 Dec: 9.30am to 5.30pm

Thurs 24 Dec: 9.30am to 1.30pm

Fri 25, Sat 26 Dec: CLOSED

Sun 27 Dec: 6pm to 8pm In Their Thousands

free online booking until 4 Jan 2016

Mon 28 Dec: CLOSED

Tues 29 Dec: 6pm to 8pm The Fureys

Wed 30 Dec to Sun 3 Jan: CLOSED

Normal hours resume Mon 4 January.


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Audiences are loving Ballet Ireland’s Coppélia. Will you?

Ireland’s National Ballet Company return to Letterkenny this November after last year’s wonderful Swan Lake.  This year’s production is the comic fairytale Coppélia. See it here on Fri 27 November and check out what audiences have been saying about it below:

“Unapologetically charming and unashamedly entertaining Coppélia is a joyous, delightful experience.”

“features choreography and comedy in equal measure, with a glamorous 50′s inspired aesthetic to boot.” Le Cool, Dublin


Ballet Ireland present
Fri 27 November 2015 at 8pm
Book now!

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Opera Professionals Descend on Donegal for Hansel and Gretel

In just over a week a plethora of international music talent will descend on Donegal to begin final rehearsals for the North West Opera’s lavish production of Hansel & Gretel.

Hansel and Gretel is a feast of fantasy, comedy and drama woven through with soaring arias, rich choral melodies and charming ballet sequences.

Anton Zapf conducts the North West Opera's  20 piece orchestra for Hansel and Gretel at An Grianán Theatre this November.

Anton Zapf will conduct the North West Opera’s 20 piece orchestra for Hansel and Gretel at An Grianán Theatre this November.

The NWO have been extremely fortunate to be able to welcome conductor Anton Zapf, who has worked with over 60 orchestras in 15 countries, including many national opera companies. It is Anton’s enthusiasm to be able to bring opera to all, and his long-standing friendship with NWO Musical Director Ann Jennings, that has drawn him to Donegal. He will lead a 20 piece orchestra of professional classical musicians drawn from all over Europe.

Ann Jennings (on piano) leads some of the adult chorus of Hansel and Gretel during rehearsals.

Ann Jennings (on piano) rehearses with some of the adult chorus of Hansel and Gretel.

The three principal soloists are all opera professionals of considerable experience.

The Witch/Mother is played by Soprano Ann Jennings, who has performed opera internationally for over 20 years.

Left to right: Anna-Louise Costello (Hansel) and Diana Bryan-McLaughlin (Gretel) in the North West Opera's Hansel and Gretel. An Grianan Theatre. Letterkenny November 2015

Left to right: Anna-Louise Costello (Hansel) and Diana Bryan-McLaughlin (Gretel) in the North West Opera’s Hansel and Gretel. An Grianan Theatre. Letterkenny November 2015

Hansel is played by Mayo born Anna-Louise Costello, a graduate of Dublin Conservatory of Music and the Royal Academy of Music, London and currently based in Berlin, Germany.

Gretel is played by American Soprano Diana Bryan-McLaughlin, trained by NY Met Soprano Sharon Christman, she has extensively performed in both traditional and modern opera works.

They are ably accompanied by the excellently trained North West Opera chorus, including the angelic sounding children’s chorus and ballet dancers from Zona Dance.

Dancers from Jessica People's Zona Dance Studios preparing for Hansel and Gretel.

Dancers from Jessica People’s Zona Dance Studios preparing for Hansel and Gretel.

About Hansel and Gretel

In Humperdinck’s native Germany, Hansel & Gretel is a hugely popular opera.

Since its first performance in 1893, it has captured the hearts of the audience and today is considered a national treasure. In fact the run up to Christmas in Germany would not be complete without it.

It is the perfect production if you already enjoy opera but also very accessible making it an ideal introduction to opera for newcomers.  The story on which it is based is universally known, and in addition this production will be sung in English making it easy to follow.

Hansel and Gretel follows on from the North West Opera’s highly successful productions of The Magic Flute, Carmen, La Boheme and La Traviata.

Do not miss out on this opportunity to see this beautiful grand opera on your doorstep!

Visit northwestoperaireland on facebook or go for regular updates or see our event page to find out more or book tickets.

Hansel and Gretel
Fri 20 and Sat 21 Nov 2015 at 8pm
Tickets: €25, under 18s €18 Find out more

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