Saturday February 2nd marked the 60th Anniversary of the first staging of John B. Keane’s classic play, SIVE and Ennis Players plan to celebrate the important milestone.
The play had been rejected by Ernest Blythe of The Abbey and received its first staging by an amateur group – the Listowel Players in Walsh’s Ballroom, Listowel on February 2nd 1959. The play proved hugely popular with audiences and the Listowel Players competed on the amateur circuit with to great acclaim. It won all the major awards at the Clare Festival in Scariff and went on to win the All-Ireland Drama Finals in Athlone that year.
Subsequently it was invited to perform on the Abbey stage, however it was not until 1985 that the Abbey actually staged a production themselves.
Ennis Players marked the occasion of the 60th anniversary and celebrated the life and works of one of Ireland’s most loved playwrights, by launching their upcoming production of SIVE which will be staged in glór from March 20th – 23rd. Ennis Players previously staged SIVE over 40 years ago, in 1976.
John B. Keane was one of Ireland’s most beloved playwrights and a great storyteller. His plays explore the social issues of the time in a dramatic way, with marvellous characters, poetic language and plots to keep an audience on the edge of their seats. Prior to SIVE, playwrights tended to romanticise the nobility of poverty and the dignity of dealing with the hardships of life. John B chose to expose the mean-spirited characters and ugliness of greed and poverty. His characters are readily identifiable and the worst traits of humanity are explored alongside the goodness in a richly humorous way.
SIVE is considered one of Keane’s best plays, telling the story of the innocent SIVE in love with Liam Scuab but at the mercy of the heartless matchmaker Thomasheen Sean Rua and her conniving aunt Mena. The pair contrive to match SIVE with the old Sean Dota against her will, for the payment of £200. It is a powerful story still relevant today with young girls exploited by the sex trade and the reality of mail order brides. SIVE deals with illegitimacy, rural isolation, greed, poverty and the powerless position of women in 1950s society. Keane manages to deal with all these issues in a highly dramatic, eloquent and at times hilariously fully way but staying true to the reality of the people & places he knew.
Chairman of the group and director of the current production, Bernie Harten welcomed Patrons & Friends of Ennis Players as well as representatives from local drama groups & festivals to glor on the day. She spoke of the remarkable storyteller that John B was and how his characters were richly drawn with depth and humanity. “He wrote about people, events & themes that were familiar to him and relevant in 1950s Ireland. His success then as now is that these people, events & themes are familiar to us all and are as relevant today as they were 60 years ago.”
Members of the cast from Ennis Players’ previous production of Sive (1976) were also invited to the launch. The director on that occasion was Hugh Gallagher, who plays Sean Dota in the current production. Hugh reminisced about the production and welcomed Carmel O’Loughlin (Mena), Joe Walsh (Mike) and Michael Cusack (Liam) from the original production & also Phil O’Halloran, representing her husband, the late John O’Halloran (Pats Bocock). The occasion was an enjoyable one for all present and gave the original cast an opportunity to reunite and share stories and gave the current cast & crew the opportunity to showcase snippets of their rehearsal work and exchange ideas and views with those present.
With just over 6 weeks to Showtime, the Players are enjoying the rehearsal process, exploring the wit and humour of John B’s writing while exposing the hidden depths, emotions and vulnerability of the characters.
Over the past twenty years Ennis Players has facilitated the raising of close to €100,000 for local and national charities. They will continue with their tradition of partnering with local charities for opening night & this year the chosen charities are Sláinte an Chláir and Breast Cancer Research.
Tickets for the March run in glór (March 20th – 23rd @ 8pm) are on sale from glór box office, priced €18/€15 conc.