The Corkman - - NEWS - Michael MCGRATH

OVER the past 25 years there have been many ster­ling per­for­mances by both ama­teur and pro­fes­sional com­pa­nies and ac­tors at the School­yard Theatre in Charleville.

Who can for­get the act­ing of Jon Kenny in his role of the Bull McCabe with the Shoe­string Theatre Com­pany in John B. Keane’s ‘ The Field,’ or that of Martin Hen­nessy as the Bird O’Don­nell in the same pro­duc­tion, or William Lyons as Ken­neth McAlis­ter in ‘A Night in Novem­ber’ by Marie Jones, a per­for­mance which won him the best ac­tor award at the All-Ire­land Drama Fes­ti­val of 2008.

Both of these were home­grown pro­duc­tions di­rected by Kevin O’Shea, whose fer­tile the­atri­cal mind brought some in­no­va­tive touches to the works, such as the out­door mur­der scene in the ‘Field’, that en­hanced the end prod­uct.

Other notable pre­sen­ta­tions through the years by the same di­rec­tor in­clude Jimmy Mur­phy’s ‘ The Kings of Kil­burn High Road’ where the per­for­mance of the late John But­ler earned plau­dits all over the coun­try and best ac­tor awards at the fes­ti­vals. An­other one was his act­ing in Jim Nolan’s ‘ The Sal­vage Shop,’ in which he par­took, shortly be­fore he suc­cumbed to can­cer, light­ing up the stage with his per­for­mances.

An­other young ac­tress who distin­guished her­self in the School­yard Theatre and be­yond is Katie Holly, who has gone on to make a name for her­self as a play­wright of note. Her lat­est work, ‘ The Crow­man’, is due to open shortly in Dublin star­ring Jon Kenny and her­self.

Since it opened in 1993, the School­yard Theatre has had an enor­mous im­pact on the peo­ple from Charleville town and the greater North Cork area, as they have been af­forded the op­por­tu­nity of see­ing both ama­teur and pro­fes­sional pre­sen­ta­tions staged by the coun­try’s most pres­ti­gious theatre com­pa­nies, as well as in­di­vid­ual per­form­ers.

The theatre is housed in a beau­ti­ful cut stone build­ing, built as the town’s na­tional school in 1833, and set in a walled court­yard on Charleville’s Old Lim­er­ick Road. It con­sists of an en­trance hall, foyer, and the orig­i­nal pine floor boards, which were re­stored and pol­ished. The 14-foot high ceil­ing is sup­ported by the pil­lars in­stalled over 180 years ago, and the at­mo­spheric dé­cor is en­hanced by an­tique fur­nish­ings.

A ma­hogany stairs leads to the in­ti­mate 102 seat theatre where the at­mos­phere is magic both for the au­di­ence and per­form­ers on stage. The raked seat­ing sys­tem en­sures that ev­ery­body has an ex­cel­lent view of the stage in com­fort­able seats.

The stage it­self is a di­rec­tor’s dream and its 31 feet wide and 19 feet deep. The di­men­sions mean that pro­duc­tions of any

A scene from ‘Sharon’s Grave’ by the Shoe­string Theare group at the School­yard Theatre in 2016.

The late John But­ler (cen­tre) pic­tured with singer/song­writer John Spil­lane (left) and en­ter­tainer John Kenny at the trib­ute night ar­ranged by the Shoe­string group at the School­yard Theatre Charleville in Au­gust 2008.

Di­rec­tor Kevin O’Shea.

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