On Thursday 14th of December, Portumna Community School hosted their annual show to a packed house and the audience were held spell bound from opening scene to grand finale by this year’s showcase of the arts which was written and produced by Mr James Coughlan and aptly named “G.A.A. with a Twist.” The show received a standing ovation from the enthralled crowd.
Mr Coughlan explains that the catalyst of inspiration for the show came from the success of our local GAA club who won four Tommy Moore cups in recent years. The show was a portrait of a century of life from the foundation of the GAA in 1884, depicting our customs, our culture and our games. The showcase was a game of two halves involving the fusion of the old and the new. The production was entered as a Creative Engagement project which is a cross-Department initiative-co-funded by the Department of Education and Skills, the department of Arts Heritage, the Gaeltacht and the Heritage Council. The students in the production have been honoured with a grant of 1000 euros from the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals which is helping to promote the arts in schools.
Eric Duane was the narrator who provided the audience with historical explanation and significance for each scene which helped to seamlessly knit each scene and provide a narrative throughout. The first scene consisted of a nation in turmoil.
The first and second year music class provided a splendid rendition of “My Dark Rosaleen” which was a poem originally written by Hugh O’Donnell and translated into English by James Clarence Mangan.
Transition Year students, Kyle Campbell played Michael Cusack, Liam Hynes: (Maurice Davin), Eoghan Lynch: (Patrick William Nally), Jack Kelly: (P.J. Ryan), Oran Lyons: (James Bracken), Kieran Martin: (District Inspector McCarthy), Aonraoí Mullen: (John McKay) and Dr. Croke was played by Daniel Hynes. Each of the students delivered their orations with clarity and conviction from Hayes’ Hotel Thurles. Fiona Daly, whose voice is so unique sang “Moonlight in Mayo” to honour Patrick William Nally who hailed from Balla Co Mayo. Katie Salmon, provided us with an oration on the growth and historical significance of camogie.
Alyson O’Neill who researched the story relating to the design of the forerunner of the modern sliothar based on the design of the “cupped hand.” Alyson told the story of Ned Treston who captained the Galway team and played against a Tipperary team in the Phoenix Park; the match was refereed by Michael Cusack.
The next scene demonstrated how a dance like the Clash of the Ash was woven into fabric of Irish culture and beautifully demonstrated by Caoimhe Callan, John Luke Reynolds, Tracy Gohery, Ciara Reddin, Lily Mia Healy, Sienna Fahy and Fiona Lohan. The traditional scene also featured Eoin McClearn who recited the poem “Mac Eile ag Imeacht”, “Johnny is the Fairest Man” was beautifully sung by Jessica Madden, the Brush dance was performed by Kyle Campbell and Niamh Costello followed by a reel from Aoife Mahony, Linda Harewood, Ava Downey O’Mahoney and Ali McGinley. Live music on stage was provided by Liam Tierney, Isabelle Canning, Shauna Fahy and Ailbhe Salmon. The scene was concluded with a song from the trenches sung with great effect by David Kennedy and Alyson Keane.
The second Act demonstrated how the GAA became a major influence on Irish sporting and cultural life domestically and among the Irish diaspora and how it became an anchor of belonging for many Irish immigrants who had to seek work overseas.
The Transition Year produced two short extracts from two plays that both treated the plight of Irish immigration in a very real way. “Many Young Men of Twenty Said Goodbye” (John B. Keane): Peg: Rebecca Casey, Kevin: Oran Lyons, Maurice: Colin Downey, D.T.D.: Tomás Flynn, Dinny: Oisín Larkin, Dot: Katie Salmon, Maynan: Ali McGinley, Danger: Eoghan Lynch, Seelie: Sarah Jane Foley, Kitty: Aoife Woods & Tom: Jack Kelly.
“Philadelphia Here I Come” (Brian Friel) Madge: Rose Dolphin, Public Gar O’Donnell: Stephen Conroy, Private Gar O’Donnell: Eoin Gallagher, SB O’Donnell: Michael Houlihan.
“Some Nights”: T.Y Ensemble.
Colin Downey and the team of 1980 provided us with Joe Connolly’s speech as gaeilge and Aobhínn Goode stunned the audience with her own version of “My Own Dear Galway Bay.”
Aonraoí Mullen provided us with a sketch outlining in detail the importance of getting to Croke Park to see Galway play this year.
“All Shook up” Natalie: Ava Downey O’ Mahoney, Chad: Vincent Glynn: Sandra Courtney Duane & Camogie Girls.
Scene 6: T.Y. Calypso highlighted the amount of foreign nationals who have successfully played our national games.
Scene: 7: “Little List” which was re-written with GAA theme was sung confidently by Rebecca Casey.
Scene 8: “Sixpence Each Way” by Harry O’Donovan highlighted the problem all sporting organisations have in dealing with issue of betting. Bookmaker: Killian Dunne, Madam: Courtney Duane, Gentleman: Dylan Mannion, 2nd Gentleman: Stephen Conroy.
Scene 9 was made up of a Grease Medley with a twist Sandy hailing from Waterford and Danny from Galway. Sandy: Sarah Jane Foley, Danny: Colin Downey, Jan: Ali McGinley, Frenchie: Alanna Williams. Dudey: Kyle Campbell, Rump: Jack Kelly, Kenickie: Eoghan Lynch, Rizzo: Alison O’Neill Elvis: Darragh Salmon, Dance Host: Chloe Madden
Scene 10 The audience were treated to Riverdance with Molly Fitzgerald–(Choreography), Tracy Gohery, Lily Mia Healy & Shauna Murray who captivated the audience with their sheer brilliance and athleticism.
The speakers: Courtney Duane, Chloe Madden, Aoife Mahony, Ruth Beltran, Aisling Donelan and Rebecca Casey who concluded the show by reiterating the major achievements of the GAA once again.
Mrs Lohan arranged all of the costumes for the cast of over sixty-one students and her costume selection in each scene provided colour to suit the mood as the show progressed from the 1880’s to the present.
Angela Didek did a fabulous job in her choreography of this scene; she moved the big cast effortlessly and ensured that all of the students had a major part to play in this scene. Special mention to Molly Fitzgerald who choreographed Riverdance.
Ms. Coyle our musical director who assembled an orchestra from the students in her music classes: Oliver Parry: (Base Guitar), Ronan Porter (Drums), Martha Tuohy (Violin), Paul Costello (Piano Accordion), and Ms. Coyle (Keyboard) with Ciaran McLoughlan (Guitar) from Moate. Ms. Coyle who blended some beautiful traditional music in all its contrasting forms; as well as some arrangements from musicals such as Grease and Hot Mikado.
Set Design: Ms Lawne, Make-up: Ms Hough, Stage Management: Ms Hartnett and Ms Murtagh. Stage Crew: Aobhinn Goode Daniel Madden, Natasha Hynes, Jack Birtwistle, Ian McEvoy & Shane Treacy. Props: Mr Fallon, Front of House: Mrs Burke and the student Council.
Mr Coughlan was delighted with the end product of the show; “in September we had a vision and a blank canvas that has become a learning experience and a forum to showcase the skills and talents of sixty one students on stage and with eighty one students involved in the entire show. Mr Coughlan paid a tribute to the cast for their perseverance their excellence and their entertainment value. “The mind altering alters all.” This sentence is at the heart of imagination, of making, perceiving, giving and receiving in art and life; a firm conviction about the broadening, enriching and civilising potential of the arts and the opening windows of wonder.