00:00 Saturday 08 March 2008  Written by Catherine Ketch

Skibbereen tops with Tragedy in national TV drama finals

IT was anything but a tragedy for the students of Mercy Heights, Skibbereen, who took five awards at the eighth annual Transition Year Drama Festival final in Macroom at the weekend.

Performing the school's own script Tragedy, a comic amalgam of Shakespeare's King Lear and Hamlet, with an appearance by Romeo and Juliet, they swept the boards, taking first place in the competition, as well as awards for 'Best Director', 'Best Original Script' and 'Best Costumes'. Rachel Looney, playing the 'very Italian Juliet', received a special judges' award for 'Best Cameo Performance'.

The electrifying, logistically impressive and excellently choreographed production was written by English teacher Gene Griffin, who along along with Sinead O'Dwyer and Ciara Swanton, directed a cast of 32, an orchestra of six and a backstage crew of 25.

Described by adjudicator Michael Twomey as a 'sparkling production' it was a favourite to win, having been allowed a by straight through to the final from the first round. It is the school's fourth final and their second time winning the competition.

Second prize went to CBS Kilkenny, 3rd to Blackwater Community School, Lismore, and 4th to first-time finalists Nagle Rice, Doneraile.

In all, seven Cork schools competed in two national finals - the eighth National Transition Year Drama Festival and the third Secondary Schools' National Choral Festival - at the Briery Gap Cultural Centre which saw students descend from all over the country.

CHORAL

Students from first to fifth year at St. Mary's Secondary School, Macroom, directed by transition year student Eileen Kingston, came second in the Secondary Schools' National Choral Festival on Friday night last. In first place were the senior girls from St. Bridget's Convent of Mercy, Tuam, Co. Galway.

In drama, McEgan College Macroom took a special judges' award for the 'Best Dramatic Moment' in a play for Sive, an adapted version of the climactic closing scene of the John B. Keane's work.

Students from Coláiste Ghobnatan in Baile Bhúirne, who made the final first time round, were awarded 'Best Irish Play' for Sicín, translated and adapted from his own original by Macrompian Brendan O'Brien.

Eleven students from St. Fachtna's DLS, also from Skibbereen, were runners-up with the The Interview and deserved a comedy award for having the audience rolling in their seats at a script they did themselves with drama teacher Sean Ronan. Regina Mundi College, Douglas, was also amongst the runners-up.

"The fact that you can reach such a level of expertise in one year is amazing," Briery Gap Manager, Anne Dunne said, complimenting teachers and principals for adopting the idea.

Mayor of Macroom Pat O'Connell related how, out of six previous participants from Ballymun, four had taken up acting and two were now taking part in RTE's Fair City.

Ms. Dunne went on to explain that, in fact, four out of the six students from Ballymun that performed at the Briery Gap were living on the streets at the time. "When I saw that group for the first time in Mullingar performing, they came off a bus and went on the stage and they told the stories of their lives in Ballymun, the drugs, abuse, living on the streets. The script was their own," she said.

They came to Macroom in a prison bus and they performed in prison before they came to Macroom, because they wanted their parents to see them. All six, Ms. Dunne, said are now involved in theatre and two are studying drama in Trinity College.

With no interest in school, they had suddenly found something that they were good at, she said. "Through drama, you could become a different person and relate in a different way to society and it can make a difference," she concluded.

Present on Saturday evening were Mayor of Macroom Pat O'Connell and his wife, Peggy; Cllr. Derry Canty, Deputy Mayor Cork County; Cllr. Aindrias Moynihan, representing Cork County VEC, sponsors and representatives of the Briery Gap.

Adjudicators for drama were Michael Twomey, ADA; Geoff Gould and Declan Hassett and, for the choral, Dr. Declan Townsend, Ms. Ronnie O'Shaughnessy and Frank Garvey.

Noel Hackett, chairman of the Briery Gap Committee, said the next challenge for the competition was to make it thirty-two county, countrywide.

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