Beara's annual panto is a community showcase for incredible talent

December 22nd, 2017 5:10 PM

By Southern Star Team

Maria (Ger O'Sullivan) with Captain von Trapp (Senan O'Connor) and Frau Shauphanhouser (Anne Squire) in this year's panto at the Lehanamore Community Centre.

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By Carina Jeisy


IN what might just well be the most westerly panto in Ireland, Lehanmore Community Centre at the tip of the Beara peninsula, is playing host to The Sound of Music panto from the Lehanmore Players.

The Players began their Christmas panto runs some years ago with Cinder-Eile, followed by The Garnish Bride, Úna and her Technicolour Gúna and last year’s colourful Mikado. Lehanmore’s pantomime productions are known for their originality and local creativity. 

The parish of Allihies seems to be living proof that the inspiration purportedly associated with crystal, the bedrock of Beara, is truly seeping into the landscape and its inhabitants. 

The talent here is relentless. There are no bought sets, no scripts printed off the internet and no outside make-up artists drafted in.  

Many of the costumes are handmade; scripts are written from scratch by local writers Bill Griffin and Carina Jeisy, and the actors add their own flavour to the writing and then bring it to life with a wide range of singing and acting talents. 

Director Bill Griffin writes the original theme songs, this year’s title being Idle Weeks (based on the tune of the original Edelweiss.) 

Past theme songs, which include Garnish Girls and The Tulip of Sweet Garnish, have entered cult status at the end of the Beara peninsula, with renditions to be heard in the pubs in Allihies if you visit for long enough.

Artist Bill Murray, a native of Cork city, but long time resident of Allihies (and formerly of the Everyman Theatre), creates the incredibly detailed sets. 

Past sets remain on display on the walls of Lehanmore centre for public viewing. 

Panto make-up artist Belgian-born Nadette Charlet is an Allihies-based artist who also creates costumes. 

Two members of the team, Ger O’Sullivan and Niall JL O’Sullivan, Garnish, have taken their proven acting talents elsewhere in more serious endeavours with the Peninsula Players, Castletownbere and the Kenmare-based Carnegie. 

Long-standing member Clara McDonagh was originally trained by the Gaiety School of Acting, and Senan O’Connor joined the team more recently from the impressive Peninsula Players.

‘We are all hoping for a smooth running this year,’ says Bernie O’Sullivan, the manager of the Horizon Project, which is based at the centre, as she recalls trouble with the fuse board on the fourth night of last year’s show. 

With little time to spare, electrician Aidan Manus Harrington rushed to fix it half an hour before the show, as the cast, all made-up and ready to go on stage, were sitting in candlelight.

With (the unseen) Sarah Dornbush doing sound effects, it will hopefully make for a smooth show for Nuala Hegarty, Richie Hodges, Anne Squires and Steve Walshe, who are all out in full comic swing, as well as welcome new addition, Martin O’Sullivan (Teddy).

The brainchild of centre manager Bernie O’Sullivan and artist Bill Griffin, the panto has become a phenomenal success as a community project and a prime example of how a group of people can come together to create something colourful and vibrant, providing a forum where every talent can be utilised, with all the participants taking ownership of the production. 

But the best thing about the Lehanmore pantomime is that it’s just plain funny.

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