Sandra Berry (Stacia Doyle), Sile Reynolds (Portia) and Daniel Murray (Fintan Goolan)

TADS to stage 'Portia Coughlan' in Esker Arts Centre next week

Theatre lovers in Tullamore and surrounding areas will have a unique chance to savour a gripping play written by a local playwright when Tullamore’s Amateur Dramatic Society (TADS) bring Marina Carr's powerful work, Portia Coughlan, to the stage in Esker Arts Centre next week.

The homecoming for this epic work, which has been enthralling audiences since its revival at the Abbey Theatre last year and which is currently playing at the Almeida Theatre in London, is a very special event for TADS and director of the play, Fionnuala Corrigan. It gives the talented local company the chance to showcase the work of one of the most creative and prolific playwrights of her generation who draws much of her inspiration from her experience of growing up in Offaly.

Portia Coughlan will be staged in Esker Arts Centre from Tuesday night next, November 7, right through until Saturday night, November 11 at 8pm, and tickets, priced at €15 each, are currently available to purchase from Esker Arts Centre or from members of TADS, who can be contacted on their social media channels.

Marina Carr was born in 1964 and grew up near Pallas Lake, went to Gortnamona National School and attended the Sacred Heart School Tullamore. Many local people will recall her parents, Maura, who taught in Gortnamona NS and was a renowned poet, and Hugh, who served as District Court Clerk and was also a playwright.

Having graduated from UCD with a Degree in English and Philosophy, Marina Carr went on to scale new literary heights over the past three decades by writing a succession of hugely-successful plays which have been performed in theatres and studied in universities around the world. Now a member of Aosdána, and a recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Wyndham-Campbell award, since the mid 1990s Marina has been a regular on the Abbey Stage, with much of her work transferring to London theatres, and other venues further afield. In the past two years alone, Marina has had three plays on the Abbey Stage, two new works, ‘I Girl’ (Oct 2021), Girl on an Altar (Aug 2023) and a revival of Portia Coughlan (March 2022).

Ciara Kinnarney from TADS said the local group is "thrilled to have been given this opportunity to stage a production of this play, right here where it was originally imagined and originally set."

Set on the day of her thirtieth birthday, Portia Coughlan seems linked forever to her twin brother, Gabriel, who drowned himself 15 years earlier. They “came out of the womb holding hands” and Portia, haunted by his memory, consumed by longing, guilt, and regret, cannot seem to let go. Her family, mired in their own grief, traumas and dark secrets, flounder in their efforts to reach and support her.

Marina Carr is not a playwright who shies away from difficult themes, so this hard-hitting and bleak drama touches on subjects that are confronting and disturbing even now 27 years after its premiere: from sexual secrets passed on through generations to social prejudice and suicide. We accompany Portia Coughlan, who is married to an adoring husband and has three young sons, as her life unravels and she wreaks havoc on all those around her.

Audiences will mesmerised by the lyrical language and imagery and the wonderfully colourful characters that Marina Carr's plays are renowned for. Laced through with a caustic humour, her characters, despite their frailties and tragic lives, live on long after the lights come down.

Marina Carr draws on the landscape, language and lore of the Offaly area in her portrayal of Portia Coughlan, with references to Belmont and Mohia Lane; characters such as the Cyclops of Coolinarney and pubs with names like The High Chaparall and manages to create stories that could be of any people, any place, any time.

Deeply influenced by Greek theatre many regard the plays written by Marina Carr as bleak but if the themes are those of death, longing, loss, tragedy, her lyrical language tell us that we are also people of poetry, mystery, uncertainty, oft influenced by the strange pull of fate, of intergenerational inheritance, of circumstance, and of the thin line between this world and the next.

Portia Coughlan is a treat for all the senses, and a riveting night of theatre, so make sure to get your tickets early for what is sure to be another spellbinding offering from the talented members of Tullamore Amateur Dramatic Society.

The play is directed by Fionnuala Corrigan and features a cast list made up of actors Sile Reynolds, Ivan Hanamy, Frank O’Brien, Daniel Murray, Laura Molloy, Damien Mitchell, Sandra Berry, Susan McDonnell, John Lynch and Jacinta Dillon, who is making her TADS debut!