Brideview Drama Group present ‘Stolen Child’ by Bairbre Ní Chaoimh and Yvonne Quinn

Setting

Synopsis

Humorous yet moving, ‘Stolen Child’ tells the story of a woman adopted at birth who enlists the help of a colourful private detective to search for her mother and uncover the secrets of her family history. What begins as a personal odyssey for Angela Tiernan, to discover the secrets of her family history, soon becomes a fascinating exploration of one of the darkest chapters in the history of modern Ireland.

Cast

Angela Emer Peet
Peggy Helen Aherne
Chris Liam Roche
Mick Sean Ahern

Crew

Director Jack Aherne
Assistant Director Tomas Roche
Lighting Philip Peet
Sound Emily Aherne
Stage Manager Derbhla Kenny
Set Design Jack Aherne and James Ahern
Costume Assistant Veronica Henley and Rosarii O’Brien
Set Manager  Ted O’Brien
Set Crew Ted O’Brien, Tomas Roche, Gavin Hallahan, Pat Aherne, Derbhla Kenny, John Cullinane, John Aherne, Eoghan Hennessy, William Curley, Ger McGrath, James Clancy, John Baldwin, Michael Maher, John Roche

About The Group

Brideview Drama formed in 1989 and began competing in both the One-Act and Three-Act Festival Circuit in the early 90’s beginning with ‘The Year of the Hiker’ by J.B.Keane. They went from strength to strength, winning the Confined Three-Act All-Ireland in 2005 with ‘Moonshine’ by Jim Nolan. Competing in the Open Section since 2006 they have won a number of festivals and awards, coming close to qualifying for the All-Ireland Final with ‘Pied a Tierre’ in 2010 and with ‘Same Old Moon’ in 2012. However, this is Brideview’s first time ever reaching the Open RTÉ All-Ireland finals in Athlone.

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

With this being Brideview Drama Group’s first time to reach the All-Ireland Drama Festival finals, Adjudicator Anna Walker congratulated the group and said it’s “a magical place to be”.
Describing ‘Stolen Child’ as “a powerful social drama” and “so, so relevant”, Ms Walker said the play involves a woman’s search for her biological mother, and tackles uncomfortable aspects of Irish history such as industrial schools and forced adoption. “It was hailed as an important and ground-breaking play,” she noted.
First performed in 2002, it helped to uncover the “secret history of Irish industrial schools”, she said, adding that since then “so many disturbing stories” have emerged from Ireland’s past such as the Tuam babies scandal. The play deals with “very serious matters” – uncaring institutions, child labour, and abuse of power by both Church and State.
With scenes broken up by Peggy’s monologues, the challenge for a director is to maintain the momentum of the play. Ms Walker recalled that she had seen this play performed many times but had never witnessed the “flow and momentum” achieved by this Brideview Drama Group production. The “three distinct areas” (Angela’s apartment, Peggy’s flat and Mick’s office) were used so effectively with the scenes well blocked off from each other.
The “energetic ensemble” were razor sharp and while the harrowing aspects of the story came through, “every ounce of the humour” of the play was also delivered.
The birth scene involving Peggy was highlighted as one that was delivered “delicately and beautifully”. The scene where Peggy and Angela met was “engineered with delicacy”; it was “a marvellous moment of theatre” and “a masterclass in direction” (from Jack Aherne). This play should inform and move the audience, and also make them laugh, and this production did so in spades, according to the adjudicator.
A minor quibble raised by the adjudicator related to the character of Mick being played as an older man. This meant the “romantic dynamic” between him and Angela was “slightly lost”, she contended.
Both the lighting and the sound were hailed as “excellent”. The sound was “perfectly judged” and “evocative” and the impressive set design “captured the essence of the three living spaces”. There was “magnificent attention to detail” in the set; among the examples were the brick wall outside Angela’s apartment, the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Peggy’s flat and the Chinese restaurant sign outside Mick’s office. In general, “very high production values” were evident.
Chris (played by Liam Roche) showed a “caring nature” as a doctor at the beginning, but he also effectively captured the character’s “dubious moral quality”.
Mick (Sean Ahern) was praised for his “relaxed and sloppy physicality” and for the way he “squeezed every ounce of humour” out of his role. He showed a “whiff of desperation” to be hired as Angela’s private detective. Described as “a bit of a divil”, he showed both “astuteness” and “cuteness”. Ahern portrayed the many layers of this character and had the audience “in the palm of his hand”.
Angela (Emer Peet) was praised for her “lovely, strong stage presence” and for the “excellent rapport” she built with both Mick and Chris. Her drunk scene was “well handled” said the adjudicator, who also marvelled at the ease with which this actress managed all her outfit changes! There was an “absolutely beautiful moment” in the final scene between Angela and Peggy. Peet “followed the arc of her character” and, overall, she delivered a “polished” performance.
Turning to Peggy (Helen Aherne), the adjudicator said that the audience saw “every frame of that woman’s life”, adding that “this actress really delivered”. She brought Peggy’s troubled past “vividly to life”. This role required Aherne to play so many characters (child, nun, judge among others) and all these characterisations were “beautifully judged” and she “never went overboard”. She “painted so many disturbing pictures for the audience” and, overall, Ms Walker said “this was a mesmerising performance, she owned the stage on the night”.
In summing up this production, Ms Walker said it was “a fitting end to nine nights of magic” at the All-Ireland Drama Festival.
As this was the last night of competition at the festival, Ms Walker praised the audiences in Athlone for being “warm and welcoming” to both her and all the different groups. She described the Dean Crowe as “a very special theatre” and, reflecting on the nine nights of adjudicating, she concluded, “it’s a journey I’ll never forget”.