RTÉ Marks 20 Years as Title Sponsor of the Festival with special anniversary video

Ballyduff Drama Group, directed by Ger Canning, were crowned RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival champions for their performance of ‘The Ferryman’ by Jez Butterworth at the Gala Awards ceremony in Athlone’s Radisson Blu Hotel on Saturday May 11th as the curtain came down on the 2024 RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival. The festival is held under the auspices of the Amateur Drama Council of Ireland (ADCI).  2024 is a special year as it marks the 20th Year of RTÉ as title sponsor of the festival, and Adrian Lynch, Deputy Director General of RTÉ, presented the final award.

Dalkey Players, directed by Emma Jane Nulty, who presented ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller, were placed second, and first-time qualifiers Ballycogley Players, directed by Pat Whelan, who performed the farce ‘Out of Order’ by Ray Cooney were placed third.


Mark O’Brien, Executive Director, The Abbey Theatre, said they were delighted to continue their partnership with the festival. He announced that after much deliberations the winner of the Abbey Award for 2024 are Dalkey Players who presented ‘The Crucible’. He said that the Abbey looked forward to hosting the group on the Peacock stage in a number of weeks.


There was great excitement when the results were announced. No strangers to Athlone, Ballyduff Drama Group last won the All-Ireland in 2022. Their director Ger Canning also won the Best Director award. In addition, John Stack, playing Quinn Carney, won the award for best actor, and Mary Colbert, won the award for the best actress in a supporting role while Noel Hayes, won the award for the best stage management, and Donie O’Sullivan, took home the award for best stage setting.


Ballyduff Drama Group has been performing on the Three Act circuit for over forty years. During that time, they won the All Ireland on two occasions, in 2004 and in 2022 with ‘Rabbit Hole’. Last year they came second with their production of ‘The Welkin’. In performing the ‘Ferryman’ Ballyduff threw all caution to the wind when it came to the saying ‘never work with children or animals’! Their performance included appearances by a live and very engaging baby boy, a local baby named Paidi, a live goose and a rabbit!


‘The Ferryman’, by Jez Butterworth is set in Northern Ireland, 1981. The Carney farmhouse is a hive of activity with preparations for the annual harvest. A day of hard work on the land and a traditional night of feasting and celebrations lie ahead. But this year they will be interrupted by a visitor.


20th Year of RTÉ as Title Sponsor – The Bride Rosney Award

To mark the 20th year of RTÉ as title sponsor of the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival, a special one-off prize, the Bride Rosney Award, was awarded to newcomers from each group. Bride Rosney served as Director of Communications at RTÉ from 2002 to 2009. During her tenure, the partnership with the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival began and it was she who laid the foundations for the 20 years of success which followed. The inter-generational aspect of amateur drama groups was something Bride often referred to. She saw it as a torch that was carried through the generations and a fountain on which great communities would flourish.


To honour the memory of Bride Rosney and mark two decades of the partnership, the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival presented an award to the best newcomer from each group. Bride’s partner Peter McMenamin presented the awards. Awards in the category went to Shay Hannon, Ballycogley Players Drama Group, Seán Foley, Ballyduff Drama Group, Sam Asaylee, Ballyshannon Drama Society, Joseph Sunderland, Bridge Drama, Claudia Verdecchia, Clontarf Players, Rachel McConnell, Dalkey Players, Mickey Brannigan, Newpoint Players, Lauren Mitchel, Prosperous Dramatic Society and Naoise O’Connor, Wexford Drama Group.


Other award winners on the night included, Rachel O’Connor, Ballyshannon Drama Society, who took home the award for best actress for her role as Margaret Thatcher in the premiere of ‘Margaret’ by Shaun Byrne. The award for best actor in a supporting role went to Sean Carty, Ballycogley Players Drama Group.


The award for best stage lighting went to Cian Redmond, Wexford Drama Group. The Drama League of Ireland (DLI) Summer School Scholarship was awarded to Hannah Clabbey of Dalkey Players for her performance as Mary Warren in the Crucible.


Speaking at the awards the Festival Director, Regina Bushell, said that all the finalists are true masters of their craft. Quoting Kevin Bakhurst of RTÉ who said that in the same way that our national sports generate passion on the fields, the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival creates passion on the boards. Liam Hannaway ADCI Chair said that the standard was so high that any of the groups could grace a professional stage. He thanked RTÉ and the other sponsors for their support of drama. He commended the Abbey Theatre for their continued support of drama. He commended the adjudicator, Tom Byrne.


This year’s adjudicator at the festival was Mr Tom Byrne. He has over 45 years involvement with amateur drama and competed in his first festival in 1979. He has won numerous awards as a director, Since taking up adjudicating in 2011 he has adjudicated at ADCI qualifying festivals throughout Ireland. Commenting on the festival, Tom Byrne praised the 9 extraordinary groups singling out their talent and creativity.

Tom Byrne awarded the Adjudicator Award to Alison Rogers, Newpoint Players, for her truly exquisite masks for ‘In the Shadow of the Glen Reimagined’ by Sean Treanor after JM Synge.


Audiences were indeed treated to a fine display of theatre this year. Amongst the finalists were several premieres, that of a new Irish play, ‘Margaret’ about Margaret Thatcher in her final years, ‘In the Shadow of the Glen: Reimagined’ (after JM Synge), and a festival premiere of ‘Radium Girls’. Two Arthur Miller plays ‘A View from the Bridge’ and ‘The Crucible’ also featured. There were performances by two first time qualifiers, as well as performances by former winners and qualifiers!