Every Autumn across Ireland, in conversations on village streets, in shops and after mass, the question goes out -" what play are ye doing this year?". Building on the rural tradition of "entertaining yourselves", the play is an expression of communal spirit.
In the south-west corner of Co. Limerick, every winter for more than 30 years, the Canavour Players of Ballinvreena (population two hundred, one village hall, one thatched tea room, four streetlights, no streets, plenty of boreens) have come together to put on 'the play'.
Bright Lights, Small Village goes on a compelling and often humourous journey behind the scenes with the Canavour Players. For 3 months, the commitment is huge with rehearsals of up to 4 nights a week. There is always tension as the opening night draws near, hurried preparations of set and costumes and meeting up in each other's houses to get tricky lines off. Finally queues form outside the hall to be a part of a true community ritual.
Childcare worker Mags Cuneen takes on her first big role, while stage veteran and farmer Dave Barry juggles performing and calving. Seasoned director Sarah Reynolds cajoles and harangues a committed but not always co-operative cast, while stage-set builder Mike O'Reilly grapples with how to fit create and demolish a house every night on a 10*10ft stage.
The programme weaves the stories of the cast and crew from the play selection through to the final performance. The programme builds over time and in tension as each rehearsal draws the opening night closer. Interviews with the director, cast members, and stage set builders, at different stages, mix with revealing live recordings. Bright Lights, Small Village captures the passion, the frustrations, and the tensions as opening draws near, then the nervousness and personal/communal triumph of it all coming together warts and all.
Bright Lights Small Village is a Grey Heron Media Production for RTE Radio 1 and is made with the assistance of the Sound and Vision Fund, a BAI initiative.
This year's production by the Canavour Players, "The Maiden Aunt", is being staged at the Ballinvreena Hall on Saturday 6th February and Sunday 7th February 2010 at 8:30pm sharp.
Production Supervision by Liam O'Brien
First broadcast February 6th 2010.
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.