The RTÉ All-Ireland Drama Festival continued last night in Athlone, where Corn Mill Theatre Company from Carrigallen, Co. Leitrim tackled new Irish play, The Devil’s Céilí.

Set in Cavan and written by Philip Doherty and Kevin McGahern, the play was first staged in 2012, and was inspired by a story from the ’60s, when it was rumoured that the Devil appeared in a dancehall.

The writers re-imagine the event, and three central characters are forced to confront their inner demons when their drinks are spiked with LSD. So the show takes a trippy, psychedelic turn as, through impressive projections and visual effects, the audience witness the sometimes funny but sometimes nightmarish hallucinations that alter the course of three lives.

The adjudicator Russell Boyce began his critique by saying that the journey of a play from page to stage is in the hands of the director, and here was a director in top form. He described Ronan Ward’s invention as immense, saying that from concept to production to performance, this was a director in full charge of what he was doing.

The adjudicator admired the amount of thought that had gone into the set, saying that it had been conceptualised with a clear sense of the function it had to play. He pointed out that the clever lighting changes and speedy scene changes meant that a play, which could have been very staccato because of its many scenes, kept up a very good pace. He complimented the skill of some very talented technical people in this group, commending the accuracy of the lighting and projections, and selected a few highlights in a production that he found to have an endless list of memorable moments.

He said that there was a wealth of talent onstage and from a cast of twenty three, Boyce picked out some individual performances for praise, including Phil Gilbride’s finely honed piece of characterisation in the role of the young priest and Killian McGuinness’ dominance as Old Lynch. However, he carried on to say that this was truly an ensemble piece of acting that flowed from beginning to end. He did find a few faults with diction and clarity though, and noted that some of the cast didn’t complete their sentences – tailing off at the end.

The adjudicator concluded his remarks by saying that he thoroughly enjoyed the play and described Corn Mill Theatre Company’s production of The Devil’s Céilí as a tour de force of theatre.

Tonight, Nenagh Players perform the third of six American plays in this year’s festival programme when they take on Bruce Graham’s family drama, The Outgoing Tide.

By Karina Buckley

For more on the All-Ireland Drama Festival click here.