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Into the Woods as Presented by Sligo Fun Company



Wednesday 8th November – Saturday 11th November 2023


Date of Adjudicated Performance: Wednesday 8th November 2023


The rain was belting down on the evening I arrived at the Hawk's Well Theatre in Sligo. Things just seemed a little haphazard from an organisational point of view from Front of House. There was a distinct lack of organisation, bodies and structure. It was after all Opening Night after a few tumultuous days beforehand. Upon my arrival there seemed to be some confusion, a lot of people milling around but very few, if any, of a front of house team which I thought was quite strange especially on an Opening Night. Ms Kerry Golding came to the rescue when she arrived shortly afterwards and looked after me with programmes and my tickets. I must mention here that from my seat in the auditorium it was difficult to see the full stage, and it was a pity I did not have anyone to ask to change my seat before the opening number. Just for future reference the seat is important and if viewing is restricted in any way it can be an issue for an adjudicator. I will add that the theatre was really lovely and warm, and a great cosy feel tonight especially given the dreadful conditions outside on my journey up.

Mary McDonagh was both Director and Choreographer for this production- two very substantial areas of responsibility and in my opinion not an easy thing to do. In this production of Into the Woods, Choreography is not a huge undertaking and for Ms McDonagh therefore with this production it worked. This show had its own problems before the show opening with the Baker unable to perform and a replacement needed to be found very quickly. This must have been a terrible worry and not an easy situation to remedy. Ms McDonagh showed good Direction skills with the cast. Sometimes I did feel that the set, which was mostly the same for the full production, slowed the show down, even though visually it was a treat. Movement was sometimes quite stilted with one or two of the characters. Direction overall was good, and visually it was a treat. In a few instances, people stepped out of character before they exited the stage which sometimes broke the atmosphere. Just a small note but important in the overall story and audience perception and continuation.

Although not a big element of the production, choreography where needed was simple yet effective and generally well done. To get the full company used to a brand-new Baker literally a week or so before opening night and direct those scenes was a huge success. One that I imagine gave Ms McDonagh a sleepless night or two. So very well done.

Musical Director for the show was Ms Niamh Crowley. This was a wonderful Orchestra, with Ms Crowley herself on Piano, Violins were Leo Tarrant, and Leah Higgins, Viola Conor Cannon, Cello Conor Flynn, Flute Lorraine Howley, Clarinet / Flute Roisin Fitzpatrick, Trumpet / Horn Martin Moser and Percussion Desi Reynolds. This was a lovely group of excellent musicians who worked well as a team and under the excellent Musical Direction of Ms Crowley. The Orchestra greatly enhanced this show, and I looked forward to each musical number throughout the evening. Flawless. Well done.

The Set was excellent, colours, images, and various items draped to create dimensions worked very well. Set Dressing was the responsibility of Kate McDonagh. I liked the set. I loved the colours used and the depth you created on the stage with the set where three or more stories took place in each corner of the stage. However, it was easy to see that a lot of time and effort was put into creating this magical setting and its lovely attention to detail, and although the set does not change dramatically throughout the show the vision you created here for your audience was very pretty and functional for the cast.

Lighting Design was good. I would have liked to see a few more spots on people on stage when they were speaking / acting as there was so much happening on stage all the time. Sometimes the person speaking or singing was lost in some darkness. I had to look for the character as there was no direct light on them. Otherwise, lighting overall was simple but worked well.

Sound Design by Alan Dunne was superb. There were no glitches – except for maybe one or two characters who may have been amplified a little more –but otherwise this production had very good sound.

I specifically wish to mention Props by Mary Phillips, and Angela Maguire. First and foremost, that cow was brilliant. It really was. It was so life-like, and I loved the way it was moved around the stage effortlessly. It looked wonderful and probably one of the best props I have seen in my role as Adjudicator so far. Also, Little Red’s basket, The Witch’s broom, so many little touches with excellent attention to detail. I love subtle attention to detail, and this was excellent in all areas of this show particularly in props. Well done ladies.

WIGS by Ali Murphy and Costumes by Mary Finan- I must also mention as both areas were of a very high standard. Cinderella's’ sisters’ wigs and costumes were so eye catching and dramatic - and perfect! I wish I’d seen more of them! Also, the Witch’s grey mad wig and costume, along with those of the Rapunzel were highlights I must single out and mention. These two young ladies Ms Murphy and Ms Finan are truly gifted in their respective roles and both these areas were of such high standard throughout the whole show. I applaud you. Well done.

The Baker was played by Michael Lovette. He was a great character and a lovely stage presence. I was also very conscious as mentioned above that this young gentleman having stepped into the role at the last minute may indeed be a little nervous or possibly even a script in his hand. Nothing of the sort. He was a highlight of the evening for me. I loved his character and his rapport with Sarah Dufficy (The Bakers Wife) and his wonderful facial expression. His song, “Maybe They’re Magic” Reprise was a lovely scene and solo. Mr. Lovette moved beautifully around the stage and really did a lovely job in this role. He was funny, witty, serious and had good comedic timing. Overall, a very good performance. Well done. One hell of a job in a couple of days rehearsal and I was also there on opening night. You moved effortlessly around the stage, didn’t miss a word or a move –and I applaud you for doing so well and stepping into the brink for the Society at the last minute.

The Bakers Wife was played by Sarah Dufficy. What a lovely stage presence and voice this lady has. In a small number of instances, I felt she was a little timid, and sometimes I felt that her voice was drowned out by the band. It was difficult to hear her clearly in parts and maybe her microphone could have been louder. I really would have liked to hear her in full voice as this young lady’s voice itself is very sweet sounding and she looked great on stage, particularly in all the scenes with The Baker. These two are very good together on stage. “Moments in the Woods” was sung with a lovely tone and a nice quality. And “The Spell is On My House” with the Baker was a lovely number.! "It Takes Two” was performed so well. You had great clarity when speaking and the costume and accent was marvellous. Opening night sound levels apart, well done!

Sinead Conway played the part of “The Witch”. This young lady had a gorgeous voice and played the part of The Witch so well. Great comedy in parts and excellent timing. Clear, concise and confident are the adjectives I would use to describe Ms Conway in this role with a beautiful singing voice. Maybe you had played this part before or indeed it is the first time playing what could possibly be a dream role for you. Either way you were a joy to watch on stage in both your acting and singing and had a great connection with the other main characters. Ms Conway’s costume and make up were absolutely superb. “Last Midnight” in Act 2 was a lovely dramatic number and again sung beautifully. “Stay with Me” sung to Rapunzel was haunting and melodic yet full of fear of losing Rapunzel and realising some day she would have to let her leave. Well done Ms Conway on a strong assured and lovely performance.

At this point I must mention the wonderful Narrator for the show played by Orla McSharry. A clear concise and well-spoken Narrator for the whole show and when on stage relayed the story beautifully. Your black bling costume was gorgeous, dressy and so in keeping with the role you were playing – sharp, unobtrusive, but vital. Well done. I enjoyed every single moment of your stage presence without a flaw. Beautifully played.

The part of Cinderella was played by the lovely Fiona Hiney. This young lady had a lovely voice, looked great and played the part beautifully. “Cinderella at the Grave” sung by Ms Hiney and Cinderella's Mother played by Kerry Golding was a lovely number. These two young ladies worked very well together and a really nice combination musically.

Little Red was played by Eva Delany. A glorious character. A vision in her costume, fabulous movement on stage, a very believable character who looked great sang well and was a joy to watch and listen to each time she appeared. Gorgeous voice. “No one is alone part 1 Finale, with Cinderella and No one is alone part 2, with Cinderella, the Baker, Little Red Riding hood and Jack was one of the strongest numbers of the show.

Rapunzel played by Niamh Keavney is a very sheltered young lady locked away in her tower overprotected and alone. “Our Little World” sung with the Witch and it’s a sad song as it portrays the fact that Rapunzel wonders what is outside in the world if she leaves her tower. I loved Rapunzel’s long blonde tresses. Ms Keavney has a lovely singing voice and played the part admirably.

Anthony Kelly and Graham Kelly, you were just gas! I looked forward to each time you flamboyantly “arrived” on stage with fun, devilment, comedy and perfect timing. You are a match made in heaven on stage together. Everything you both did, with your dialogue, movements, acting, facial expressions was the result of just pure genuine fun and excellent timing Bravo! You were the highlight of my evening every single time you “burst forth”! and “landed” on stage. Superb casting and superb performances. Bravo!

There were a lot of “Mammies” in this production who all played their parts beautifully. Siobhan Terry as The Stepmother, Angela McGuire as Jack's Mother, Kerry Golding as Cinderella's Mother, Mhairi Gaine as Little Red’s Granny, all cast very well. Each character was so different and yet all had a crucial role to play in the knitting together of the show. Again, the costumes were amazing. Each one of you take a bow. You were all such a strong link overall in this production and I commend you all for characters perfectly played.

Cinderella's Father played Fintan Whelan was a lovely character adoring his daughter and beautifully played. There is no such thing as a small part. You showed great empathy and contrast to the rest of your family here with nothing but love for your daughter Cinderella. A lovely part played with great empathy. Mr Whelan was also Production Associate with this Society. Well done. The Mysterious Man was played by Darren Kerr, a lovely rapport with The Baker and a nice stage presence. Well done. The Steward played by Peter Kenny was a lovely part. Lovely stage presence and good acting here from both these actors.

Florinda was played by Nicole Kelly and Lucinda by Teri Brennan. Girls, you were superb. Over dramatic, beautiful costumes and wigs and again, just oh so dramatic! Loved your characters, your movements, your stagecraft and your talent. I get the feeling you enjoyed playing these two roles and rightly so! Wonderfully played. Well done!

Jack on this evening was played by Luke Devaney. What a wonderful actor, with an awesome stage presence. You played this part so well. Your song “I guess this is goodbye” “Giants in the Sky” is another highlight. I loved your character and what you made of it; you moved that glorious prop the cow so well around that stage it appeared real! What a beautiful Jack you were. You acted and sang this role superbly and I enjoyed every second. Well Done Mr Devaney. Be very proud of the Jack you brought to life. A lovely performance.

The Chorus sang very well and as an ensemble you did have this sense of camaraderie and given the events you had gone through as a company within days of opening, I applaud each and every one of you. Well Done

In the words of your Artistic Director, Sligo Fun Company was founded on the basis that this group would provide opportunities for people from all ages and backgrounds to become involved in theatre. It is clear to me that this company works as a team and has been a team for quite some time. Having met one or two of you I can see your passion and your love for this Company. I am very aware of a number of things that happened before your run and The Baker, played by Mr Lovette stepping in at the last minute to fulfil this role, with me there on opening night, was nothing short of miraculous. I congratulate you for that because that is one major achievement and well done to each of you for bringing this show to stage. A show I really enjoyed with a very receptive audience, and I really do wish you all well in your futures. You have a Society to be proud of and I hope that continues to be the case for many years to come. I wish you all the very best. Well done. And Thank You.

Caroline Daly Jones, Sullivan Adjudicator 2023/24


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