Rehearsals are at an advanced stage in Ballyduff, West Waterford, for the very exciting Irish premiere of ‘The Welkin’ by Lucy Kirkwood. Ballyduff hold the All-Ireland 2022 best drama accolade for the moving and heart-breaking ‘Rabbit Hole’ and now bring a very different, ambitious project to the local and festival scene.

Directed by the always impressive Ger Canning, the cast of seventeen will include some very experienced faces namely Valerie O’Leary (best actor, Athlone), Fiona Coughlan, Sheila Heneghan and Mary Colbert (best actor, Athlone 2022), among others, but also introduces some new, very enthusiastic performers. 

Set primarily in 1759, with a thought-provoking nod to the future, Kirkwood explores the misogynistic 18th century legal & medical systems, sisterhood and the bond between women, together with the ever-present violence against women, who as ever, are considered inferior on all fronts.

One telling line from the play ‘nobody blames God where there is a woman to blame instead’ can be seen to reflect this point of view. With great use of dark comedy, the play intertwines 18th century country life and all its base practices with post modernity and asks whether the life of women has changed or largely remained the same.

Some have described this ensemble piece of work as a ‘darkly comic re-imagining of 12 Angry Men’, but the courtroom in this case is made up of an eclectic mix of rural, working women who have been gathered, largely against their will, to deliberate on the fate of child murderer Sally Poppy (Fiona Coughlan).

Having been condemned to the gallows, Sally is pleading ‘the belly’, that she is with child and should thus escape her dreaded fate. The women have to decide! Witchcraft and devilry make an appearance and Halley’s Comet also features prominently. 

‘The Welkin’ will be performed in St Michael’s Hall, Ballyduff, on February 17th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th. Booking opens on February 8th from 2-8pm on 058-60456. Following its home run, the group will tour the festival circuit in March, taking in eight venues, and hold out hopes for All-Ireland success, once again.