Waterford Dramatic Society celebrated 75 years of providing plays to a Waterford public with an ambitious and large cast production of O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars that was a major achievement and a triumph for capacity audiences at Garter Lane.

You have to admire the resolute spirit of this company to take on a production of such size, content and importance and to acquit themselves so well. In doing so with this Anne Mekitarian production, they saluted the achievements of the past, paid their dues and signalled to a new generation that sense of dedication and continuation to good theatre.

The casting was a welcome mix of previous stars/stalwarts and respected actors like Tommy Kavanagh, Bartholomew Rogers and Jane Leslie, with favourites of recent years in Denise Quinn, Geri Oakes and Hugo O’Donovan with the rising talent of Catherine Bradley, Jenny Clooney and Eoghan Colfer.

Recessionary times and prudent budgeting created a need for a representative setting, that was a bit sparse and Brechtian, I liked the introduction of Jacqueline Power as Citizen of Dublin to set the scenes and I can accept the moving of the Pearse character from outside the window to down centre stage, but it was a pity to reduce such a powerful character as Geri Oakes, memorable Bessie Burgess to a voice offstage in key scenes. In the final sad moments of the play surely some red light to flicker wouldn’t have been a cost factor to underline the British soldiers singing, Keep The Home Fires Burning.

But it was central performances that gladdened my heart after seeing an indifferent production at the National Theatre this year. Tommy Kavanagh was a cantankerous gem as Peter Flynn and it was as if he had never been away. I salute him. Bartholomew Rogers brought slyness and glorious comedy to the role of Fluther Good. Tom Good and Hugo O’Donovan were menacing British soldiers.

The women were central to the heroic theme of this play and Denise Quinn brought a pugnacious quality to Mrs Grogan. Geri Oakes was a memorable Bessie Burgess and Catherine Bradley shone as the bewildered and grief-stricken Nora Clitheroe. What a wonderful performance among such scene stealing performers. Jenny Clooney brought light and colour to the brassy Rosie Redmond and she brought out the contradictions in Eoghan Colfer’s communist spouting, Young Covey.

Here’s to continued success for Waterford Dramatic Society.