As part of its extensive 25 year celebrations Waterford Youth Arts put on a controversial 1940’s American folk play Dark of the Moon. The fact that a very young Paul Newman played the John Witch character and gave the work a certain cachet and these days work about witches, magic, vampires, superstitions and violations have a macabre attraction.
Jim Nolan’s skilful direction and Deirdre Dwyer’s design and Eoin Dalton’s olde-timey musical direction served the young cast well.
The story is a mix of Romeo and Juliet and Rosemary’s Baby set in a mountainy area in the Appalachian mountains where small inbred communities were considered hillbillies, rubes or cornpones, even though today these can be considered politically incorrect terms.
A young witch boy John falls in love with Barbara Allen and is willing to become human to marry her. He cannot enter a church and contact Conjour Woman (Megan Stokes) to magic his transformation but if within a year either he or Barbara are unfaithful he will revert to a 300 year old witch and Barbara is doomed by love.
This unholy union upsets the tightly-knit community and in a church ritual the preacher Haggler allows a man to rape Barbara and bring about the inevitable tragedy.
Paula Weldon was excellent as the confused but trusting Barbara. Jamie Power was equally fine as John. Conor Halpin Jnr., was impressive as the corn liquor drinking preacher. Nick Kavanagh was amazing as the Conjour Man. Kate Rellis brought venom and viciousness to the role of Edna and Helena White brought much needed comedy to the role of Miss Metcalf. Ellen O’Carroll gave an impressive cameo as the mute and attentive Sarah. Niamh Dalton, Elaine Stone, Aidan Connolly and Dean O’Sullivan provided excellent music and the church scenes were very well done.
Jim Nolan in his programme note, a bit of pre-emptive retaliation, credits me with recommending the play to him years ago but I think he has me confused with his Choke My Heart days.
In today’s politically correct times, some people feel this sort of play should not be performed and when the Vatican consider Harry Potter a godless work, it is confusing. It would not have been my choice of play but this company did it with compassion and a sort of integrity. For those who might want to pursue such issues further, I can recommend Mark Twain – Cornpone Opinions.
But let people not lost sight of the wonderful work Waterford Youth Arts have done in the last 25 years and will continue to do in the years ahead.