Tom Nealon’s is a name that positively reverberates throughout south east drama circles – and rightly so.
Tom, who taught at Carrick-on-Suir’s CBS Primary (‘Green’) School for 50 happy, event-filled years, is one of nature’s true gentlemen.
An ever-present at Carrick-on-Suir’s Brewery Lane Theatre, Tom has done more than most to steer this delightful theatrical ship clear of choppy waters.
That ‘The Brewery’ doors remain welcomingly open says much for the level of community support that this intimate venue receives: for its level of external funding stands at a big fat zero.
That it remains a popular venue is due in no small measure to stalwarts like Tom Nealon, Peg Power, Watty Dunphy and many more.
Like Dick Meany and Liam Butler ‘down the road’ in the Strand Theatre, Tom has been a stern but fair task master to many a cast in many a production down through the years.
After his superb turn as Hugh Leonard’s ‘Da’ on the Brewery Lane boards last year (under Peg Power’s direction), Tom was back on sole directorial duties for the Neil Simon-penned ‘Plaza Suite’, which ran until Sunday night.
For good measure, Tom acted as set designer for the production and, as is his wont, was on hand to meet and greet those taking their seats before the lights went up and the comedy gloriously unfurled.
The roots of the modern day Brewery, which has been lovingly maintained in recent times, can be traced to the 1955 production of ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ staged in the Forester’s Hall.
The brainchild of two young Liams – Messrs Clancy the troubadour and Hogan the educator, the fire both lit over five decades ago remains a brightly burning flame, which continues to nurture new acting talent. The play was directed by Clancy, then only 19 and it won lavish praise from reviewer Brendan Long.
He wrote: “The young director paced his production superbly; the dialogue was spoken by all with the maximum of effect, the movement and the grouping were a sheer joy to look upon.”
That such a sentiment has been expressed regularly by critics in the intervening years speaks volumes for the wonderful standards that the group has retained throughout all of that time.
The Brewery has introduced many a youngster to the joy of theatre in a way that a cold school text or a badly dated TV production couldn’t come close to replicating.
The works of O’Casey, Friel, John B, Arthur Miller and the magnificent Mr Simon (to name but a few) have been produced there, to paraphrase Michael Coady, quite magical effect.
“In a word, the magic is still happening,” wrote Coady upon the group’s 50th anniversary, “the mysterious force and enchantment of live theatre when everything comes together”.
Carrick, he added, “is lucky to have and to have had its drama group, with their own little theatre – a visionary enterprise in itself”.
There’s no Radio City-like blaze of neon that directs one to Brewery Lane. Located off Castle Street, a stone’s throw from Ormond Castle in one direction and the Strand Theatre in the other, the Brewery makes for a wonderful discovery.
Taking your seat in an auditorium smaller than many a sitting room, literally only feet from the compact stage, once you’ve seen one Brewery Lane production, you’ll be left longing for more.
There are many who deserve credit for its ongoing success, but the man skippering the good ship Brewery Lane merits singular praise for his enthusiasm, energy and passion for local theatre.
At the heart of a community full to overflowing with honest to goodness men and women, Tom Nealon stands centre stage in Carrick-on-Suir. Take a bow, Tom. And keep doing what you do so well.