Riders to the Sea

Written by John Millington Synge
Directed by Geoffrey O'Keeffe
Performed in:
Mill Theatre, Dundrum and in Cavan, Cork City, Haulbowline in Cork, Ballymahon in Co Longford and Rossmore in Co Cork. Performance dates: October - December 2007

Second All-Ireland win - two years running

The play chosen for the One-Act Festival in 2007 was 'Riders to the Sea' by John Millington Synge (1871-1909). Following a preview in the Mill Theatre Studio in October of that year, the cast and crew 'took to the road' for five festival performances. The play finished first in three of these five performances and went on to compete in the All-Ireland finals, where Director Geoffrey O'Keeffe, his cast and crew 'brought the cup home' again for a second year in succession on the night of Sunday 2 December 2007 by winning the Open Section at the All-Ireland One Act Drama Festival in Rossmore, Co Cork.

Colin Dolley

The adjudicator, Colin Dolley (left), noted how the production presented a strong and evocative atmosphere even before the curtain opened.

This, he said, was achieved through the set design, costumes, lighting and sound and reinforced by the acting.


He was particularly impressed by the pace of the production, the sense of time and of family and community. "With ten minutes to setup for a festival performance, to get to this level of presentation is a considerable achievement".

He commented in detail on the "director's eye for the visual". He noted that half of the overall impact of a production has nothing to do with what is said, but how it looks and how the actors use body language, movement and silence to communicate what the characters are feeling.

Hilary and Geoff
Hilary Madigan and Geoffrey O'Keeffe


"This director produced a continuous set of very telling stage pictures" which enabled "all elements to work together" and which allowed the relationships to be "explored in great depth" through the "unspoken emotions" and "the tension in the air". He said that Geoffrey found the "right shifts in mood".



Commenting on some of the individual performances, he said that Maurya, played by Muriel Caslin O'Hagan, captured the "thoughtful, deep genuine emotion" of the character in the words provided by the playwright, but also in the way she drew the audience into her world, particularly in the moving scene where her dead son was laid out on the table in the house.

Riders to the Sea
Maurya (Muriel Caslin O'Hagan) and Bartley (Damien Molony) during rehearsal


Bartley, played by Damien Molony, had a "great physical presence" on stage and established the mother-son relationship very effectively with few words. Damien was nominated for 'Best Overall Performance'.

Jacqueline Dooley's 'Cathleen' was "effortlessly busy". She "showed us that she kept that house going" in spite of the crisis and trauma that descended upon it and she did an excellent job of "suggesting the support" that was a fundamental part of her character.

Nora, played by Niamh Holland complemented the other characters, who were written to be stronger, by evoking a neutral, normal base against which we could measure the other personalities.

The adjudicator also complemented the Women and the Men who, he said, "added greatly" and were an "essential part of the mood". He described them as an integral "part of the set and the beauty of the stage pictures".

In conclusion, Colin Dolley said that the production "took an old script and made it work really well for a modern audience".


Adjudicator, Colin Dolley, speaking about 'Riders to the Sea' at the All-Ireland One Act Finals in Rossmore, Co Cork on Sun 2 Dec 2007
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Themes in the play

The play explores many themes - the powerful mix of religion, superstition and the constant struggle to live with and against nature. It focuses, in particular, on the sea, which provides a living for the family at the centre of the story and takes life from it frequently. 'Riders to the Sea' was first produced at Molesworth Hall, Dublin, on 25 February 1904.

Men and Women

Muriel Caslin O'Hagan
Damien Molony
Jacqueline Dooley
Niamh Holland
Francis Cahill, Eoin Langford, Hilary Madigan, Judy Mc Keever, Joanne O'Hagan, Jana Outratova, Caroline Williams
Stage Manager
Costume Design
Sound Design
Lighting Design
Stage crew
Geoffrey O'Keeffe
Pat Hand
Dympna Murray
Óran O'Rua
Gary Wall
Jean Monahan
Doris Cullen and Pat O'Grady
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'Riders to the Sea' was presented in the third slot of the afternoon session on Sunday 2 December in St. Mary's Theatre Rossmore, Co. Cork.

Rossmore Co Cork

The West Cork setting of Rossmore is some distance from the Connemara coast of the play. But the shore of nearby Ring (shown here on the morning of the winning performance) created a fitting backdrop to the atmosphere evoked by Riders to the Sea.

A fresh, wild wind swept the sea into an image and a sound that set the scene for the performance at the theatre later that day in the centre of the town.

Rossmore Co COrk
Rossmore Co Cork


Results for One-Act Festival performances

  1. Fri 02 Nov 2007 - Town Hall Theatre, Cavan Town
    Third place

  2. Sat 03 Nov 2007 - Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Dublin
    First place
    Adjudicator's Award for Direction - Geoffrey O'Keeffe
    Best Actress - Muriel Caslin O'Hagan
    Nomination for Best Actor - Damien Molony

  3. Fri 09 Nov 2007 - Cork Arts Theatre, Cork City
    First place
    Best Stage Management - Pat Hand
    Nominations for Best Actress - Muriel Caslin O'Hagan and Jacqueline Dooley

  4. Sat 10 Nov 2007 - Naval Base Theatre, Haulbowline, Co Cork
    First place
    Best Director - Geoffrey O'Keeffe
    Best Actress - Jacqueline Dooley

  5. Sun 11 Nov 2007 - Bog Lane Theatre, Ballymahon, Co Longford
    Third place
    Nomination for Adjudicator's Award for Best Moment of Theatre (opening sequence)

  6. Sun 02 Dec 2007 - St Mary's Theatre, Rossmore, Co Cork
    All-Ireland One Act Drama Festival Awards 2007 - Open Section

Congratulations to cast and crew for these great performances and results - and for bringing the 'Open Section' award to Balally Players for a second year in succession.

Riders to the SeaA scene from 'Riders to the Sea' by J M Synge taken during rehearsal in the Mill Theatre
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All Ireland One Act Drama Festival Finals in Rossmore, Co Cork

Sunday 2 December 2007




Muriel Caslin O'Hagan (left) in costume and make up for her role as the mother, Maurya.



Jacqueline Dooley (right) who played Catherine.



Cast before performance.Eoin, Niamh and Jacqueline
Cast before performance.Muriel, Joanne and Damien
Cast before performance.Joanne, Jana, Judy and Caroline
CastNiamh and Damien
Hilary and JudyNiamh and Damien


The play was also performed from Wednesday 17 to Saturday 20 October 2007 in the Mill Theatre Studio and on Saturday 3 November 2007 in the Mill Theatre as part of the Dundrum One-Act Festival.

Map of RossmoreRossmore is in West Cork, near Bantry and between Clonakilty to the east and Kenmare to the west.

The population of Rossmore is normally around 25 people, but they are used to lovers of drama descending upon their quiet village. Its friendly atmosphere and beautiful location make St Mary’s Theatre, in the centre of the village, an ideal venue.

Picture Gallery

Photographs from productions are stored on the SmugMug.com site. The Balally Players SmugMug account allows for the viewing and downloading of images at various sizes if high resolution pictures have been uploaded. The slideshow below can be run and stopped by clicking on the play (>) and pause (¦¦) icons. You can move forward and back by clicking on the right or left of the image. To go to the gallery of these images stored in the Balally Players pages of the SmugMug site, where you can see and download larger copies of the images, visit www.balally.smugmug.com to see all of the available galleries of images.


John Millington Synge

John Millington Synge was born in 1871 in Rathfarnham, which is now part of the suburbs of south Dublin. John was a sickly asthmatic child. His career was a short one. In the six years between 1903, when 'In the Shadow of the Glen' was produced and 1909, when he died, he rose from obscurity to fame as the author of six world renowned plays.

J M SyngeJ M Synge

After his studies at Trinity College, Dublin, Synge went to Germany to study music and later to Paris, where he lived for several years working at literary criticism.

In Paris he met a fellow Irishman, William Butler Yeats, who persuaded him to live for a while in the Aran Islands and then return to Dublin and devote himself to creative work. 'The Aran Islands' (1907) is Synge’s journal of his experiences among the people of the islands.

His first play, 'In the Shadow of the Glen', was performed in 1903 by the Irish National Theatre, which was founded by Yeats and Lady Gregory. In 1904, Synge's brief tragedy about people from the Aran Islands, 'Riders to the Sea', was staged at the Abbey Theatre and Synge became the Abbey's literary adviser. Other folk plays followed, including his comedy about a mock-hero, 'The Playboy of the Western World' (1907), which caused a riot at the theatre.

Two One-Act Winners

On 19 June 2008 there was another chance to see both of the plays that brought Balally Players to the finals of the All-Ireland One-Act Finals and the overall award in 2006 and 2007. Directors Gary Wall and Geoffrey O'Keeffe presented their winning productions in the Mill Theatre on Thursday 19 June 2008.

PosterPoster for Mill Theatre
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A PDF copy of the poster is available here. To view it, click on the link. To download a copy, right-click on the link and select 'Save Link As' or 'Save Target As'. The file size is 356KB.

A video recording of the performance in the Mill Theatre was made on 19 June 2008. The following images are frames taken from that video.

Still #1 from videoNiamh Holland (Nora) and Jacqueline Dooley (Cathleen)
Still #2 from videoJacqueline, Niamh and Damien Molony (Bartley)
Still #3 from videoNiamh, Muriel Caslin O'Hagan (Maurya) and Damien Molony (Bartley)
Still #4 from videoJacqueline, Niamh, Muriel and Damien
Still #5 from videoNiamh Holland (Nora) and Jacqueline Dooley (Cathleen)
Still #6 from videoNiamh, Muriel and Jacqueline
Still #7 from videoMuriel Caslin O'Hagan as Maurya
Still #8 from video
Still #9 from videoMuriel Caslin O'Hagan (Maurya) and Damien Molony (Bartley)
Still #10 from videoMuriel Caslin O'Hagan (Maurya) and Damien Molony (Bartley)
Still #11 from videoMuriel Caslin O'Hagan (Maurya) and Damien Molony (Bartley)
Still #12 from video
Still #13 from video
Still #14 from videoThe Cast at the Mill Theatre, Dublin on 19 June 2008:
Jana Outratova, Caroline Williams, Joanne O'Hagan, Eoin Langford, Damien Molony, Muriel Caslin O'Hagan, Niamh Holland, Jacqueline Dooley, Judy Mc Keever, Francis Cahill
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