Written by Brian Friel
Directed by Joe Jordan
Performed in the The Mill Theatre, Dundrum - Tuesday 1 to Saturday 5 November 2011

Unoriginal Sin poster

The house is well on its way to returning to the dust it once was. Those who live in it cover the cracks in the walls, and the shaky foundations of their lives, with a collection of threadbare memories from the past and desperate fantasies from the present. In this twelfth year of the twenty first century, a tale of the decline of well-to-do delusional 'aristocrats' has a familiar ring to it. To Celtic cats, anachronistic aristocrats are an amusing reflection of a world, which just like its dated 1970s fashions, will no doubt come back to haunt at some stage.

The Mill stage was home to the dysfunctional O'Donnells and some others for the first week in November 2011. One of the others was an American academic, conducting research for his next book entitled 'Recurring cultural, political and social modes in the upper strata of Roman Catholic society in rural Ireland since the act of Catholic Emancipation'. Hmmm. Thankfully, while Brian Friel did have a go at cracking that nut, his characters, brought to life by the Balally Players cast, spared the audience the lesson and treated them to a colourful portrait of all that is weird and wonderful behind family facades - a complex web of history, position, feelings and dreams, but a simple fact of human life that is the same for everyone, facing change when the walls come tumbling down.

The story is set in Ballybeg Hall, County Donegal. The American, Tom Hoffnung - "it means 'hope' in German" notes one of the characters - has come to the Catholic ‘Big House’ to get material for his book by finding out about a way of life that was fast disappearing. The house was once home to a Supreme Court Justice O'Donnell and is now where the unwell District Justice O’Donnell is nearing his end and his not so successful offspring ply less exhalted trades.

Four of O’Donnell’s five children come back home for the wedding of the youngest, Claire. The fifth is a nun, who works as a missionary in Africa. Like the old man, for most of the play, the audience hears only her voice.

The play, one of Friel's best known works, charts the slow decline of a genteel past that is more remote in 2011 than it was when the play was first performed in 1999 in the Abbey Theatre. However, while written before the fog of recent history clouded a different 'aristocracy', as a commentary on social change it offers some food for thought and ample entertainment.

The stage set, designed by Louis O'Byrne and built by Patrick Hand with Bob Staines and Eamon Staines


Brian Friel

Brian Friel

In a writing career that has earned him descriptions such as "the greatest living English-language dramatist" and an "Irish Chekhov", Brian Friel has created memorable characters and unforgettable stories through more than thirty plays and six decades. His plays have been produced regularly at home and on the international stage, from London to Broadway and around the world.


He was born in Omagh, Co Tyrone in 1929, but moved with his family to Derry in 1939, where in 1980, he co-founded the Field Day Theatre Company with the actor Stephen Rae to launch a production of his play, 'Translations'. Since 1966 he has made the peninsula of Inishowen, in Co Donegal, his home.


His numerous awards include the London Evening Standard Award for 'Aristocrats' in 1988. He was a Senator from 1987 to 1989 and has received honorary doctorates from NUI, TCD, DCU, Magee University and Queen's University and is an Honorary Fellow of UCD, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He is a member of Aosdána and is a patron of the Irish Theatre Institute.

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Aristocrats - Mill Theatre Auditorium
The cast of 'Aristocrats' enjoying the audience applause in the Mill Theatre


Cast of 'Aristocrats'
Tom Hoffnung
Casimir O'Donnell
Uncle George
Will Diver
Voice of Anna
Brendan O'Sullivan
Óran O'Rua
Gerry Doyle
Claire O'Donovan
Michael Sharp
Hilary Madigan
Ronan Horgan
Máirín Condon
John Canning
Muriel Caslin O'Hagan
Set Designer
Lighting Designer
Costume Designer
Sound Designer
Production Manager
Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Managers
Sound Operator
Make Up
Poster & Programme Design
Set Builders
Joe Jordan
Louis O'Byrne
Paul Macken
Dympna Murray
Óran O'Rua
Doris Cullen
Aoife Braiden
Lorraine O'Hagan &
Eilís O'Brien
Fiona Walsh
Teresa Dempsey
Claire O'Donovan
Declan Brennan
Patrick Hand,
Bob Staines &
Eamonn Staines


Picture Gallery

Photographs from productions are stored on the 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 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 to see all of the available galleries of images.

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Taking a bow!

The cast of 'Aristocrats' were warmly received by audiences throughout the week of their run in the Mill Theatre. The cast members who appeared on stage are shown below taking a bow at the end of their second last performance. One other cast member, who did not appear on stage, was Muriel Caslin-O'Hagan. Muriel was The Voice of Anna, the missionary nun in Africa, who is heard speaking on a tape recorder. Muriel has appeared in many Balally Players productions including 'Enchanted April', 'Our Town' the first production at the Mill Theatre, 'By the Bog of Cats, 'As You Like It' and 'Many Young Men of Twenty'. She also received awards for her playing of Maurya in the Balally Players 2007 All-Ireland winning production of 'Riders to the Sea'. Most recently she appeared as 'Kate Keller' in the Arthur Miller play 'All My Sons' in the Mill Theatre in January 2011.

Unoriginal Sin - two crew members
The cast of 'Aristocrats' on stage at the end of the Friday 4 November 2011 performance in the Mill Theatre.


Director: Joe Jordan

The first play Joe directed for Balally Players was 'All My Sons' in the Mill Theatre in January 2011. However, he directed his first play many years ago with Dublin's Lantern Theatre in Merrion Square. Since then he has directed with 33 Players, Strand Players, Olivians and the Dublin Shakespeare Society.

Occasionally he has 'treaded the boards' with these groups and with others. In fact he played the part of 'Tom' in a production of 'Aristocrats' towards the end of the last century!

His favourite writers include Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Henrik Ibsen, Harold Pinter, Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness and a writer he feels deserves a re-evaluation, Hugh Leonard.

Joe is a great supporter of the One Act Circuit and is always on the lookout for a strong play with which to participate.


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The 'Big House'

Aristocrats stage set The stage set for 'Aristocrats'

The set for 'Aristocrats' was designed by Louis O'Byrne, who also created the set for Joe Jordan's last Balally Players production 'All My Sons' in January 2011. The master craftsman behind the construction of the set was Patrick Hand, who has been responsible for bringing to life many wonderful environments for Balally Players productions. Patrick was assisted by Bob Staines and Eamon Staines.


'Aristocrats' programme

Programme cover Programme cover


The 'Aristocrats' programme is available here as a PDF file (907KB). To open the document, left-click on the link above. To download a copy, right-click on the link above and select "Save as....."


The programme, designed by Declan Brennan, was created as a tri-fold, that is, an A3 sheet folded to give three double-sided pages. The PDF of the artwork has two pages, one for the outside and one for the inside panels.






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Pictures taken at a performance on Friday 4 November 2011

The full set of pictures taken during the performance are in the slideshow above, just below the cast and crew credits. Here's a small selection of the many pictures taken. To view and/or download any of the pictures, visit to see the '2011 - Aristocrats' gallery and all of the available collections of images.

Oran O'Rua
Oran O'Rua (Casimir O'Donnell)
Mairin Condon
Mairin Condon (Claire)












Ronan Horgan & Mairin Condon
Ronan Horgan (Eamonn) & Mairin Condon (Claire)
Oran O'Rua & Hilary Madigan
Oran O'Rua (Casimir) & Hilary Madigan (Judith)













Gerry Doyle
Gerry Doyle (Uncle George)
Michael Sharp
Michael Sharp (Father)













John Canning and Brendan O'SullivanJohn Canning (Willy Diver) and Brendan O'Sullivan (Tom Hoffnung)
Claire O'Donovan Claire O'Donovan (Alice)
Cast in Aristocrats John Canning, Ronan Horgan, Claire O'Donovan, Oran O'Rua, Mairin Condon and Hilary Madigan




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