Guests of the Nation

Written by Frank O'Connor (adapted by Gary Wall)
Directed by Gary Wall
2013 Performances:
The Mill Theatre Studio 9 to 12 October 2013 and on the One Act Circuit in 2013
2014 Performances:
The Mill Theatre Studio 29 April 2014 and Little Theatre, Athlone on 5 May 2014 (by invitation to the Fringe Festival accompanying the All Ireland Drama Festival).
2015 Performance:
St Enda's Park, Rathfarnham 30 June & 1 July and Mill Theatre, Dundrum 3 & 4 July,
'Spots op West' International Theatre Festival, Belgium, 8 July 2015.

This play was entered by Balally Players into the 'All Ireland One Act Festival' for 2013. On Saturday 7 December 2013 the group brought 'Guests of the Nation' to the national finals of the All-Ireland One Act Drama Festival in Roscommon and secured second place. The production was entered into a total of five local one act festivals. It was overall winner in two of those and took second place in the other three.

Guests of the Nation poster


The stage adaptation by Gary Wall is based on the short story 'Guests of the Nation' written by Frank O'Connor, which is probably his most widely read story. O'Connor's experiences as a member of the IRA during the Troubles shaped his attitudes and gave much material for his writings.

It is the story of an unlikely friendship between two British Soldiers and their IRA captors during the Irish War of Independence.

The show was very well recieved by the audience and the adjudicator at the All-Ireland Finals in Roscommon. The Design Team won the Adjudicator's Award and Kevin Fahey was nominated for Best Actor.

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Frank O'Connor (1903–1966)

Frank O'Connor
Frank O'Connor

Following his retirement from politics in 1964, former UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan became chairman of Macmillan Publishers, of which Frank O'Connor's publisher, Gill & Macmillan, was a part. In a foreword to 'Michael/Frank: Studies on Frank O'Connor , with a Bibliography of his Writing' edited by Maurice Sheehy, Harold Macmillan wrote:


"Frank O'Connor had two names and lived a life of many facets. Yet everything he did, however unexpected or even contradictory it might seem, was informed by the same single-minded and passionate integrity. The young Irish rebel and the mature war-time friend of Britain, the eccentric librarian, the enthusiastic man of the theatre and the meticulous self-taught scholar, the sonorous translator of Irish poetry and the superlative short-story writer, the inspiring public lecturer and the dogged master of the seminar – all were unquestionably the same unique and original man."


He was born and raised as an only child in Cork. His father's alcoholism and the resulting debt, and ill-treatment of his mother framed and shaped his childhood. In 1918 he joined the First Brigade of the Irish Republican Army and served in combat during the Irish War of Independence. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and was interned by the government of the new Irish Free State between 1922 and 1923.


His life after that centred around work as a teacher of Irish, theatre director, and librarian. In 1935, he joined the board of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, founded by W. B. Yeats and other members of the Irish National Theatre Society and became its managing director in 1937. After Yeats's death and disagreements with the board left the Abbey. He went on to teach in the United States. Many of his short stories were published in The New Yorker.


Frank O'Connor suffered a stroke while teaching at Stanford University in 1961. This distinguished man of letters, considered by some to be underrated, died from a heart attack in Dublin, on 10 March 1966.


Guests of the NationGeoff O'Keeffe (Adjudicator) and Gary Wall (Director) receiving the Adjudicator's Award for the Design Team at the All Ireland One Act Drama Finals in Roscommon - December 2013


Mary Brigid
Kate Canning
Joe McCarthy
Kevin Fahey
Sean Murphy
Dave Walsh
Muriel Caslin O'Hagan
Sean Daly
Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Manager
Production Manager
Sound Design
Gary Wall
Pat Hand
Derek Owens
Hilary Madigan
Pat O'Grady
Kate Canning &
Muriel Caslin O'Hagan
Dympna Murray
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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 visit to see all of the available galleries of images and download copies in a range of different sizes.

SmugMug link
To download images, click on the SmugMug logo above to open the Gallery in a new window.


The team performed exceptionally well in its performance at the national finals of the All-Ireland One Act Drama Festival in Roscommon on Saturday 7 December 2013. The very positive adjudication, which included two nominations, reflected that. All the actors received great critiques — Kevin Fahey was nominated for Best Actor and the Design Team won the Adjudicator's Award.

The entry from Prosperous was the overall winner at the All-Ireland Finals in Roscommon. The Balally Players results in the One-Act Festival circuit were as follows:

  • FINALS in Roscommon: 2nd place and the Adjudicator's Award went to the Design Team. Kevin Fahey was nominated for Best Actor.
  • Prosperous: WIN plus Adjudicator's award to Gary Wall and a nomination for best performance to Kevin Fahey and David Walsh.
  • Cavan: WIN plus Best Director to Gary, Best Actress to Kate and nominations for performances to Kevin and Muriel Caslin O'Hagan.
  • Birr: 2nd place and Adjudicator's award to Gary Wall for adaptation, interpretation and production.
  • Naas: 2nd place and Adjudicator's award to Gary for same, plus nominations to Kevin Fahey for Best Performance, Pat O'Grady for Lighting and Kate Canning was nominated for best performance.
  • Dundrum: 2nd place and Adjudicator's award to Gary Wall for adaptation and imaginative staging. Kevin Fahey was nominated for Best Actor and Muriel Caslin-O'Hagan was nominated for Best Actress.


The group was invited to perform the play in July 2015 at the 'Spots op West' theatre festival in Belgium organised by the International Amateur Theatre Association. 'Spots op West 2015' took place from 7-12 July. The play was performed on 8 July 2015 as one of many contributions from amateur drama groups around the world.

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To download images, click on the SmugMug logo above to open the Gallery in a new window.


The photographs in the Gallery above were taken by members of the team who travelled to Belgium and Katleen Clé. The group performed two shows (7:15pm and 9:30pm) on 8 July 2015 at 'Spots op West', the theatre festival of OPENDOEK, the Flemish governmental organisation for amateur theatre.


"And from that day forward, everything appeared to me as if in a different light."

Guests of the Nation

The themes in 'Guests of the Nation' are centred around the futility of war; its first casualty, truth; and its inevitable ruthless treatment of those it touches. With humour and pathos in equal measure, the play and its characters raise questions about what is valued and what is most valuable in life.

The short-story, on which this play is based, is set after the First World War (1914-1918) and during the conflict which ended with the granting of Irish independence in 1921. In the story men from both sides are living together in the Irish countryside. The interactions between the Irish men and the two British soldiers are cordial, even friendly. They do argue, but they also play cards together. The discussions they have include subjects such as politics and religion; and the way they act with one another at times suggests anything but the armed conflict that brought them into contact and which is still very much alive all around them. Apart from providing reflection on the purpose and morality surrounding the actions of those who follow orders at the frontline, the two women characters ground the story and steer it to raise questions about the relative value and importance of life and death over politics and religion.

In the second part of this one act play, which covers only two days, the mood changes dramatically. After another argument about religion and capitalism between Noble, the devout Irishman, and Hawkins, his atheistic prisoner, Bonaparte finds out from Donovan, their superior, that the soldiers are being held as hostages and will be shot in retaliation for the execution of their imprisoned comrades. The IRA is not mentioned by name, but it is clear who they are. The following evening Donovan calls to the farm; the men are taken out; and shot.

The execution changes everything and is the focal point of the moving conclusion of the story. That it changed the men so utterly is the point of the story — the paradoxical experience of armed conflict — futile and profound at the same time.


Pictures taken at a performance in the Mill Theatre Studio on Tuesday 29 April 2014

The full set of pictures taken during the performance are in the slideshow above, below the cast and crew credits. Here's a small selection of the pictures taken. To view and/or download any of the pictures, visit to see the '2013 - Guests of the Nation' gallery and all of the available collections of images.

Guests of the Nation
Mary Brigid (Kate Canning)
Guests of the Nation
Lighting was by Pat O'Grady












Guests of the Nation
Hawkins (Kevin Fahey) and Belcher (Dave Walsh)
Guests of the Nation
Woman (Muriel Caslin O'Hagan)












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Guests of the NationBelcher (Dave Walsh) and Hawkins (Kevin Fahey) with Noble (Seán Murphy)
Guests of the NationBelcher (Dave Walsh), Donovan (Seán Daly), Hawkins (Kevin Fahey), Woman (Muriel Caslin O'Hagan), Noble (Seán Murphy) and Bonaparte (Joe McCarthy)
Guests of the Nation Belcher (Dave Walsh), Hawkins (Kevin Fahey), Noble (Seán Murphy) and Woman (Muriel Caslin O'Hagan),
Guests of the Nation Belcher (Dave Walsh) with Noble (Seán Murphy)
Guests of the Nation Hawkins (Kevin Fahey), Donovan (Seán Daly), Belcher (Dave Walsh) and Bonaparte (Joe McCarthy)
Guests of the Nation Donovan (Seán Daly), Hawkins (Kevin Fahey), Belcher (Dave Walsh) and Bonaparte (Joe McCarthy)


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