The winning group and director of A Merciless Hand.

National drama success for Mayo school

THE Sacred Heart School, Westport, drama group has won the much sought after Donal Buckley Perpetual Trophy for the All-Ireland light entertainment competition.

The win came on a historic day for the school when their brave football team just missed out also bringing home an All-Ireland title.

The light entertainment competition is open to the interpretation of the groups as to what they want to perform - basically a competition for short musicals.

This journey began last September with two entries - one a lively, upbeat musical show named ‘Let's Do a Musical’, with songs from a number of musicals, and the other a more sombre reflection on life in the west of Ireland during the famine, called ‘A Merciless Hand’, based around a song called ‘Mary-Kate’ by Declan O Rourke, which Declan approved of and loved the arrangement. The other three songs of the piece were written and arranged by director, musicians and cast.

In heats from all over the country, 12 groups were selected for the final in the Cork Opera House, including both SHS shows.

The performance of 'A Merciless Hand’ had the audience mesmerised, enthralled and moved by this very poignant and beautiful piece directed by Seamas Cafferky.

Particular praise must go to musicians Ruby Slok, Mary-Kate McHale and Leah Mai Dowling as well as the stunning soloists and dancers - what an ovation from the audience at the end of the performance.

‘Let’s Do a Musical’ also had the audience mesmerised with magnificent acting, singing and dance directed and choreographed by the wonderful Sarah Callaghan. Niamh Muldoon and Tara Horkan were the two main characters with a supporting cast of over 40. They also received a very wonderful ovation at the end of their high tempo extremely energetic performance.

A fantastic show was put on by all the participating schools.

The musicians from A Merciless Hand.

The first award for the Sacred Heart was for best individual dancer for Niamh Muldoon. Emma Ryan was announced as best singer for her powerful performance as Bridget in ‘A Merciless Hand’.

Finally, after a nervous wait, ‘A Merciless Hand’ was announced as overall winner.

The judges called the piece ‘a poignant, moving magnificent piece of theatre' as the Donal Buckley Perpetual Trophy returned to the Sacred Heart School for the first time since 2015.

An interesting side note is that in 2015 Sinead Brogan played the central character in that year's winning performance. Sinead is currently winning many awards with St. Patrick's Drama Group as Agnes in Agnes of God, also directed by Seamas Cafferky.

A huge debt of gratitude to all who helped in any way with this success - the staff and students of the school, parents, and Sarah Callaghan who came on board as director/choreographer and brought a whole new dimension and level to the performances in a lovely fun way.

The cast of Let's Do a Musical.

The cast of A Merciless Hand was: Bridget - Emma Ryan, Mary-Kate - Sadhbh Noone, Miss Ann - Ailbhe Gavin, workhouse girls - Laura Heraty, Isabelle Foody and Maud McCabe, dancers - Maud McCabe, Eleanor McNally, Lilly Conway and Ella O’Malley, musicians - Ruby Slok, Leah Mai Dowling, Mary-Kate McHale, and director Seamas Cafferky.

Let’s Do a Musical cast: Sr. Perpetua - Tara Horkan, Ms. Johnstone - Niamh Muldoon, Chicago group - Niamh Muldoon, Chloe McGlynn, Aine Duffy, Madeline Murphy, Katie Hart and Ruth Pelham Burns, six group - Grace O'Brien, Elisa Carr, Mia Duffy, Kyla Rabbett, Grace Donovan and Beatriz De Sa Reilly, tap dancers - Grace Kerrigan, Clodagh Fitzgerald, Rebecca Fitzgerald, Béibhinn Fahey, Melody Corcoran and Serena Walsh, dancers and chorus - Aisling Walshe, Chloe Gill, Grace Cusack, Emma McGarvey, Lauren Clarke, Ruby Wilson, Aoibhín Nic Dhonncha, Ciara Conran, Cara Conlan, Isla McCartney, Matilda Moran and Niamh McNally. Director/choreographer - Sarah Callaghan. Assistant - Seamas Cafferky. Sound engineer - Aoibha Moore.