New voice in theatre

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The Last Stand is the third consecutive play by a new Wexford writer produced by Four Rivers, and opens at Wexford Arts Centre on June 8 for an extended run.

Written by Dominic Palmer and directed by Wexford’s Ben Barnes, the play stars well known actors from stage and screen, Fair City’s Fiona Browne, Vikings’ Morgan C. Jones and fresh from the last Four Rivers play – Amongst Men – Dylan Kennedy.

In The Last Stand, veteran comedian Tom Hooks engages in a no-holds barred verbal joust with various callers to what is his final podcast. The callers are played by well known local actors Sharon Clancy, Michael Dunbar and Jack Matthews.

Emerging from the Wexford Playwright Workshop (supported by Wexford County Council and the Wexford Arts Centre) Four Rivers and its dramaturg, Louise Stephens, have worked with local writers like Dominic, Hannah Mc Niven (Lights Out) and Eoghan Rua Finn (Amongst Men).

Hannah’s Lights Out was staged at Wexford Arts Centre last October, followed by runs at Garter Lane Arts Centre in Waterford and Watergate Theatre in Kilkenny. Eoghan’s Amongst Men opened at Wexford Arts Centre in April and toured to Theatre Royal in Waterford and Watergate Theatre.

Dominic has won awards for acting, writing and film making and has been practising traditional and street theatre for over twenty years, with an absurdist touch.

It comes as no surprise that he describes The Last Stand as “a darkly comic reprimand and riposte to bigotry and the nonsense notion of ‘cancel culture,’ while being an optimistic exploration of an ageing artist confronting his art, his life and his own mortality.”

The ageing artist in question is acerbic podcasting stand-up comedian Tom Hooks. The Last Stand is about the hilarious and punishing calls he attracts to his show. Cast and crew have been in deep rehearsal for four weeks at the National Opera House.

“Dominic Palmer’s pitch for tolerance and kindness in the hate fuelled world driven by uncontrolled social media is one that will resonate with many people,” adds Ben Barnes.

“Invited by his girlfriend Sarah to make one last stand for the listeners to his podcast, he embarks on a passionate monologue that centres on the message that ‘we only have one life and we can either spend it making other people hard, or we can spend it being kind.’”

Who better to play the part of Hooks than a veteran of Irish comedic acting and writing, Morgan C. Jones, who began his stand up career as a sixteen year old and became the chief script writer on the iconic Nighthawks series for RTE.

Since those heady days Morgan has branched out into television, film and theatre with appearances in Fair City, Vikings, The Bailout and Game of Thrones among many other credits.

Fans familiar with Fair City will recognise Fiona Browne (D.I. Audrey) who assumes the role of Sarah. Fiona has recently appeared in Portia Coughlan at the Abbey and Dubliners for Corn Exchange and can be seen in Normal People, Vikings and Red Rock.

The role of Techie Brendan will be played by Dylan Kennedy who played Sean in the Four Rivers production of Amongst Men. His theatre credits include Katie Roche at the Abbey, Lovers at The Bush, Hansel and Gretel at the British National Theatre and Philadelphia Here I Come at the Donmar Warehouse. TV and film roles include the part of Graham in The Young Graham Norton for Channel 4.

Michael Dunbar, Sharon Clancy and Jack Matthews, all of whom will be familiar to Wexford audiences, will voice the callers Brian, Carol and Keith respectively. The Last Stand is at the Arts Centre from June 8 – 10 and June 14 – 17.

Ben Barnes is also the Artistic Director of Four Rivers for whom he has directed The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Blackbird and Lights Out. He is a former Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre and the founding Artistic Director of Opera Theatre Company. His productions have been seen in cities all over the world including New York, Tokyo, Moscow, London, Barcelona, Paris, Budapest, Prague, Toronto, Sydney, Adelaide and Montreal.

The Last Stand runs at Wexford Arts Centre June 8-17. Tickets available from Wexford Arts Centre.