Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Christmas 1950: Mary O’Malley’s First Production

MacNeice House, formerly Aquinas Hall
Pearse O’Malley, as well as being a consultant in the Mater Hospital, Belfast, also became President of the Newman Society of Queen’s University after the couple’s move north. Part of this role was to organise lectures and host the Society’s annual dance. As well as this, Pearse discovered that it was his duty to host a Christmas party at Aquinas Hall. He enlisted his wife’s help in making this a success.

Nativity, Christmas 1950
Mary, with her great interest in theatre, took the opportunity to seek like-minded individuals to put on theatrical entertainment for the party guests. She sought advice from her friend Lily Reid, and eventually made contact with several actors who would go on to become the earliest Lyric Players: Paddy Coyle, Frances McShane, Maureen Cremin, Nan McGuigan, Lucy Young, and Bob Haldane. All came onboard and Mary proceeded with her plan to stage two one act plays, The Dear Queen by Andrew Ganly and Nativity by Lady Gregory.

Script for The Dear Queen with Mary O'Malley's notes
The cast had just ten days, during a memorable snow storm, in which to rehearse and perfect their performances. Mary describes herself in her autobiography Never Shake Hands with the Devil as working ‘like a beaver’ taking rehearsals in the O’Malley family home on Ulsterville Road at this time. 

She thrived in the theatrical atmosphere, and the production was a great success. Max Freeland, Assistant Secretary of the university, wrote that ‘it was just wonderful to realize that in these benighted times that there was someone with the skill and initiative to do such a lovely thing’. This triumph sparked the possibility amongst the group of further productions: Mary O’Malley had found her creative outlet in Belfast.

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