War: Genuinely Hilarious

On a wet and windy Wednesday evening in Kilkenny, an audience of around 120 laughed their collective heads off at the opening night of KATS Theatre Group’s production of War.

In their own words…

In mine, it’s brilliant.

Having been involved in theatre for so long in Kilkenny (Devious is a grand ten years old this year alone), there’s something equally refreshing and rewarding about going to see work by another local company that has you standing on your feet for the curtain call. If they had decided to stick one in at the interval, we’d have been on our feet at that stage too.

KATS staging of War is their second of three planned productions for 2016, having begun with a sell-out run of O’Casey’s The Shadow Of A Gunman in Cleere’s Theatre in the spring before concluding with a festive-themed Spoiler Alert heading into December.

Set in the fictional world of Barrytown, the essence of War is the Irish cultural institution that is the pub quiz. With almost the entire cast on stage for the full two acts, there’s a lot to take in and while the one-upmanship of the quiz is to the fore, it’s the nuggets in the asides and the background to the characters own lives that serve up the gold.

There’s a lot to be said for a great script (paraphrasing John Morton here). But a great script, in the wrong hands, with the wrong cast, comes back to being simply words on paper – directionless, meaningless.

With War you get a cracking script and with KATS you get a top drawer ensemble who pure nailed the performance. From the director (who also, due to some very late in the day shuffling of cast, is now doubling as a cast member) down, the show fires on all cylinder and gives you a chance to genuinely laugh your head off.

I’ve had some of the cast in on the show in recent weeks and about a month back also caught up with director Kevin Mooney and Chairperson Ciarán Dunphy (listen to the interviews there). One of the points Ciarán brought up mid conversation was around the appetite for local works by local companies, and just how healthy it is.

The theatre game in Kilkenny is a little different to most, and for what feels like the first time in a long time, if perhaps ever, there are more companies collaborating, sharing resources, rehearsal spaces, production costs, throwing eyes over scripts, helping with design, you name it.

KATS Theatre Group's 'WAR' at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny until 24 September 2016.

For myself (with Devious), KATS, Watergate, Barnstorm, KMS, the Barn Owl Players, Spark (albeit with a quiet 2016), there’s increasing natural crossovers. Not competition. Not rivalry. Not groups trying to out-do one another. There’s a genuine push from everyone to help all parties succeed.

And while it happened with music in Kilkenny in recent years, the appetite and hunger for quality works from local theatre companies for local audiences has really surged in the past year or so. Those audience figures have sustained as well, even through the summer months, is evident by solid houses as far back as the Panto with Watergate Productions in January, through to The Shadow Of A Gunman (KATS), The Full Monty (KMS), Translations (Barnstorm & Watergate), Heart Shaped Vinyl (Devious), The Hellfire Squad (Devious), The Field (Watergate Productions) and now you’ve got War.

That gives you the chance to contribute to a solid house for a company who are putting on a top quality show with a top quality cast. You’ve got Thursday, Friday or Saturday to choose from with time running out by Saturday night. Tickets are here, they’re worth every penny, grab yourself a programme (nice job too by David Brydone), pick up a few raffle tickets, keep supporting local.

I knew it would be good, but War exceeded every level of expectation on opening night. Bravo to the cast and crew and long may the trend continue.

Hats off to Alan Grant, Dee Gibney, Maeve O’Flynn, Steve Nolan, David Brydone, Aoibhin Murphy, Niall Bambrick, Shay Lawlor, Orna Ward, Philip Brennan, Jacqui Purcell, Teresa Brennan, John Prendergast, Hollie Kearns, Peter Healy and the bould Kevin Mooney. Hat tips also to Alan Butler and Cain Lynch and everyone else involved in keeping the show together.

War, by Roddy Doyle and performed by KATS Theatre Group runs at the Watergate Theatre until Saturday 24 September 2016. Tickets via or 056-7761674. Follow KATS on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ken McGuire

Broadcaster and sports writer at KCLR96FM; digital media head with a production eye on theatre, film and video; lover of all things food and music. Currently working on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu game.

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