Happy birthday dear Alice, coming to Kilkenny next month


Stage and screen stars Catherine Byrne and Mark Lambert will appear in a revival of one of Bernard Farrell’s most famous black comedies, Happy Birthday Dear Alice, commissioned by Waterford’s Red Kettle Theater Company in 1995.

Catherine, an Irish film and stage veteran who played Dr Judith Dillon in Fair City for four years, and Mark, who appeared in Breakfast on Pluto and Veronica Guerin, will take on the lead roles of Alice and Jimmy in the Four Rivers cover of Farrell’s much-loved play.

Happy Birthday Dear Alice marks the return to the national scene of Bernard Farrell, author of more than twenty plays including I Do Not Like Thee, Dr. Fell and The Last Apache Reunion.

A stalwart of the Abbey Theatre, which premiered many of his plays, Farrell’s Happy Birthday Dear Alice insightfully dramatizes the efforts of a suburban Irish family to lock up their widowed mother in a nursing home.

The issues raised by the play when it first performed in 1995 continue to resonate today: people living alone in family homes are encouraged to consider “right sizing” by taking advantage of “incentives” from lending institutions.

Happy Birthday Dear Alice reunites director Jim Nolan with Bernard Farrell: the play was originally commissioned by Jim’s Red Kettle Theater Company. “The Four Rivers production is the first professional cover of Happy Birthday Dear Alice,” says Jim. “It’s a piece with a visceral connection to the audience, with an affirmation of the theme of aging.”

Four Rivers was created by former Abbey Theater Artistic Director Ben Barnes and won critical and public acclaim for its 2021 production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

The cast of Happy Birthday Dear Alice also includes Mark Fitzgerald (Cormac) who has established a strong screen presence with roles in Vikings: Valhalla, The Northman, Dark Red, Little Women, Muse, The Irish Mob and Loving Miss Hatto ; Sarah Madigan (Barbara) who appeared in Tarry Flynn, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Translations (National Theatre, London), The Unmanageable Sisters and Jimmy’s Hall at The Abbey; Andrew Macklin (Barry) who has appeared on television in The Holiday, Doctor Who, Doctors, Jubilee Nurse, Mr Selfridge and Fair City and Elishka Lane (Sandy) whose theater credits include Tender Napalm, Wexford Playwright Readings, The Hamlet Review , CHARMS! , Supermoon and Twelfth Night.

Bernard Farrell, whose plays have premiered at both the Abbey Theater and the Gate Theatre, has also written plays for RTE television and the BBC and his radio plays have represented Ireland at the Prix Italia. He is the recipient of the Rooney Prize for Literature, the Dublin Theater Festival Award for Best Irish Production and the OZ Whitehead Award for Best Radio Play of the Year, as recently as 2016. He is also a recipient of the John B Keane Lifetime Achievement. Award for Services to the Arts in Ireland.

Happy Birthday Dear Alice will be performed at the Watergate Theater on June 11. Tickets cost €25.



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