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“This was a very moving piece, and if this piece didn’t move you - Well then you’re dead!” the words of Newry Drama Festival Adjudicator Michael O’Hara in his review of Saturday night's Drama Festival performance by The Moat Club of The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry.

Thomas (Padraig Broe) and Mrs O'Dea (Ann Hurley) in The Steward of Christendom. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Thomas (Padraig Broe) and Mrs O'Dea (Ann Hurley) in The Steward of Christendom. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

This is the fifth play in a sequel of plays about the Authors own family. The Steward of Christendom is the imaginative portrait of the authors Great Grandfather Thomas Dunne, the last Chief Superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, an organisation that was devoted to the British Crown and whose duty it was to guard Dublin Castle when it was the bastion of British rule in Ireland.

They were disbanded after the War of Independence in the 1920’s. When Irish independence came in 1921 followed by the Civil War, Dunne’s life once devoted to keeping order falls apart and he can no longer make sense of the world around him and he is committed to an Irish mental country home.

The Adjudicator continued  ”The Moat Club attempted this very very very difficult piece and they took it by the neck

The Steward of Christendom at Newry Drama Festival. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
The Steward of Christendom at Newry Drama Festival. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

"The set was sparse to help us get a feeling of what an Irish mental home might have looked like. This single bed and it’s  filthy. The large windows and just a couple of props and a door, and that was all that was needed because the actors were in control of this piece."

Paying tribute to the Lighting Design people “Immediately the lighting was controlled, atmospheric and created mood after mood after mood. The acting areas were so well defined, filters so well used and acting areas were opened up and this Director was after visual dramatic pictures”

Thomas Dunne (Padraig Broe) and Smith (Eugene Delaney) in The Steward of Christendom. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Thomas Dunne (Padraig Broe) and Smith (Eugene Delaney) in The Steward of Christendom. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Commenting on the performance of actor Padraig Broe who performed the leading role of Thomas Dunne the Adjudicator said “He controlled the piece, the character was fully realised. This was a tour de force. You would say dear God in Heaven, not only did he learn all of these lines, but he acted them!

He showed a high level of creativity on the stage, he was a skilful actor, he was fully focused and he was quite relaxed physically and his focal performances - and relaxed I put in inverted commas which I mean secure, and this was really impressive work Thomas.”

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