Wexford theatre company to stage Bernard Farrell play in National Opera House and St Michael’s Theatre in New Ross

Janice K. Johnson


Stars of stage and screen Catherine Byrne and Mark Lambert will appear in a Four Rivers revival of one of Bernard Farrell’s most famous dark comedies, Happy Birthday Dear Alice, at the National Opera House in Wexford on Wednesday and Thursday June 1 and 2 and St. Michael’s Theatre, New Ross on Saturday June 4.

atherine, a veteran of Irish film and stage who played Dr Judith Dillon in Fair City for four years, and Mark, who appeared in Breakfast on Pluto and Veronica Guerin, will assume the principal roles of Alice and Jimmy in the Four Rivers revival of Farrell’s much loved play.

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

Four Rivers, founded by former Abbey Theatre director Ben Barnes of Wexford, is a new initiative for the South East of Ireland. It is a professional theatre company based in Wexford but serving theatres throughout the region in Waterford, Kilkenny and Carlow.

The company is committed to developing and producing work from writers and employing artists, creative teams and back up personnel from the South East in order to build up a professional theatre resource within the region.

Four Rivers is supported by the Arts Council, Wexford County Council and partners with Wexford Arts Centre and the National Opera House.

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

The issues raised in the play when it was first performed in 1995 continue to resonate today: people living alone in family homes are encouraged to consider ‘right sizing’ by availing of ‘incentivised measures’ from lending institutions.

Happy Birthday Dear Alice reunites director Jim Nolan with Bernard Farrell – the play was originally commissioned by Jim’s Red Kettle Theatre Company.

“The Four Rivers production is the first professional revival of Happy Birthday Dear Alice,” says Jim. “This is a play with a visceral connection with audiences, with an affirmation of the theme of aging.”

Four Rivers received critical and commercial acclaim for its production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 2021.

The cast for 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 has 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 theatre credits include Tender Napalm, Wexford Playwright Readings, The Hamlet Review, CHARMS!, Supermoon and Twelfth Night.



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