Three local men who have lost parents in the past year to cancer, are putting on a show at the Riverside Theatre next month as a tribute to their loved ones and to raise money for a local cancer charity, in a bid to help others.
Alan McClarty, Richard Mairs and Darren Gardiner are well known in the world of amateur dramatics - sadly in the space of six months, each of the men lost a parent.
Since April this year their friendship has grown, as together they each experienced the emotions of grief after Richard lost his mother Emily, Darren lost his father Desi and Alan lost his father David.
Alan, who is chairman of Ballywillan Drama Group, has been peforming on stage from he was just eight years old. And, on many occasions he shared that stage with his father, the late David McClarty.
Alan, a school teacher at Dunluce, will take the spotlight in the one man show - ‘A Night in November’ written by Ulster writer Marie Jones.
The play explores one man’s struggle with national identity during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Although the play has no connection to the parents of the three friends, they will make reference to their loved ones in the programme and at the end of the performance.
So how did the production come around - As Alan’s father and Richard’s mother were going through treatment last year, both men were taking part in a Ballywillan Drama Group production.
Whilst having a break off stage one night, Alan and Richard chatted about putting on a performance for charity for their parents.
“We then spoke to Darren, who said he would be delighted to get involved in the lights, sound, all the technical stuff,” said Richard.
Richard takes up the story: “Both myself and Alan were in a production whilst our parents were undergoing treatment. They both were suffering from the same form of cancer.
“My mother Emily and Alan’s father David knew each other from growing up in the Heights, and they went through their treatment together.
“My mother passed away on March 1, she was just 64. Darren’s father Desi, who was 69. died on April 17 and one day later, Alan’s father David, who was just 63, passed away.
“We debated about doing something in their memory for a few weeks, and then we decided that we would go for it.”
Alan has described the production as ‘his marathon’.
“After losing a loved one many people do a marathon to raise money for a charity in their memory - this production is my marathon.”
The men who admit that they are still greaving from the loss of their parents, say that each of the productions will be ‘poignant’.
Darren explained: “The production itself has nothing to do with our parents, but we will make reference to them in the programme and the money raised from the three nights will go to Action Cancer - a charity we all felt that we should raise money for as it helps people directly in Northern Ireland.”
“I am nervous about it,” admitted Alan.
“It’s one and a half hours on stage on my own, with only a few props.
“Dan Gordon first performed this show back in the nineties, and Patrick Kielty did it last year.
“Conor Grimes has also performed it, and I spoke to him recently about it.”
Darren went on: “This production has brought us closer together.
“We have been there for each other through these tough times, we are all going through the same situations and emotions together.”
Despite the production having no direct link to their parents, Alan was able to draw on a few comparisons.
“Ideally the production is about football, and myself and my father are big Coleraine fans, we used to go to match together - so I guess that’s why the play struck a chord with me.
“The production tells the story of Protestant dole clerk Kenneth McAllister, who takes his father-in-law to the Northern Ireland game against the Republic at Windsor Park in a World Cup qualifier.
As the game begins the fans begin to chant at each other, however, as the game continues the chanting turns more sinister leaving Kenneth questioning the community he grew up in.
“It’s not for the faint hearted,” admitted Alan.
“It has strong language but it is used in the context of the story, it is very cleverly written.”
Angela Chambers, chairperson of the local Action Cancer group is delighted that the trio selected her charity: “I am delighted to be involved with the boys.
“I think it is just amazing what they are doing. I admire their bravery.”
Tickets for the show are on sale now from the Riverside Theatre by calling 02870123 123 or by visiting riversidetheatre.org.uk, alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets are £10 and all proceeds will go towards Action Cancer.