1980’s Limerick City is the backdrop for Jilly Morgan’s Birthday Party

Patrick Ryan stars as 'Jack' in Liam McCarthy’s new play Jilly Morgan’s Birthday Party.

Jilly Morgan’s Birthday Party, a new drama from playwright Liam McCarthy will get its world premier at Belltable on May 2. 

Starring Patrick Ryan (Eden, Red Rock) and Georgina Miller (Freefalling, Pure Mule), McCarthy’s story follows Jack and his experience of a brief, passionate kiss in the downstairs toilet at a party in Limerick City in 1983. The incident becomes Jack’s lifelong fixation. 

He kissed Jilly Morgan, at her own birthday party, and life, for him, will never be the same again.

Playwright Liam McCarthy was Belltable Artist in Residence in 2021. His play Mam and Love and Woo received the Wilde Irish Writer Award from Dublin Fringe and is currently in development, as is his new play The Chandelier.  Liam curates the Bualadh Bos Children’s Festival and his plays for children include Fergal and Boss Rob: A Masterclass for Aspiring Artists (Dublin City Council Commission.) Liam was recently awarded an Arts Council Next Generation Award and is currently writer in residence at Mary Immaculate College.

Limerick Post chatted with Dublin-based Limerick actor Patrick Ryan as rehearsals were in full swing last week.

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“There’s a big production machine behind this play, and I’m really thrilled for Liam getting this work premiered because I think he’s really, really talented and a great asset to Limerick.”

The publicity shot for this new play is an image of our two stars in a scene reminiscent of the opening scene of 2009 movie The Hangover, a scene from the morning after the night before, what happens at  Jilly Morgan’s Birthday Party?

“Well the party is the jumping off point. It’s a love story, when I say love, it’s not happy, clappy love because I don’t think love is ever completely a happy event. You could say that it is love as well as an obsessive feeling.”

The play is set in Limerick and has plenty of references to this city and the story is a lot of fun and laughs alongside the drama as we meet our two main characters at different times in their lives over many years.

Patrick Ryan is from Caherconlish and studied acting at the School of Drama, Trinity College Dublin. He has a steller CV of work on TV, film and the stage. You will recognise him as Garda Paudge Brennan from TV3’s award-winning drama Red Rock.

The actor recently graced the Abbey Stage in Corn Exchange’s production, The Fall Of The Second Republic, under the direction of Annie Ryan. His recent roles include Hammie in Abbie Spallen’s Pumpgirl and John Cronin in Mike Finn’s Bread Not Profits, both for Decadent Theatre Company. 

He also portrayed Dermot in Conor McPherson’s Port Authority, Guido in Arthur Miller’s The Misfits, and Brendan in Conor McPherson’s The Weir, among others. Notable screen appearances include roles in The Whistleblower, Northanger Abbey, Pure Mule, and Trivia, as well as a memorable turn alongside Domhnall Gleeson in Tom Hall’s Sensation. 

Jilly Morgan’s Birthday Party is a universal story inspired by Anton Chekhov’s short story The Kiss and in fact could be set in any location. (The Kiss follows the mundane life of a humble government clerk whose world is transformed when he accidentally kisses the hand of a general’s wife at a party. It’s a story of unrequited love and the illusions of desire painting a poignant portrait of longing and disappointment)

The play is directed by Joan Sheehy (actor and director from Granagh, County Limerick) who Patrick has worked with many times before in Captain in Whitby at Smock Alley Theatre and  in a production of Colleen Bawn in Limerick Boat Club for City of Culture in 2014

Alongside Patrick is his character’s love interest / obsession, Jilly Morgan, played by Georgina Miller. 

Her autobiographical show Freefalling (co-produced by Rough Magic and Lime Tree Theatre |Belltable in association with Fidget Feet Aerial Dance Company) premiered at the Cork Midsummer Festival in 2023, and will return to Limerick to Lime Tree Theatre in the Autumn before its Dublin run.

Georgina is a graduate of the Gaiety School of Acting full-time Actor Training Programme.  She was honoured to be Belltable’s Artist in Residence in 2022.   

Following the success of Liam’s previous works, including Fergal and Mam and Love and Woo, McCarthy’s Jilly Morgan’s Birthday Party, promises to be a highlight of Limerick’s  theatrical calendar. 

Jilly Morgan’s Birthday Party will run at Belltable from Thursday May 2 to Saturday May 11 2024 with performances at 8pm. Preview performances will take place from May 2  to May 4 , with the official opening night on May 7 and one matinee performance on May 11  at 2.30pm.