Navan has an impressive history of amateur drama and theatre from the 1930s to the
present day. Through a period of eight decades it is indeed interesting to track
the pattern of development and growth of drama in the town. A significant influence
on the development of a theatre culture in the forties and fifties was the visiting
drama groups who toured the country and who were often associated with festivals
such An Tostal. These touring groups sparked the interest of local communities and
prompted the development of amateur companies throughout Ireland. The first reference
to an organized group in Navan was in the late 1930s when the Genesian Players were
formed. Navan Pioneer Players were officially founded in 1941 with Mr. Bobby Byrne
(RIP) playing a significant role as director. The drama group reflected many of the
core social and cultural norms of the time with the Catholic Church playing a significant
role in its early establishment. There were also strong links between the drama and
musical/choral movement in the town signalling the start of a vibrant culture of
locally sourced entertainment.
Navan Pioneer Players participated in Drama Festivals
throughout Ireland from the 1940s onwards reflecting a strong orientation towards
developing acting and directing skills. The repertoire of productions was varied
and impressive, often closely following the pattern of the Dublin Theatres. Audiences
were large and there was no difficulty filling the Community Centre in Navan night
after night. The drama group attracted people from all walks of life and there was
a strong sense of camaraderie among the members.
There is no doubt that the 1950s and 1960s can only be described as the ‘glory years
of drama’ in Navan. The first Meath Drama Festival was held in Navan in 1953 and
continued up the early 1980s. It was a highly regarded and vibrant event attracting
many dynamic groups and adjudicators. Navan Pioneer Players continued to successfully
travel to festivals throughout the country winning many awards at national level
with plays such as Sive, The Country Boy and The Shadow of the Glen. In 1963, the
Navan group accepted an offer to take part in an international theatre festival in
Germany where their work met with an impressive response. At a more local level work
continued to support the development of drama in the town through drama workshops
and other activities.
By the 1970s there were two active drama groups in the town: Navan Pioneer Players
and Navan Players. Both groups presented a diverse and impressive range of challenging
plays and attracted large audiences. The Meath Drama Festival continued but the changing
social context of the time impacted upon audience attendances. The increased popularity
of television was considered to be one of the contributing factors to the changing
profile of drama throughout Ireland at the time in addition to the changing role
of the Catholic Church.
The 1980s marked a quieter time for drama in Navan, however there was a noticeable
revival in the early 1990s. This revival was strongly associated with the late Billy
Goonan, (RIP), who formed Navan Theatre Group in 1991. Since the early 90’s amateur
drama has steadily regained its rightful place in the cultural calendar of the town.
The current vibrancy evident in the musical, choral and drama activities in Navan
is an encouraging sign and Navan Theatre Group looks forward to its forthcoming production
and to the continued support of local people and communities.
(Source: A History of Navan Amateur Drama and Theatre Groups 1935-2006, Caitríona
Heslin Feb 2007)
Within Navan Theatre Group we are also committed to supporting other drama and musical
groups within the area – as part of our social activity we attend other local productions.
We are always pleased and grateful for the level of support we receive from other
locally based groups. We use our group text to notify people about forthcoming productions/events
in Meath and surrounding areas.