‘The Bus to Ballyragget’ is a new play by first time playwright, Amanda Kelly from County Laois.  The play is set in a small midland’s village, in current day Ireland.  It concentrates on the life of Mags Murphy, a woman in her fifties, who lives with her unemployed husband, Matt.  Mags starts to question the possibility of there being more to life than a lacklustre existence. The play follows her journey through an emotional crisis, her escape through Bingo and her eventual return to the sometimes contradictory comfort of the familiar.

Amanda grew up in Saint Fintan’s Terrace, Mountrath. She lived in Kylebrook, Portlaoise with her husband Alan and two children Orla and Gavin for 15 years, before settling in Abbeyleix in 2010. She is a Civil Servant, working for the Department of Agriculture. Just as Mags Murphy escapes through Bingo, Amanda absconds as often as possible from the everyday, to write.

Having completed a Certificate in Creative Writing for Publication through National University of Ireland, Maynooth, (Kilkenny Campus) in 2013,  Amanda continued onto their two-year ‘Two Roads’ programme, where she continued to be tutored by renowned Irish writers Suzanne Power and John MacKenna.

Some of Amanda’s work appears in “Hammered Glass” an anthology of some of the ‘Two Roads’ work, which launched earlier this year in Kilkenny.  The anthology is currently on sale in Eason’s, Portlaoise and in several locations across the country.

‘The Bus to Ballyragget’ is a comic-tragedy, full of quick-witted humour, honest language, which by virtue of its honesty, is strong at times! Despite the laughter, an underlying sadness permeates the story. In writing this play, Amanda wanted to document some of the emotional dilemmas faced by an average person.

The title of the play comes from Amanda’s childhood memory of a group of women who waited at the end of the road, for the bus that would take them to the bingo in Ballyragget!

‘The Bus to Ballyragget’ was my working title,’ explains Amanda.  ‘I was toying with the idea of changing it but I liked the rhythm of the title and I also felt the idea of the bus represents well, the journey that Mags makes through a difficult time in her life.’

Amanda is also directing the play, another first for her!  She is taking on board all valuable advice from people who have done it all before.    There is a strong, experienced cast in the production which includes Portlaoise based Maeve Heneghan as Mags Murphy and Tom McGrath from Naas, Co. Kildare, as Mag’s husband Matt. Mary Pat Moloney from Moone, Co. Kildare, plays best friend, Josie Cullen.  Joe Murphy from Raheen is the love interest, Eddie Carroll.  Portlaoise‘s P.J. Mulhall plays the lecherous bus driver, Sticky Phelan, while Eileen Kenna-Quinn is toffee-nosed Chrissie Brennan.  Aaron Shiel from Raheen plays a lively Master of Ceremonies.

The backstage team include Lar Scully who has responsibility for lighting design and sound, assisted by John Oxley. Set design and construction is by Keith Mason.  Backstage and Front of House assistants are Orla Kelly, Megan Sheil and Grainne Quigley.

Amanda is hoping to encourage people who wouldn’t normally go to a theatre to see a play, to come along to ‘The Bus to Ballyragget’.  “I always believed theatre belonged to a certain section of society and had nothing to do with me. I am beginning to see that theatre, just like music, writing and the visual arts, belongs to everyone.”

Amanda is delighted to have her cast and crew form part of ‘A Ha’Pert Production’ for this, her first of hopefully many, plays.

The play is due to be staged in several locations across the country, including Cleere’s Theatre, Kilkenny on Friday, November 20th  2015. Tickets priced at €10.00 are available on the door. Athy Arts Centre on Friday, November 27th  2015. Tickets priced at €10.00 and available on the door on the night.  The play finishes its current run in Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, on Thursday, December 3rd 2015. Tickets are priced at €12.00 (€10.00 for groups of 8 or more) and are available from the Box Office (057) 8663355 or

dunamaise arts centre

Book at Dunamaise Arts Centre!