“The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Annie Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrast between the two lives which it connects” - these are the words of the real-life and pivotal character of ‘The Miracle Worker’ (directed by Kevin Walshe), Helen Keller.
Helen Keller was born on June 27th, 1880 in the northwest Alabama city of Tuscumbia. Her father was a retired Confederate Army captain and editor of the local newspaper; her mother was an educated young woman from Memphis. When Helen was 19 months old she was afflicted by an unknown illness which left her deaf and blind.
Helen was extremely intelligent and tried to understand her surroundings through her remaining senses, touch, smell and taste. However, she began to realize that her family members spoke to one another instead of using signs as she did. Feeling their moving lips and with her increasing frustration she would fly into a rage when she was unable to join in on their conversations.
At this stage Helen’s parents made the decision to employ a teacher for her to help enhance her ability to communicate with them and the rest of the world.
Annie Sullivan came to be Helen’s teacher in 1887.
The Keller’s had concerns of Annie’s ability due to her young age (twenty years old), though what she lacked in years she more than made up for in experience. Annie was only five years old when she contracted trachoma, which created painful infections and over time made her nearly blind, however she had a series of eye operations in the subsequent years that significantly improved her vision.
Annie’s relationship with Helen initially was challenging and fractious. Helen hit, pinched and kicked her teacher and knocked out one of her teeth on one occasion. Annie finally gained control by moving with Helen into a small cottage on the Kellers’ property. Through patience and firm consistency, she finally won Helen’s heart and trust, a necessary step before her education could proceed.
‘The Miracle Worker’ (written by William Gibson) tells the story of Helen Keller (played by Katie Grace) and her education with Annie Sullivan (played by Kirsty Burns). The portrayal of these two characters has been excellently researched and dissected resulting in very commendable and convincing performances. With tireless perseverance Annie repeats the manual alphabet into Helen’s hand, spelling out the name of every object Helen can touch and hoping that Helen’s keen mind will somehow make the connection between the words spelled and the objects felt.
However, Annie’s progression with Helen is hindered by her family particularly her father. Captain Arthur Keller (played by Kevin Walshe) is a haughty man and apparently accustomed during his military career to instant and unquestioning obedience to his every whim. He presents with disappointment at the seeming cowardice of his teenage son, James (played by William Casey Boyle) and the terrible physical affliction of his small daughter gnaw at his heart, causing him to be irascible and sharply demanding at times with his family particularly towards his wife Kate Keller (played by Heather Broad), who with gentle persuasion and a sure instinct for her husband’s temperament, manages to persuade her husband to hire Annie as a teacher.
The production centres round the Keller household with many other characters interspersed throughout the story which are played by Mike McMahon, Margaret Walshe, Kevin Whelan, Maura Manly, Aaron Delaney, Áine Tuohy, Ilana May Pattinson, Christine Morrow, Eve O’Carroll, Molly Kennedy and Sarah Loughnane.
‘The Miracle Worker’ is a play of power and eloquence.
In this story Gibson creates an image of the indomitable human spirit and the power of language while suggesting that love includes discipline and is based more on respect for a person’s potential than on indulgence of a person’s weakness or disability.
The Nenagh Players will be making a donation from the proceeds of the opening night to the Billy Goulding Recovery Fund. The performances will take place at Nenagh Arts Centre from Tuesday, February 24th to Saturday, February 28th. There will also be concession nights for OAPs and students on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. For booking or other information contact 089 499 4661. Curtain up at 8.30pm sharp. Keep an eye out on Facebook for our competition to win two tickets to the night of your choice!
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