Tadgh Hickey is one of many performers set to take part in this year’s West Cork Fit-up Festival taking place in Ballydehob this month. Photo: Cathal Noonan

A festival that fits

In 2009, a group of talented romantics set off around West Cork in a banjaxed Renault 19 on a journey that would result in the revival of an old theatre tradition - fit-ups.

Eager to recreate the magic of the fit-ups that travelled rural Ireland in the 1950s, the group brought their show from town to town, armed with just one actor and four stage lamps.

That first outing has since grown into the West Cork Fit-up, an annual four-week summer event that has delivered 42 productions of mostly new plays in 16 different locations in West Cork to date.

The festival was such a success that in 2016, the three-week winter-time Blackwater Valley Fit-up Theatre Festival was added to the mix, followed by the spring-time West Waterford Fit-up Theatre Festival in 2017.

The three festivals were going strong until Covid came along and spoiled the fun in 2020, but this year the craic is back and it’s all happening in a large, open-sided tent in Ballydehob!

The programme, which kicks off this Tuesday and runs into August, features a host of intriguing one-man shows from the likes of Aindrias de Staic, Tadhg Hickey and Irene Kelleher.

Cork city comedian Tadhg Hickey, who has been making headlines recently with his political satire videos, will be performing his first solo comedy show ‘In One Eye Out the Other’, telling the story of Feargal, a downtrodden but cheery man who has fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming an alcoholic.

Also, for the first time ever, the performances will be live-streamed for those unable to attend in person. The streams will go out free of charge on 24 and 31 July via the festival’s YouTube channel.

The Fit-up Theatre Festivals are a joint initiative between Blood in the Alley Theatre Productions, Cork County Council and the Arts Council.

The team behind events are Artistic Director Geoff Gould, Production Manager Billy Connolly, Technical Officer Conor McCoy, and Light Technician Tomasz Rola.

This year’s festival runs from 20 July to 1 August with tickets priced at €15 for adults and €50 for a family of two adults and two teens. The programme is not suitable for children under 14.

Organizers advise that you come 30 minutes early and to “please dress for the Irish weather”.