Artwork by Larry Dunne

After twenty years on the road with the circus, resident clown Buster has at last summoned the courage to return to his hometown for a show. While putting up the big top, joyful and funny memories flood back. Of shops he loved, of the playground of his youth, of soccer with the lads, of learning to swim. But the night before this homecoming show, he visits the now derelict house he was born in, a long abandoned place. It’s here, alone, he begins to work through the voices he had locked away, the regrets, the signs. And the story he’s been wishing to tell his pregnant Italian fiancé, the fiery Lucia, finally becomes clear. It’s an honest and captivating story called MASK. It’s a story of love, of danger, of survival, of what he hopes a brighter future might now bring, as well as the why and the how he left, all those years ago.

A tragicomedy, a one-man tour de force, MASK was produced by Enniscorthy Theatre Company, directed by Paul Walsh and featured Fintan Kelly in a spellbinding performance. The premiere took take place in the Presentation Arts Centre, Enniscorthy on October 12th, 2023.

Running time: 85 mins, no interval.

Script available on request.

In ‘Mask’, an original one-man play and the brainchild of Enniscorthy scribe, Paul Reilly, Buster the Clown takes centre stage, goes it alone, and single-handedly brings the house down. This is a clown that you can’t help but love, though he has a tragic back story so expertly relayed by actor, Fintan Kelly, that it will remain pecking at your mind long after the theatre hall empties. In fact, it will follow you home.

Fans of ‘Mask’ writer O’Reilly’s work will be familiar with the short story collection ‘The Girl Missing From the Window’ (Doire Press) and will know that he doesn’t shy away from creating characters with disturbing flaws. It adds to his masterful storytelling, and he delivers endings that don’t disappoint.

‘Mask’ is a unique story that runs for an hour and a half (you’ll feel it was much shorter). Written by Paul O’Reilly, performed by Fintan Kelly and directed by Paul Walsh, it is a must-see for anyone who likes a great story with a dark twist.

Excerpt from a Forthcoming Review – October 12th, 2023

As Oscar Wilde said, “Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth”, and Paul O’Reilly’s play underscores Oscar’s observation, as “Buster”, wearing a mask throughout, uses a visit back to his hometown to explore his past and confront some demons, not least when he encounters memories and disappointments prompted by his former childhood home.

Other unsettling thoughts are evoked when he plays taped recordings from his past while also dealing with his feisty Italian girl-friend Lucia who is pregnant with their child. In some respects, you suspect that Buster’s career as a clown in a circus might in some ways act as a barrier for his unwillingness to grow up. Behind every clown often lurks a sad person, and Kelly caught O’Reilly’s character right, adding in a few treble-entendres and funny asides as if to further cloak the reality behind the mask.

The piano music in the background captured the shifting moods of the text and The Presentation audience were rapt from start to finish, granting Kelly a well-deserved standing ovation at the end. It takes a particular kind of magic to hold an audience for that length of time with no let-ups. Kelly did it.

Jackie Hayden – October 12th, 2023

MASK interview with Paul for