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ONCE A CATHOLIC Playwright Mary O'Malley Dies At 79

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She passed away on September 19, 2020. 

ONCE A CATHOLIC Playwright Mary O'Malley Dies At 79

The acclaimed playwright Mary O'Malley, author of the award-winning comedy ONCE A CATHOLIC, has died at the age of 79. She passed away on September 19, 2020.

Mary Josephine O'Malley was born in England on St Joseph's Day, 1941, of Irish-Lithuanian heritage, and was brought up in Harrow, Middlesex. Her early experience of theatre as a child was singing and dancing. In the early 1960s she studied drama at the City Lit and joined a group performing plays created through improvisation. In the early 1970s, after marrying and following the birth of her two sons, she wrote three short plays for the fringe theatre - SUPERSCUM, A BENEVOLENT SOCIETY and OH, IF EVER A MAN SUFFERED - in which, at short notice, she took over one of the parts at the Soho Poly and Hampstead Theatres. BBC Birmingham commissioned two half hour TV plays, PERCY AND KENNETH and SHALL I SEE YOU NOW?

In the mid 1970s, The Royal Court Theatre commissioned her play ONCE A CATHOLIC. In an acclaimed production directed by Mike Ockrent, it transferred to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre, where it ran for more than two years, and was subsequently produced on Broadway. Before production, the play won a Thames Television Award. Mary also won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for 'Most Promising Writer', a Plays and Players Award, the first Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for women playwrights and, later in the USA, a Hollywood Dramalogue Critics Award.

For television, she also wrote OY VAY MARIA for BBC TV's 'Play for Today', which won her a Pye Television Award and, for ITV, ON THE SHELF with a cast that included Jill Baker.

Of ONCE A CATHOLIC, Mary says: "An epitaph - to the fifties, to the teachings of Catholicism before the Second Vatican Council and to the Irish living in London as I remember them with affection". It has since been widely produced around the world, and frequently revived, including a run at The Tricycle (now Kiln Theatre) in 2013/4, directed by Kathy Burke.

She wrote LOOK OUT...HERE COMES TROUBLE for the RSC, which opened at London's Warehouse Theatre (now Donmar Warehouse) in 1978 in a production directed by John Caird and starring Maxine Audley. In 1986, her play TALK OF THE DEVIL was produced at the Bristol Old Vic, in a production directed by Paul Unwin, and subsequently at the Watford Playhouse with a cast featuring Ian Dury, Annette Crosbie, T.P. McKenna and directed by Bill Alexander. The play was the runner up for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. In 1996, she wrote a stage adaptation of OY VAY MARIA for the Oldham Coliseum.


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