The 39th Annual Enniskillen Drama Festival has been taking place at the Ardhowen Theatre this week and so far it looks to be one of the most competitive in years with several of the groups competing for the Blue Riband receiving top awards in festivals across the country.

Ballyshannon Drama Society, who recently won the top award at the Castleblaney Drama Festival, will perform their production of the Oscar Wilde classic 'The Importance of Being Earnest' tonight (Thursday March 14.)

Bridge Drama Group from Castlebridge in Co. Wexford are returning to the Enniskillen Festival with the play 'Brighton Beach Memoirs,' on Friday March 15.

The Ballybofey based company Butt Drama who appeared at the Enniskillen Festival at the very outset in 1981 triumphed at the conclusion of the Newtownstewart Drama Festival at the end of February and on the final night (Saturday March 16) will present the Frank McGuinness play 'Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.'

It all points to adjudicator Tommy McArdle who has a tough task in deciding the destination of the Fermanagh Trophy, the top award at the festival. The successful group will showcase their play at the Athlone Final in May.

Since the opening night of the festival (Friday March 8) Tommy has been entertaining audiences with his distinctive take on the art of adjudicating starting with 'Factory Girls' by Galway based group Dunmore Dramatic Society. He commended the actors for the quality of work on display but emphasised the importance of finding the balance between the twin stories within the text, the resolution of the strike and the transfer of power between the leaders of the women.

The world of corporate ambition was inhabited by Moat Club Naas on Saturday night (March 9) when they presented 'Push Up' by German playwright Roland Schemmelpfennig. Tommy was particularly impressed by the standard of lighting and stage construction as well as uniform quality acting by the six main players, who delivered the monologues that dominate the narrative of the play.

Whilst encouraging the actors in Lislea Dramatic Players production of the Martin Lynch play 'Castles in the Air,' the Monaghan born adjudicator commented that the set design had worked against the clear delivery of the play which he felt was not about 'The Troubles' but about the resilience of people combating deprivation and a lack of education in a community.

Local company Knocks Drama Group brought a full house to the Ardhowen Theatre on the fourth night of the festival fresh from having won two festivals prior to returning for the second year to Enniskillen.

Tommy was impressed by the Fermanagh group's presentation of the John McManus comedy 'The Quare Land.' The set particularly pleased him with its attention to detail and the acting was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.