In Musical Theatre Reviews

Ok, so I wasn’t viewing “Angela’s Ashes” as an adjudicator, but to help promote what was a wonderful show, I’d like to recommend a visit to Bord Gáis energy theatre to everyone in Aimsland.

Frank McCourt’s dismal account of his childhood is given an up-lifting treatment that leaves none of the harsh realities aside, but balances them with some beautiful music and excellent comical moments.
The grey, skeletal set and the predominantly white lighting of the show was powerful in echoing the colourless life of the young McCourt, even if there were lighter moments that might have been enhanced by a bit more colour. The moving bridge and stairs were very well used on many occasions, but the bridge in particular seemed to be a bit needlessly over-used.

Those few criticisms aside, this was a wonderfully atmospheric production that revolved around a host of outstandingly good individual performances.

The remarkably talented Eoin Cannon, as Frank, skipped effortlessly from mature narrator to little boy Frank, and along the way, provided moments of sublime comedy in his delivery of lines. His love-making scene with Brigid Shine as Theresa Carmody was theatrical gold, as was his first Holy Communion. But it was his sincerity throughout that was captivating and really pulled at the heart-strings. His struggle with accepting that his Dad was a loser, his shame at striking his mother, and the depth of his love for Theresa, and his young brother. Excellent performance all round.

And then there was Jacinta Whyte as Angela, whose vocals were simply stunning, whose diction was perfection, whose emotions were raw and real and filled with passion. Her reaction to losing her daughter absolutely broke my heart, while her strength in the face of adversity was inspirational. Angela was the core of this story, the one who fought everyday of her life for her children, prepared to demean herself for their well-being, and with every moment of tragedy, we loved her more for her courage and durability. Jacinta’s success was to make her real and believable at every step along the way.

The strength of Marty Maguire in the role of Malachy was to realise the insipid, shallowness of the father figure, a man we can all so easily identify, full of drunk bravado, a dreamer of nationalist dreams who hasn’t the energy to achieve anything that requires an ounce of energy. He stumbled and sang his way through the tragedy of his family with little more than vacuous displays of sincere concern for their well-being. And yet, there was an occasional hint of pathetic, self-loathing that made us want him to come good at the end.

Emmet Byrne as Young Malachy gave a performance that echoed the childish comedy of the young brothers in Blood Brothers, expertly releasing his inner child, and rising to moments of great sadness and sincerity. With considerably less material than his older brother, he still managed to relate the horrors of his upbringing with superb emotion, and phenomenal physical presence. A wonderful performance.

Clare Barret’s Grandma was filled with caricature and comedy, but also a genuine concern for the circumstances of her daughter and her family. Her solo at the moment of her demise was beautifully emotional.

Elaine Hearty as Nora quite simply stunned with superb comic timing and delivery throughout the show. Hers was the role that epitomised Irish wit and social belligerence. Feisty, fiery and ferociously funny. In a story so filled with darkness, she provided light and levity, making the most of every opportunity to tickle the audience funny bone.

Karen Ardiff was a delightfully hateful old bitch as Mrs Finucane, blending the bitterness of her mean-spirited character with an astute sense of comedy, to give a performance of stature. Beautifully played.

If Malachy senior was the unintentional villain of the piece, then Mr Griffin, superbly played by Mark O’Regan, was the epitome of deliberate vileness. A man of pretentious piety, happy to pile insult upon injury in the most abhorrent manner, this was a disturbingly sinister character realisation.

David O’Meara was a sympathetic and sincere Uncle Pat, Bryan Burroughs gave character and comedy to Quasimodo, Shane McDaid gave all that was required to be a credible Billy Heffernan and the afore-mentioned Brigid Shine was radiant in the sad and sweetly sympathetic character of Theresa.

David Wray’s Musical Direction was spot on, eliciting both haunting strains and lively rhythms from a very capable band.

It was great to see a good smattering of AIMS heads at the show last night, and I’d encourage more to follow. How wonderful it was to see such a great local story, performed by such a talented local cast, and being appreciated by an enthusiastic local audience. Thanks to all concerned in the Production for an excellent night of truly Irish entertainment.  Book here nowangela's ashes image