The Messsenger is here

The cast from The Messenger

The cast from The Messenger

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Earlier this week, at the Watergate Theatre technical rehearsals for a landmark production were well under way.

Lights faded up, final tweaks to costumes were made and actors passed lines back and forth on the stage amid an air of excitement and tension. And so began the countdown to the World Premiere of Barnstorm’s 1916 family play The Messenger.

If one thing has defined Barnstorm’s 2016 extended programme celebrating their 25 years of theatre-making, it is partnerships. Along with annual Outreach projects with Butler Gallery, there was the joint production with Watergate Theatre of Brian Friel’s Translations; a partnership with Kilkenny Arts Festival for a family theatre season at the Festival, and Kilkenny County Council’s support for The Messenger, making it part of the official 2016 Centenary Programme.

The Messenger is a powerful play that looks at the Easter Rising through the eyes of a ten-year old child. Philip Hardy is directing: “We knew we wanted to do something from the point of view of a child living at that time. When Joe Duffy started his campaign to shine a light on the forty children who were killed during the Rising, ideas started to take shape. We worked with writer Mike Kenny and developed The Messenger script from there.”

Joe Duffy’s book Children of the Rising was published to great acclaim and became a very useful resource in exploring children’s lives at that time. Barnstorm Manager Vincent Dempsey is “delighted that Joe will attend the Gala family performance of The Messenger on Friday evening at the Watergate.”

In Barnstorm’s play, ten-year old Christy 'Bullet' Brady is a boy with a mission. He wants to be the fastest runner in the street. When the Rising kicks off, revolution is the last thing on his mind. He's just carrying a message for his Ma, the first of many he carries that week, each taking him closer and closer to the heart of the action.

Known for their dynamic and visual theatrical style, Barnstorm's plays appeal to children and adults alike, with compelling characters and artful storytelling. The Messenger is guaranteed to be a stirring, edge-of-the-seat family show and a rollicking good story to boot!

The Messenger gala family performances

Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm; Watergate Theatre 056 7761674 www.watergatetheatre.com Tickets €10/ Family of 4: €32. Duration 65 mins. For children age 8+ and their families.

Meet the cast of The Messenger

Michael Bates plays Da and Officer. Michael trained at The Focus Theatre Stanislavski Studio. He has performed in many Irish theatres, in2cluding The Abbey, Olympia, Tivoli and the Project and on Fair City, Titanic Blood & Steel and The Tudors. In a previous life as a singer in bands Vis-A-Vis and Jabel, Michael gigged in legendary venues The Baggot Inn, Charlie’s Bar and JJ Smyths. In April he performed McKenna’s Fort, a one-man show about Roger Casement in The New Theatre as part of its centenary commemorations.

Tell us about your first visit to theatre:

I was very young. I remember sweets flying through the air, a lady with a very deep voice, characters from the Magic Roundabout and an over-enthusiastic grandmother pushing me onto the stage…terrifying and thrilling!

Your secret skill? I do a mean moonwalk.

When was your first visit to Kilkenny? School tour. Isn’t that everyone’s first experience of Kilkenny?!

Favourite way to chill out? A walk around Kilkenny city.

What is your present state o2f mind? Sanguine.

What is the best thing about performing for a live audience? The risk and the opportunity to connect. A heady mix.

Pamela Flanagan

Pamela Flanagan plays Ma and Ensemble. Pamela studied in Glasgow and Academy Drama School, London. She has toured theatre in the UK and across Europe. Pamela has an intriguing family connection to centenary commemorations. Her great-aunt Kathleen McKenna was secretary to Arthur Griffith at the time of the Treaty and has written a memoir called A Dáil Girl’s Revolutionary Recollections. McKenna typed and copied the Irish Bulletin, the official gazette of the government of the Irish Republic during the War of Independence. Like her character Ma in The Messenger Pamela’s family roots are in Kilkenny: “My great-grandfather was Thomas Wall of Kilkenny who married Brigid (who preferred to be called Beatrice) Morrissey from Thomastown.”

Tell us about your first visit to theatre:

The musical Oliver at the Olympia. I was 6 or 7. Every time Bill Sykes came on stage my little brother hid under his seat. What I loved and made me want to be an actor was when Oliver’s mother Rose died on stage. She lay motionless on stage. I cried and realised that I wanted to have the opportunity to make people laugh or cry on demand.

Favourite way to chill out?

Watching Grey’s Anatomy with pizza and chatting to friends. And Idris Elba. Oh and cheese.

What is your present state of mind?

I am excited to be rehearsing and bringing the story of The Messenger to life. It’s so special to be part of the first mounting of a play and to be working with such a talented, dedicated team of people.

What is the best thing about performing for a live audience?

I love the energy that you get from a live audience and the impromptu responses that you can hear and feel from them.

Fionn Foley

Fionn Foley plays Jerry, Jimmy and Father Ryan. Fionn’s theatre credits are numerous and he is also a keen musician. His one-man musical Eamonn (from Menswear) was staged at Smock Alley and he recently performed in Half Light, a Fringe First award winner. He has appeared in Vikings, Ros na Rún and the IFTA award-winning musical comedy EIPIC (TG4). Written by Mike O’ Leary (E4’s Misfits) and set against the backdrop of a rural town’s 1916 commemorations, this boisterous and irreverent series had five teenagers stage a revolution of their own by taking over their local abandoned post office and forming a band.

Tell us about your first visit to theatre:

The Lambert Puppet Theatre or a local pantomime was the first but I have memories of The Snowman at the SFX Theatre. I would have been five or six. I also remember going on school tours to Draíocht in Blanchardstown.

Your secret skill?

Jumping. I can jump over anything. Walls, gates, people.

Favourite way to chill out?

I would say playing music, only I take that quite seriously. I love watching Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy films.

What is your present state of mind?

Excited, optimistic, slightly demented.

What is the best thing about performing for a live audience?

The energy of a live audience drives the entire dynamic of a performance. Obviously laughter and applause are always a great rush of energy but I love also being able to hear gasps, feel cringes, and see reactions. Even silence can be an amazing fuel form the audience and can bring elements to the piece that you simply can’t pre-empt.

Meg Healy

Meg Healy plays Molly, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Nolan and Daphne. Meg graduated with BA Hons (Drama Performance) from DIT Conservatory of Music & Drama. She co-founded The Sad Strippers Theatre Company which debuted their first show Pour It Out in the 2015 Collaborations Festival and their new play Triangles in Galway Fringe Festival 2016. During 1916 commemorations earlier this year Meg attended Fishamble’s ‘documentary theatre’ Inside the GPO. It was performed live in the main Post Office hall and audiences witnessed the rebel leadership during the five days in which occupied the GPO. “It is one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen, so vivid and exhilarating. It was a once-in-a-century opportunity!”

Tell us about your first visit to theatre:

One of the earliest memories of theatre I have is going to see Barnstorm’s The Bus at Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire. Would you believe!

Your secret skill?

I do a really good Shakira impression.

When was your first visit to Kilkenny?

I was here earlier this year for the opening of an exhibition at Butler Gallery. [Meg is in the short film Strangers in Kindness, which featured in Trish McAdam’s Strangers: Film & Drawings exhibition at Butler Gallery]

Favourite way to chill out?

Sushi, gin & tonic(s) with friends!

What is your guilty pleasure

Spending far too much money on coffee (I feel like it will make me live much longer though).

What is the best thing about performing for a live audience?

Knowing that if you mess up, you can’t just shout ‘Cut!’ That keeps us on our toes!

Conal O'Shiel

Conal O'Shiel plays Christy ‘Bullet’ Brady. Conal also graduated from DIT Conservatory with a BA Hons (Drama Performance). He spent eight months with Emerald Isle Theatre Company touring productions in France and Belgium. He wrote and directed his debut play The Break of Day in his hometown of Arklow. In researching the play Conal explored family links to 1916 and the period after, by talking to family and using the military archives online: (www.militaryarchives.ie)

“My great-grandfather Harry Shiels from Belfast was a member of the IRB. He fought during the Rising, in and around the Four Courts. His sister was Mrs. Ward of 19 Upper Sherrard Street, a house used by the Volunteers. My great-grandmother Maud Kyne was in Cumann na mBan and the only record I can find is of her carrying dispatches in Galway. I am told that she died young after being raided several times by the Black and Tans during the War of Independence.”

Tell us about your first visit to theatre:

It was a Jack and the Beanstalk panto when I was four. The earliest play that I remember clearly was an amateur production of Philadelphia Here I Come! that I saw when I was about ten.

Your secret skill?

I am very fast on all fours.

When was your first visit to Kilkenny?

This is only my second time in Kilkenny. I was here last year to see Druid Shakespeare at Kilkenny Arts Festival. I must visit more often!

Favourite way to chill out?

Good food and good company.

What is your guilty pleasure

Blue steak and red wine.

What is present state of mind

I’d love some blue steak and red wine.

What is the best thing about performing for a live audience?

It’s the thrill of it really, the pay-off from hard work in rehearsals.