Portraying Ireland’s rich history through visuals, story, song and dance, stage show Mise Eire has proven a hit with audiences since its very first performance at the Black Box Theatre earlier this year.
The idea for the show was developed by co-producers Nicola McGuire and Joe Egan from the band The Cosmonauts. Claddagh native Nicola, a well-known wedding singer and lead singer with The Cosmonauts, explains, “We had talked about this idea on our way to gigs, me coming from a performance aspect and Joe from a music production side.” Joe has his own studio in Clara in Co. Offaly, and has worked with many bands including The Blizzards.
“We decided to approach it in a different way. We wanted this show to have a historical context and to be more informative,” says Nicola. The Galway native, who has toured with numerous shows, adds, “When we put the show together, we wanted a mix of the mythical and factual. We sat down and decided what stories we could put music to and what stories would work in this musical setting.”
Rehearsals for Mise Eire began in January. The show opened in May at the Black Box, running until the beginning of July before taking a break. “It was a hugely proud moment for me. To see my home audience come to the show and to see the standing ovations afterwards,” says Nicola.
The show, which returns tonight, Wednesday 2 August, begins with the story of Cú Chulainn, the Irish warrior. “We explain how he got his name and there is a scene where he fights a wolf with his hurley.” It then moves on to the story of Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen, before moving more local to the story of The Claddagh.
“I was born and reared there and it is a special place to me. For this part, I come out dressed in the Galway Shawl and I speak to the audience and it is a very interactive part of the show.”
Nicola tells the story of The Claddagh, how it was once an old fishing village of thatched cottages, and the story of the Claddagh ring. “Local people have come up after the show and told me they didn’t know the story of the Claddagh ring but are so glad they now do.”
The second half of the show deals with emigration and features the well-known song Isle of Hope and an original song written by Galway native Don Stiffe. There are a number of original songs throughout the show.
The last major sequence focuses on 1916 and visits the story of Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett. “They married the night before he was executed. I tell that story and people cry when they hear it. But it is such a sad story. I explain what happened and then sing the song ‘Grace’. It is a really moving part of the show.”
The final part of the show is a depiction of modern Ireland. All throughout the show a 20 foot screen displays visuals that relate to the story. “For this part, we have drone footage of modern Ireland. Visually, it is fantastic,” says Nicola, adding the segment features some U2 songs.
Nicola explains that the show is quite a journey. “It is a circle of what Ireland has been through and as a nation has to offer. It is very different but I wanted it to be different. It is a visual feast for people but also a place where they will learn about Ireland. It has the fun, the music and dancing but also the storytelling element.”
Eighteen people bring the show to life and that includes the cast on stage, including five dancers, and the backstage crew.
The show has proven a hit with visitors and there has been interest from promoters in the US and in France. “We are still quite young in the business but we would love to tour it.”
For Nicola, this has been a huge learning curve. “I’ve always been in shows but never at the helm. It has been a learning journey. I’ve never done anything as big as this, it is a brave undertaking that we’ve taken. I’ve done stuff that has come easily and others that have been difficult but what an experience it is to do this.”
Mise Eire runs at the Black Box Theatre on Mondays and Wednesdays from today, Wednesday 2 August, up to Wednesday 27 September. All shows start at 8pm. The show will run an extra one-off date for Galway Race Week with a show on Sunday 6 August.
Tickets: €30 / €25. See www.tht.ie for tickets and details of shows or call 091-569777.