Theatre Review: Angela’s Ashes

A scene from Angela's Ashes.

BGE Theatre, Dublin


Angela’s Ashes, The Musical — a combination of words that few believed would go together. Frank McCourt’s bestselling memoir not only brought to the stage but set to song and dance?

“We were mothers before we were women,” sings Frank’s mother Angela, played by the poignantly powerful Jacinta Whyte.

Angela sits centre stage on a chair while smoking a cigarette, lamenting all the places she would have travelled to had she not become a mother and a wife, first.

If musicals are attended so we can hum along to familiar tunes then Pat Moylan’s production had set itself the mammoth task of telling a familial story through foreign song.

This was not, however, the only task at hand. Could Angela’s Ashes, The Musical, balance McCourt’s melancholy and his wit?

If the audience’s reaction in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre was anything to go by, then Moylan’s production hit a home run, bullseye and a hole in one.

There were audible sobs as yet another baby died and outbursts of raucous laughter to Frank’s money lender letters as he signed off in “fiscal anticipation”.

A chorus of deep inhalations reverberated around the theatre as Angela followed her cousin to bed as a way to pay for bed and board for her and her sons after Frank Senior abandons them for a life of alcoholism in England. There was foot-tapping to rhythmic songs where the cast danced around the stage while slamming chairs.

Then finally, there were the four curtain calls when the audience called out “more” as it showered the actors in a lengthy standing ovation.

Whyte took the final bow, a nod to the story’s real hero, a mother who relentlessly fought for the needs of her family in the face of seemingly endless adversity.

Joyce Fegan


  • Angela’s Ashes — The Musical runs at the Grand Opera House in Belfast until Saturday


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