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Irish Annie's | William Aston Hall

With St Patrick’s Day right around the corner, what better way to celebrate than an evening of all things Irish? Irish Annie’s is the popular musical comedy that honours the best of Irish culture. Set amongst the backdrop of as many Irish references you could shake a shillelagh stick at, Asa Murphy’s latest musical sees regular pub customers come and go, each with a story to tell regarding their connection to the pub. Featuring popular Irish songs as well as original ballads (written by Asa Murphy), all performed live by a 6 piece on stage band The Shenanigans, would Irish Annie’s be craic-ing or need the luck of the Irish?

 

As we enter the William Aston Hall in Wrexham, popular Irish songs such as Ed Sheeran ‘Galway Girl’ sound through the speakers as the hall is bewitched in emerald green lighting. Plagued by microphone and sound issues from the start, the tone of the show was immediately set and unfortunately didn’t go anywhere from this. We meet our landlady Annie (Catherine Rice) in and amongst her ‘messy’ pub (think a bit of paper on the floor and one kicked over chair). Annie is our compère holding the show together, with her questionable Irish accent which immediately alerts the audience that something isn’t quite right. We soon learn that Annie was born off the East of Ireland… Liverpool to be exact, which causes the punchline to fall flat.

 

With the plot so unbelievably thin on the ground, Annie is left in almost every number jumping up and down, encouraging singing and clapping from the audience members with their enthusiasm diminishing towards the end of the piece. For a show to be filled with as many up-tempo Irish numbers they could shoehorn in, there was a distinct lack of energy from the cast on stage. Numbers included Dirty Old Town to Black Velvet Band, and still the party like atmosphere the Irish are known for was lacking in abundance. The clunky story jumping from regular to regular, song to song, without explanation or emotional connection was jarring by the end. Billed as a comedy musical, with some of the biggest laughs coming from on stage mishaps and mis-timed sound effects, the comedy felt almost children entertainer like, hardly suitable for the entirely adult audience.



 The saving grace of this production was star of stage and screen Ricky Tomlinson. Whilst he was ultimately playing himself, he was billed as one of the regulars at the pub and just his entrance on stage changed the dynamic of the piece. Tomlinson was allowed to be front and centre stage, whilst the rest of the cast sat back as he had the audience in the palm of his hands. Seemingly genuinely emotional about returning to Wrexham after living near here for many years, he told stories of his time in nearby village Coedpoeth with many jokes relating to the local area. These included how he ‘pulled’ the previous evening a woman from Marford drawing plenty of boos from the crowd. Further stories told included meeting Robert De Niro and the working with the late great Caroline Aherne. Whilst his monologue didn’t really fit in within the nature of the musical, his tale telling was a highlight which drew the biggest laughs of the evening.

 

Richard Barry as Noel Singen-Smithe seemed an almost pointless character until his astounding tenor vocal rendition of ‘Danny Boy’, which was unfortunately the only redeeming part of his randomly Shakespeare quoting actor wannabe character. Moira The Moneylender (Maria Lovelady) added a questionable campness to the second act as we finally learnt why the pub was due to close, only for her to ultimately change her mind due to the friendship between the regulars…. which had hardly been displayed. Wanting to be treated like a member of ‘The Royle Family’ naturally drew a ‘My Arse’ from Ricky Tomlinson much to the crowd’s delight. As time was called at Irish Annie’s, a rousing rendition of Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison ensured the audience were sent on their way on a high.

 

Irish Annie’s underwhelms and does very little to celebrate the Irish and their culture. A pleasant enough show for some, but we were hardly Dublin over with laughter. Irish Annie's is currently embarking on a UK and Ireland tour - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


⭐️⭐️


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by David Munn

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