Roscommon-based Enchanted Croí Theatre has their new contemporary folk musical ‘In the Midst of Plenty’ returning to Roscommon for performances on June 23rd and 24th. Other performances will take place throughout Ireland at 14 venues from the end of May to the end of July.
This is a historical drama set in 1847, at the height of Ireland’s Great Famine. Featuring an original score of contemporary acoustic folk music performed by a cast of professional actors and a live folk band, it tells the story of Bridget Connor, a tenant on the Strokestown Estate, as she struggles to protect her family from the forces of starvation, eviction and emigration. Set against a backdrop of the plot to assassinate Major Denis Mahon, the landlord of the Strokestown Estate, the piece grapples with history’s unanswerable questions: what do friendship, betrayal, forgiveness and redemption mean for those who make heart-breaking choices so that they may protect their own? What would you sacrifice for the sake of those who you love the most?
The musical brings to life the stories of the so-called ‘Missing 1490’ who emigrated along the Royal Canal, a route memorialized today as the National Famine Way. The show amplifies the seldom-told stories of impoverished cottier women and the choices they made as they fought to survive 19th-century cottier life, making use of the records contained at the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, where the production was incubated in 2022.
Amy Day, the California-based folk musician, who wrote the piece in 2019 during the pandemic, explained: “I was deeply moved by the timelessness of what that story (of the Irish Famine) has to teach the world. I knew I had to learn more. Four years on, I still feel that way.” Amy developed the script and score under the guidance of Maynooth-based Famine historian Dr Ciaran Reilly, a leading scholar on Irish Famine history, who presented ways in which to humanise the event of global importance by focusing on the lesser-told experiences of cottier families and women in particular. “The landlord’s story has been told so many times,” explained Amy. “For me, the right way to write this piece was to learn about the lives of women who did not have access to the tools required to record their stories and experiences…”
One of the ways in which the piece amplifies the stories of cottier women is with the song ‘Your Mercy,’ featuring Grainne Hunt. The song sets to music an original Famine-era petition written from a tenant to her landlord in 1848, and which is housed in the archive at Strokestown. The visual design of ‘In the Midst of Plenty’ makes heavy use of the imagery contained at Strokestown, functioning as a ‘living memorial’ to the time period and the people who endured it.
Caroilin Callery, director of the National Famine Way, speaks very highly of this musical saying: “Having been involved with the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park for over four decades, I have seen many Famine-related performances of varying standards, and this is singularly the best Famine-related piece I have ever seen.”
The Enchanted Croí Theatre company would love to see you at one of their performances. After its Mullingar premiere, the show will tour to Cavan, Longford, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Derry, Roscommon, Carlow, Tipperary, and Dublin. See you there!
Tickets are available now. Click here to book online.