Review: Angela's Ashes transports us to 1930s Limerick in a very special night's entertainment

Dublin actress Jacinta Whyte as Angela in Angela's Ashes, The Musical, at The Grand Opera House, Belfast

REVIEW: Angela’s Ashes The Musical, Grand Opera House. Belfast

IT’S not often you forget you’re in a theatre with a thousand other people watching actors play out a story. In Angela’s Ashes, a brand new musical adaptation of Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir at Belfast Grand Opera House, you do forget; the actors become the people of Limerick, suspicious of the Man from the North and his family who have just arrived from New York.

They are Angela (Jacinta Whyte) and her Co Antrim alcoholic husband Malachy (Marty Maguire) and their children. It’s the 1930s and life is hard in Ireland. The father can’t get a job and, as young Frank (Eoin Cannon) puts it, he has a miserable Irish Catholic childhood and his dream is to get back to New York where he was born and where people don’t have bad teeth.

This is a true story, the father abandoning the family, the mother losing three babies, left with three sons, living in run-down lodgings where they had to turn the flea-ridden mattress "to confuse the little buggers" and begging for food.

They are evicted and eventually Angela resorts to giving sexual favours to a cousin who is willing to take them in. Her life has been reduced to ashes.

There are many highlights – the conversation between Angela and Mrs O’Connor, the dance class, Frank's first pint. The people we meet are real, they use rich and fruity language, they live in hard times but never forget each other.

An ingenious set, a iron balcony of bedheads which slides backwards and forwards, steps that are pushed silently around the wide open stage and a dozen window frames with candlelight behind each as they are lowered down and we’re looking at surrounding tenements.

The dialogue runs seamlessly into song and out again – music and lyrics are by Adam Howell, dialogue by Paul Hurt – and all have powerful voices; the music is sweet and you can hear every word. The company of 14 never put a foot wrong, they gave us a very special night’s entertainment.

:: Until Saturday August 5; contains strong language and some adult content – recommended age 12-plus; see for information and booking.

Jacinta Whyte, Eoin Cannon, Marty Maguire and Bryan Burroughs in Angela's Ashes, The Musical at The Grand Opera House in Belfast

Eoin Cannon and Brigid Shine, along with other cast members, in Angela’s Ashes

Eoin Cannon as Frank with Emmet Byrne as Malachy Jr

Jacinta Whyte as Angela, Eoin Cannon as Frank, Emmet Byrne as Malachy Jr and Marty Maguire as Malachy 

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