ICEBERG RIGHT AHEAD!!! We’ve all heard those doomed words before, and we are immediately brought back to every Titanic based movie there has been over the decades. They strike up emotions such as fear, loss and sadness, but last night, as I sat in the audience at the opening night of the Comedy drama Pilots of the Purple Twilight, which tells the story of 9 real life people who boarded the ill-fated ocean liner, I could not help but laugh at the fantastic, humorous performances on stage.
Pilots of the Purple Twilight debuted on stage at the An Tain Theatre in Dundalk on Wednesday, and was performed by the cast of Great Time Productions. From beginning to end, the show was a cracker, and this was not a surprise!!! After all, it’s directors were two of the best…David Lennon and Fiona Fay.
But what of the storyline, the performance, the actors and actresses? Well…I am happy to say, they did not disappoint.
The story begins in one of Titanic’s 1st class state rooms, with John Jacob Astor IV, who was a rich American businessman travelling on the ship’s maiden voyage. This pivotal role was played by the very talented Conor Honan, who portrayed the straight talking, proud, and privileged characteristics that Mr Astor was historically known for.
Enter…Bruce Ismay, owner of the Titanic…or as many will recognise him as…that guy who jumped into the lifeboat with the women and children. Being played by Brian Halpin, this character, although controversial in reality, became quickly one of my favourite characters, as Brian had Mr Ismay’s persona down to a T. From the jumpy, eager-to-please mannerisms of the ship’s owner as the ship set sail, to the secretive element of his character when the iceberg struck, you could not help but giggle at the performance, as it showed Mr Ismay for the first time in a comedic light.
Even his scenes with William Murdoch, the ship’s First Officer, played by David McArdle, was comedy genius, reminding you of a Faulty Towers duo act.
As the story progressed, and each character made humorous remarks to each other, whilst bragging of previous conquests and successes, we are introduced to 3 groups of travellers who were sailing the Atlantic Ocean on that dreadful night of 14th April 1912.
Our first duo, were a brother and sister known as Charles (Charley) Fortune and Alice Fortune. Charles was an Athlete, recently graduated and was travelling with his older sister Alice in First Class. Charles was played by the delightful Craig McHugh, who practically oozed cheekiness, and his happy go lucky outlook was infectious. Helena Mullins, one of Dundalk’s finest theatrical creations, played Charles’ competitive, strong minded, but loving sister Alice. The interaction between these two characters was hilarious. As I looked at how they spoke to each other, it was clear to see that despite their incredible differences, they both had each other’s back; whether it was to poke fun at each other or their competitive fellow passengers.
As the play gathered speed, or in reality…the ship itself, we are finally introduced to our 2 Irish emigrants from the West; Mary Mockler and Thomas Kilgannon. Niamh Craven played the innocent, loveable and sweet Mary, whereas James Brennan played her cheeky, down to earth, whirlwind romantic partner Thomas. When I heard, Niamh and James were performing in this stage show, I was delighted, as I had previously watched them perform in Sister Act The Musical, for the Dundalk Musical Society, and they blew the crowd away. Once again, they were a pleasure to watch, and their portrayal of their sudden romance on board, would make you screech with laughter and also tear up at the ever looming ending.
But the powerful laughs truly came from David Lennon and Mary Brennan, who brought the house down with the true life power couple, Isidor and Ida Straus, co-owners of the American Department Store Macy’s. Not only directing the show, but also starring in it, David played the marvellous part of Mr Straus, who definitely was a say-it-how-you-see-it type of man. From beginning to end, his quirky, hilarious one liners had the audience in hysterics, which made him a delight to watch. But above all, a standing ovation was deserving for Mary Brennan for her take on the brilliant Mrs Straus. I have never laughed so much in a play in my life, as I did when Mrs Straus was talking to her fellow passengers. Her ditzy, calm and careless attitude to the sinking of the ship and the commotion around her, had tears running down my face. From her over the top fashion demands to her happy-go-lucky persona, she was the definition of how to make the topic of the Titanic into a comedy masterpiece.
All in all, I must admit that when I bought the ticket to the show, I was curious as to whether I would enjoy it or not. However, as the show came to a close, I was praying it would not end. The relationships between each character are strong, emotional, and real, and whilst the show will make your cheeks hurt under the pressure of laughing, it also tugs at your heart strings. It shows how easily life can be taken away, and the Titanic story was a great medium to show this through. The disaster broke families apart, many of whose stories were told through this fantastic play. But through the art of comedy, all darkness can be brought into the light.
The cast and crew involved in this show undeniably deserve to get outstanding reviews, as the entire production was phenomenal. So get down to the An Tain Theatre before this wonderful production is over. The show commences each night at 8pm and will continue until this Saturday 23rd January. Tickets can be booked online or can be bought at the box office.
So with a love of everything Titanic and a true passion for comedy, this production deserves an Entertainment Fairy rating of:
5 STAR RATING *****