Fore actor starring in folk musical ‘In the Midst of Plenty’
Bláthnaid Daly is starring in new folk musical, In the Midst of Plenty, which opens a nationwide tour in Mullingar Arts Centre on Thursday and Friday, May 25 and 26.
Written by Amy Day, directed by Anne-Marie O’Sullivan, and produced by Enchanted Croí Theatre, In the Midst of Plenty tells the story of tenants struggling to survive on the Strokestown estate at the height of the Great Famine in 1847.
Set against the backdrop of the real historical events surrounding the plot to assassinate Denis Mahon, the Strokestown landlord, it also traces the story of the so-called “missing 1490” who left Strokestown along the Royal Canal and sailed for Canada as part of Mahon’s forced emigration scheme.
After debuting to sold-out performances and rave reviews in the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and Roscommon Arts Centre in 2022, the full-scale musical will take centre stage in theatres across Ireland including Cavan, Longford, Galway, Westport, Sligo, Donegal, Derry, Roscommon, Carlow, Waterford, Tipperary, and Dublin.
“Difficult and all that the subject is, the show is really beautiful,” says Bláthnaid, who is from Fore, and is a former student of St Ernan’s NS, Delvin, and Loreto College Mullingar. Bláthnaid plays two characters on stage, including Grace Mahon, daughter of the landlord Denis Mahon, and Nancy Duffy, a tenant on Mahon’s estate.
“It’s really interesting to play the two of them because they’re from very different worlds, but there can be parallels drawn between the two as well,” she told the Westmeath Examiner.
“They’re both characters that I think the audience will have a certain level of sympathy for, and I think that’s what’s resonant about the whole show. I feel like that the audience could often be torn between who’s right and who’s wrong. We ultimately know who is wrong, but you don’t lack sympathy for those who are in a situation that wasn’t by their design, it’s just how they dealt with it wasn’t so good.”
Plenty of food for thought for the audience then, who on opening night, will include Blátnaid’s parents Catherine and Sean Daly, from whom, in part at least, she took the love of the stage.
“My mam, Catherine, is a speech and drama teacher and that’s where it all began. She’s a primary school teacher as well, and she would have us involved in Killallon Drama Group, and I suppose I had different opportunities to get into it along the way. When I was at school in transition year in Loreto, I got to do a school musical, and a play with St Mary’s CBS, and the Mullingar Student Players that year as well.”
Bláthnid received singing lessons from Dervilla Conlon Maloney, and went on to feature in her choir, the Lynn Singers, and she still takes part in Scór events.
It was Frank Shouldice’s The Mean Streets of Garradrimna, based on Brinsley McNamara’s life and work, which cemented a love of the theatre for Bláthnaid. “That was the one that really confirmed the decision that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.
Bláthnaid went on to train at the Gaiety School of Acting, and since then has performed in a string of productions, including her one-woman show, Connemarvellous, for which she received the Arts Council Agility Award to develop the bilingual English Irish comedy. She has performed it at the Seen and Heard festival in Smock Alley, Dublin, and as a Gaeilgeoir, she has also worked in the Fíbín Theatre Company productions of ‘An Triail’ and ‘Fionn agus an Brádan Feasa.’
Ahead of opening in her home theatre, Bláthnaid said she feels a “mix of emotions, but mostly excitement”.
“I can’t wait to perform in Mullingar professionally after doing so many other things there growing up, and having so many positive experiences at home. It’s really great to look forward to what I hope will be another positive experience in Mullingar, but looking at it from the perspective of being a professional actor.”
Of the musical, she added: “Amy (Day) handled such a harsh section of Irish history with such care, and has produced something that is just beautiful and moving – the music is so gorgeous and I think audiences have a lot to look forward to in seeing this show.”
In The Midst of Plenty also stars Athlone native Neil FitzGibbon, and Westmeath-based actor Eoghan Burke; and the show’s artistic director, Anne-Marie O’Sullivan said that beginning the tour in Mullingar is of “great significance to the show”.
“Mullingar is an historically important waypoint along the National Famine Way, the route that so many emigrants walked in search of survival during the time of an Gorta Mór. And we are honoured to start our tour in the beautiful Mullingar Arts Centre.”
In the Midst of Plenty was developed with funding from the Roscommon County Council and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. Its 2023 tour is made possible by support from the National Famine Way and the Irish
• Tickets are available now by calling Mullingar Arts Centre at 44 934 7777, through the Mullingar Arts Centre website, or by visiting www.inthemidstofplenty.com.