Holy Show of reel deal, 1981’s miraculous hijacking

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Roseanna Purcell and Mark Fitzgerald make box office gold of this two hander.

AN EXPERIENCED actress on stage and screen, Janet Moran had a smash hit as the writer of ‘Swing’ a few years back. That shy romance on the dance floor toured to Belltable with Limerick born Gene Rooney and Arthur Riordan cast playing gawky peekabo during dance class.

This year Janet Moran is touring a play that she has written and directed, ‘A Holy Show’. It emerges that it sold out a run in The Peacock Theatre during Dublin Fringe 2019 and again at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“It is surprising, this mad story and interesting, how people relate to it,” she says from rehearsals at Foley Street, Dublin. This year’s iteration has a new cast, Roseanna Purcell from ‘Copper Face Jacks: The Musical’, ‘Red Rock’ and ‘Fair City’, with another Copper graduate, Mark Fitzgerald. He’s a performer whom Munster audiences might know from John Breen’s valiant ‘Alone It Stands’.

The success of ‘A Holy Show’ is a thrill, especially on the back of only one previous crack at directing which was Róisín Coyle’s ‘Noteworthy’.

‘A Holy Show’ is rooted in fact, the 1981 hijacking of an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to London by a former Trappist monk. His weapon was an empty water bottle and his pursuit was the unknown secret that Our Lady of Fatima revealed to shepherd children.

Get up the yard??? The writer smiles at the disbelief (she promises news footage of the incident).  “I wanted to make something joyful for the audience.”

Coming to Belltable at the end of the month, this two-hander rattles along at flight pace “with the two actors doing all these characters.”

By the grace of God, Janet Moran had a 101 year-old friend to whom she was talking about this flight EI 164 when it emerged that his son, Irish born Peter Veselky, was on the plane. So you had a first hand witness?

“Absolutely. The hijacker was an Australian ex-monk who had been thrown out of the Order for punching his superior. He then spent time as an estate agent. Over the  years, his obsession with the Third Secret of Fatima just grew and grew.”

Given the comedic slant and the musical talent of this year’s stars, she confirms that yes, “there’s a good bit of music to it and a little bit of singing. Roseanna and Mark really are terrific comic-actors and are very good [dramatic] actors. They play their parts very truthfully as obviously there are some moments of pathos as well.”

Janet also makes the point that as the play has been around for a couple of runs, the script for this Irish tour is the best it has been, through Verdant Productions.

She would rather the cast be two only working at breakneck speed than enlarge it to four or six. “That’s my preference and as an actor as well. It is really joyful when you see two people enact this whole work, it’s heavy on the intensity and a theatrical thing to do. The experience is enjoyable for myself and from the performers’ point of view and the audience.”

Booking at Belltable venue manager www.limetreetheatre.ie