One of the star’s of a new show at the Lichfield Garrick is promising that a story of love, emigration and Irish culture will offer something for everyone.
The critically-acclaimed Ireland’s Call will visit the city on April 27 after receiving rave reviews across the country.
The story of a young couple divided by the Atlantic after post-war emigration to the USA in the 1940s will challenge perceptions of a musical, according to the show’s narrator Ged Graham.
“It’s important to try to create something that can communicate with different age groups and different genders,” he told LichfieldLive on a rare day off from the show’s touring schedule. “As a bloke you get dragged along to see a musical by the wife and it’s probably the last thing you want to do on a Thursday night.
“But I wanted that person to be able to enjoy the show on purely a spectacle level and say that it had great singing, dancing, and that it was funny and enjoyable.
“And I wanted someone who has experienced emigration to say they remembered it being like that or recognised their grandad’s story. Or I wanted the romantically inclined to enjoy a great love story at the centre of a musical.
“We did think very hard about joining all those dots to make it a show that can satisfy people on so many different levels.
“Sometimes you get a bit pigeon-holed when it comes to telling Irish stories. Take St Patrick’s Day, for example. I’m not a huge fan of it. Yes, it’s great fun, but as an Irishman I’m as far away from big foam hats and getting drunk in the pub as you can be – there’s a bit more to being Irish than that.
“So to create a show that tells true stories is a very interesting thing to do.”
The production was spawned following the success of the Essence of Ireland show which toured for five years.
But Ged – who was creative director on that project – said it was important to get the new adaptation right.
“This is really the musical version of Essence of Ireland,” he said.
“We had the bones of Ireland’s Call in there but it was very much driven by the narrator I played who simply joined the dots between the songs.
“There’s was a real desire to develop real characters who people could connect to. So we looked at what we could put in to tell the story from different perspectives.
“Once we developed those characters who could fit into that time period and tell the stories convincingly then the story organically grew.
“From the early reactions we’ve got a show the audeince are really reacting to and we’re very proud of the way it’s been received.
“It’s an old cliche to say that a show has exceeded your expectations, but this certainly has. I never expected it to go as well as it has.”
Despite not being a fan of the St Patrick’s Day fanfare, Ged admits that there is something about the Irish culture and way of life that makes people want to connect with it – and he believes tales from the Emerald Isle are well received as a result
“You won’t go too far down a family tree to find some Irish relation somewhere, be it an an uncle, auntie or a grandmother’s grandfather!” he said.
“Something like 80 million people around the world claim an Irish connection, so it’s clear to see that the culture is within the DNA of many people, particulalry in the British Isles.
“I think it’s that carefree attitude that people really enjoy. Whatever the situation, we try to make it the best we possibly can.
“Everyone can pretty much sing and dance or do a party piece, so that term ‘craic’ is something I think that’s really important. No matter where we are or what we’re doing we can still have a fantastic time.
“It’s very infectious and people can relate to that.”
The show has already travelled across the country ahead of its stop in Lichfield.
And it’s clear that Ireland’s Call is connecting with those who are filling theatres to catch it.
Ged explained: “The general upbeat attitude from the audience is fantastic and we get that everywhere. But the show does have poignant moments and sad moments, and there are also a lot of comedy and uplifting moments too. Everybody gets those.
“But if you’re somewhere where there’s a large Irish community you do get more of a reaction to some of the immigration scenes. It’s hard to put your finger on but you can feel it in the air that people understand that moment.
“When you’re in places that don’t have such a big Irish community, it’s often more about the visuals or the energy of the show.”
As well as his work on stage, Ged has a background as a musician with several albums to his name.
But the Dublin-born performer admitted that the chance to try so many different facets of entertainment was one he fully appreciated.
“I love the live performance aspect of whatever I do,” he said. “I really feel at home on stage as it’s where I feel most comfortable.
“Yes, I get nervous before I go on, but then you feel relaxed and that moment is the best feeling. But as I’m getting older I’m enjoying the creative process of building a show and putting it together more and more.
“I try to give my career the chance to be diverse, because doing different things keeps you fresh. I love acting, music, songwriting, plays, poetry and I always love performing.
“It’s all part of a big jigsaw puzzle. I’m still trying to figure out where all the pieces fit, but it’s great fun doing it.”
Ged Graham will be part of Ireland’s Call at the Lichfield Garrick on April 27. For ticket details, call 01543 412121 or visit the theatre’s website.