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On Friday 16th February I sat down in the Victorian Bar of the Irish Whiskey Museum, a beautiful room, softly lit to create a cosy and welcoming setting. The audience sat back with a drink as a guitar and bodhran began playing in the corner and two seanchaithe took centre stage to begin.
These performers go by the name of Candlelit Tales and consist of a brother and sister duo intent on modernising the Irish tradition of storytelling and bringing it to the masses. Aron and Sorcha Hegarty are experts in Irish mythology with backgrounds in acting and writing. They joined up in 2014 to make classic Irish myths accessible and entertaining to all.
Seanchai (shan-a-key) is an Irish word that translates to “custodian of tradition and history”. The art of storytelling is how Celtic Ireland’s mythology has been passed down from generation to generation and lives on to this day. Although the importance of this tradition has never completely disappeared from Irish culture, it has been greatly diminished in our modern age.
Most of us will remember tales of Cuchulainn and Fionn MacCumhaill from the dim recesses of childhood, but what makes them relevant to modern entertainment? That’s where Candlelit Tales steps in and allows an audience to rediscover the pleasure of live entertainment.
It had been years since I had heard a seanchai tell stories, and the last time may have been in the local library as part of a children’s show. So, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But as a guitar began to strum and a bodhran softly picked up rhythm I could tell we were in for something special. As the music reached a crescendo and came to an abrupt stop, Aron and Sorcha stepped forward to begin the show.
From the start their passion for the subject and the performance of Irish mythology was evident. They crafted a scene through words and in the small space had the audience transfixed by their undeniable presence. While Aron can build suspense and hush the room as the story moves towards a pivotal moment, Sorcha steps in with a sense of wit and cutting humour that creates an ease and intimacy in the experience that is like no other show I have ever seen.
This particular show was called “Wicked Games”, and in honour of Valentine’s Day the stories focused on love and treachery in Irish mythology, of which, apparently, there are many!
Sorcha’s description of a great warrior meeting a Celtic queen had the entire room in stitches. It was like hearing a mate describe an awkward weekend encounter in Copper’s. Meanwhile Aron drives the story forward with a natural theatricality and presence that had the whole room captivated. The intimate setting and the ease of Sorcha and Aron’s performance created a really unique experience and brought this old tradition into a modern light.
Far from being your typical theatre performance, Candlelit Tales brings something new to the table for those of us slightly familiar with Irish stories, while remaining accessible for those with little to no knowledge at all. So for people who find theatre too stuffy or intimidating but want to get out from the Netflix haze, a Candlelit Tales show is absolutely ideal.
Candlelit Tales perform regularly at The Stag’s Head, Harbour Bar in Bray and are currently running a series of shows at Smock Alley. They will also be back for a repeat performance at the Irish Whiskey Museum on the 9th March.