"THE MUSIC AND THEATRICAL VISION OF PAUL BOYD ... A TRULY CLASS ACT" Irish Times
Big Telly Theatre Company presented the new musical The Haunting of Helena by award-winning writer and composer Paul Boyd and novelist and playwright Bernie McGill on tour across Ireland in February and March 2010, directed for the stage by Zoë Seaton.
A derelict Belfast linen mill forms the backdrop for Paul Boyd and Bernie McGill’s chilling story. Eighty-year-old Maggie and twenty-something Susan find themselves trapped in a twisted family saga where myth and reality seem confused, where past and present seem to co-exist.
Two songs from the show, ‘Invisible’ and ‘Cut Above The Rest’, were shortlisted for the 2010 Stiles & Drewe Prize for Best Song from a New Musical.
‘Cut Above The Rest’ was named as a finalist and was performed by Sondheim Performer of the Year finalist Jane Horn at The Queen's Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue on 6th June.
HAUNTING OF HELENA
"the songs are possessed with Boyd’s
familiar musical swagger and would find
a home on any commercial stage"
The premiere / All Ireland Tour 2010 production toured extensively across Ireland, visiting The Market Place Theatre (Armagh), St. John’s Theatre (Listowel), Siamsa Tire (Tralee), Simon Ryan Theatre (Tipperary), Source Arts Centre (Thurles), Civic Theatre (Tallaght), Waterfront Studio (Belfast), Droichead Arts Centre (Drogheda), Riverside Theatre (Coleraine), Down Arts Centre (Downpatrick), Strule Arts Centre (Omagh), Theatre at the Mill (Newtownabbey), Iontas Theatre (Castleblayney), Island Arts Centre (Lisburn), Balor Theatre (Ballybofey), Hawk’s Well Theatre (Sligo), Ardhowen Theatre (Enniskillen).
“The “terrible tragic tale of Helena Blunden” is a ghost story which refuses to be exorcised. Writer Bernie McGill and composer/writer Paul Boyd have resurrected the ghost of Helena in this neat little 90-minute musical, stylishly directed for Big Telly by Zoe Seaton. Diego Pitarch’s rickety set perfectly recaptures the dusty, crumbling interior of the now silent mill, while Conleth White’s lurid green lighting lends it something of the atmosphere of that much bigger West End extravaganza Wicked. There is a curious mix of the homespun and the sophisticated about this entertaining show ... the songs are possessed with Boyd’s familiar musical swagger and would find a home on any commercial stage – though there is something slightly queasy in a catchy number about self-harm, whose chorus tells us that “Susan was a cut above the rest”.” Irish Times
“Bernie McGill and Paul Boyd have reconstructed Helena Blunden’s tragic story, with its attendant illicit love affair and mysterious deaths, and turned it into a compact little musical, which is part living history, part folklore, part ghost story, part thriller. Boyd’s perennially catchy songs fairly speed the plotline through the surprising twists and turns of an affluent but dysfunctional family saga ... an entertaining evening.” The Stage
“Throwing in a bit of sex, violence and a hint of droit du seigneur, McGill’s script takes a hoary old ghost story – a Helena Blunden fell to her death in a linen mill in the Markets in 1912 – in an unexpected direction and turns it into something quite clever. It sounds simple enough, but McGill’s writing spins the story in circles, distracting with details every time the truth threatens to be revealed. The story ties itself neatly together at the end, providing the attentive watcher with a number of satisfying ‘ah ha’ moments. Zoë Seaton’s direction and nicely restrained turns from the actors keep the tension high and the audience engaged as the story winds its way towards a climax. An effective piece of physical theatre. Helena’s drifting, mournful songs blend into the narrative well and enhance, rather than distract from, the atmosphere. ‘Cut Above the Rest’ is powerfully delivered and visually arresting ... On the whole The Haunting of Helena Blunden is a powerful, clever play that explores the cruelty of class and the frangibility of identity.” culturenorthernireland