Following its debut at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2022, award-winning Irish musical Oliver Cromwell is Really Very Sorry is returning for a national tour. The good news doesn’t end there, as GCN has three pairs of tickets to give away to our lucky readers!
The show stars and is co-written by the brilliant Xnthony (also known as Anthony Keigher), an Irish artist credited with entertaining audiences across the country. With his new show, he combines outstanding cabaret, legendary pop anthems and bloody historical re-enactments for a thrilling and explosive theatre experience.
GCN spoke to Xnthony ahead of the tour to find out more.
What is it about Oliver Cromwell that inspired you to make this musical?
Originally I wanted to make a show called IRGAY, which sounds all well and good until you dig deep into the wording. I soon realised that that wouldn’t be appropriate for the subject matter that we were exploring.
I knew that I wanted to find someone or some event that we could really focus on to dig deep into the complicated history between Ireland and England.
One night I was texting a friend and it just dawned on me: It had to be Crommie! Oliver Cromwell is pretty much adored in the UK: Tony Blair had his bust in his office! He is seen as a tolerant leader, someone who helped modernise England and really ‘nailed’ colonialism.
Because English children aren’t told of the extent of English harm abroad, his particular story seemed perfect to mine. Unknown to many is the fact that he leveraged Irish colonisation to benefit his own career progression basically becoming a king in all but official title.
During my research period, I discovered that his head was actually buried in a biscuit tin in Cambridge and I thought, ‘oh my God’ this is the perfect story for my musical! So we use that premise to set up the show: five queer, history nerds head off to Cambridge in search of his head!
How have you “camped up” Cromwell’s story in your interpretation?
In our version, Cromwell uses ‘camp’ as a way to distract from his violent actions, he isn’t inherently a camp character.
In our story, which is largely historically accurate (!!), he is a country bumpkin who is an aspiring actor (true!) who is compelled to come back home once his father dies. Obviously, this isn’t what he wants to do, so he takes out his rage in other ways.
There are moments of camp, obviously, because this is a queer reimagining of all of Cromwell‘s history, but it’s done so sparingly and deliberately. Cromwell uses the idea of ‘campiness’ as deflection in the show: which itself shows how he’ll do anything to stay liked.
☠️OLIVER CROMWELL IS REALLY VERY GOING ON TOUR ☠️
We are thrilled to announce that the award winning musical ‘Oliver Cromwell is Really Very Sorry’ is going on a national Irish tour 🦹♀️
— ❌NTH⭕️NY (@xnthony) August 29, 2023
Why is it interesting to re-tell Irish history through a queer lens?
Frankly? Because it’s never been done before, and I think that queer perspectives have a place at the table in terms of how we revisit things and reimagine things.
I think this is really fresh for audiences and historians alike. This approach has actually brought us closer to the truth about the cycles of violence in history, how men with power make decisions that affect people and how they have more power than they really should. It’s a tale as old as time!
What kind of music can audiences expect from the show?
The music in the show is stellar! It’s a fantastic mix of pop anthems and more traditional musical numbers. We really want to lean into the pop aspect because this is a really useful from in which to explain history rather than longer, rambling musical theatre numbers.
There are some amazing pop songs like ‘Horror Scope’, which is a song about how Oliver Cromwell is a Taurus, and that’s why he makes impulsive decisions like he does. There’s an iconic number called ‘Hot Blood’ which tells the story of his actions at Drogheda where the performers literally Irish dance across Drogheda.
Overall it’s a varied mix of electric pop music that will work its way into your brain – and you’ll leave the show wanting more.
After its success at Dublin Fringe Festival in 2022, what are you most excited about bringing the show back on tour this October and November?
It’s an amazing opportunity to bring the show back to where we started in Dublin and beyond the pale. What I am really more thrilled about is bringing the show to rural spaces like Roscommon (where I’m from) and Longford.
It’s been so exciting to revisit the show and put extra detail into the performances, and have even more fun with it. Personally, I’m thrilled to be able to share the joy that it is to be a queer maker of theatre, to be making work at this big scale and to be supported to make that happen.
I think it sends a message to a whole generation of budding queer creatives that they, too, can be big and stand alongside the big theatre companies of Ireland.
Oliver Cromwell is Really Very Sorry tours nationwide from October 20 to November 29, with all dates available here.
GCN has a pair of tickets up for grabs for the performances at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre on October 24, 25 and 26. To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the following question:
Which Irish artist is a co-writer and star of the show?
The competition closes at midnight on Friday, October 20, 2023. Winners will be contacted directly and shared on social media.
By submitting this form, you give GCN consent to process your personal information for the purposes of conducting this competition. More information on how we protect your privacy can be found here.
This competition is now closed, please visit our Competitions page for more.
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