Those who were at the Eurovision when Riverdance made its debut must have felt they were witnessing the birth of something special.
There’s a fair chance those who last week saw the debut productions of ‘The Cloak’ at St Bridget’s Cathedral in Kildare town will be able to say the same in years to come.
It was, quite simply, a stunning spectacular of music and dance telling the story of St Bridget, patron saint of Kildare, and her mother Broicsech.
It fused myth and legend, Irish and contemporary dance, music, multimedia and storytelling and kept the audience spellbound in the atmospheric old stone cathedral.
Even more impressive - apart from the starpower of leading lady Rebecca Storm and some other well-known local names including singer Eoin C Lynch and dancer and choreographer Nichola Kavanagh - the cast are mostly unknown amateurs.
The idea for ‘The Cloak’ was born when executive producer Anne Marie Brain asked writer and director Padraig J Dunne to examine the story of St Brigid’s Life. With the blessing of the Brigidine sisters in Kildare town, the pair recruited musical director Lisa Nagle, choreographer and principal dancer Nichola Kavanagh and an army of volunteers to bring their vision to life as part of ‘The Gathering’.
The sold-out show, which was narrated by radio personality Noel Shannon, opened on Wednesday last to a standing ovation. it even received a message of good wishes from President Michael D Higgins.
The story starts with the arrival in Ireland of Bridget’s mother, a slave from Portugal named Broicseach. It follows Broicsech’s harsh life with chieftain Dubhthach, by whom she becomes pregnant and gives birth to her daughter.The tale then takes up Bridget’s ambition to spread the word of Christianity and establish a convent in Kildare, culminating in the legendary and miraculous spreading of her Cloak across the Curragh plains.
The production used an audio visual presentation shot in Wicklow, The Curragh and Hook Head to illustrate key scenes in the story, including the arrival in Ireland of the slaves.
Dancer Michael Cahill gave a stunning and menacing performance as the fiery and fierce Dubhthach, bouncing off the walls of the cathedral at one stage. Natasha McLellan gave a finely nuanced turn as the Young Broicsech, capturing her character’s timidity and despair, which transformed to strength and courage with the birth of her child.
Nichola Kavanagh was superb as Bridget and Rebecca Storm commanded the stage with her performance as the adult Broicseach.In essence, however, it was a fantastic group performance which included a local ‘Cloak Choir’.
There are plans to tour ‘The Cloak’, and while it was undoubtedly special to see it first on its ‘native soil’, it would be a shame if the produciton was denied a much wider audience, Indeed, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say audiences may have witnessed the birth of a West End or Broadway hit from the Lilywhite county.