Sunday 28 December 2014

Meet Ireland's greatest panto family (Oh yes, they are!)

The Tighes all get stuck in when it comes time to stage a big production, writes Joe O'Shea

When you write, produce and stage a pantomime every Christmas, it's good to know that your entire family are (where else?) behind you.

And the Tighe family from Co Kildare can certainly lay claim to the title of Ireland's Number One Panto Family.

Mum Rita, dad Brian and their children Claire and Ciaran have decades of experience and hundreds of shows under their sequinned belts.

And this festive season, the Tighes will be putting on their fifth major panto at the Helix theatre in Dublin – family entertainment in every sense of the phrase.

Claire, who has been in pantos since she was just about able to walk, co-writes and choreographs Beauty And The Beast, her fifth production following Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Jack And The Beanstalk.

Mum Rita, with more than 20 years' theatrical experience, is the wardrobe mistress and costume designer for their family company Theatreworx.

Dad Brian and brother Ciaran look after the business and box-office side.

And Claire's fiancé, actor and comedian Aidan Mannion, stars and paints the sets.

The family, from Leixlip in Kildare, have already staged more than 300 panto performances at the Helix, and Aidan (who will be married to Claire this summer) has appeared in every single one.

"It's been a huge part of our lives for as long as I can remember, going right back to amateur panto in Leixlip when I was very young," says Claire.

"But it was when we started in the Helix, five years ago, that it really became a big production for us. We all pitched in, dad, mum, my brother, we just kind of threw ourselves into it."

Claire admits that panto can be a tough business.

Her productions in the Helix over the past few years have done well to cover their costs and break even.

This year's production stars Voice of Ireland finalist Kyle Kennedy as The Beast, and actress Lauren Nevin (The Tudors, Fair City) as the beautiful Belle.

And Claire says the traditional pantomime, a form of festive family entertainment with its roots in the Yuletide Mummers Plays of the Middle Ages, can still compete with more modern entertainment.

"I think Christmas would not be Christmas for a lot of families without a panto," she says.

Irish Independent

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