The world's a stage for theatre pair
Claire Tighe and Aidan Mannion met through musical theatre, and now work together and raise two young sons
Theatre school CEO Claire Tighe vividly remembers choreographing her husband Aidan Mannion in his role of Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz when she was 16. As he was four years younger, she would scarcely have imagined at the time that they would end up married one day, but oh yes they did!
They hung around with the same musical theatre crowd and began dating in the summer of 2008. What they liked about one another was that they both had a keen sense of fun and mischief. "Claire and I seemed to be the ringleaders of the fun," Aidan recalls. "She is a beautiful-looking girl and I couldn't believe she liked me. I thanked my lucky stars for that as I had always held her on a higher pedestal."
Aidan proposed to Claire on a holiday in Marbella in 2012 and they were married in nearby Sotogrande in June 2013. A total of 150 family and friends flew over for the wedding, which they say was amazing fun. Claire was 13 weeks pregnant at the wedding with their son, Cian, who is now three, and they now also have a one-year-old boy, Daire.
"I always knew Aidan was a good man, but it was wonderful seeing him become such a great father and husband," says Claire. "He is such a fun dad, and really honest and hardworking. Aidan is such a likeable person, and I was attracted to his smile, his gorgeous eyes and his height."
While they now live in Dunboyne, Claire (39) is from Leixlip, and she grew up in a family steeped in panto and musical theatre. Her mum Rita and aunt and uncle were founder members of Leixlip Musical and Variety Group. She was always passionate about dance and studied dance performance for two years, and also achieved her Lamda (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) qualifications.
Claire started teaching at 16, as she took over her former teacher's class after she retired. This developed into the establishment of three TheatreworX stage schools in Leixlip, Dunboyne and Kilcock, and a training academy at the Axis in Ballymun.
The schools offer fun classes in dance, drama and singing to students aged three to 18. The whole thing is a real family affair as Claire's parents, Rita and Brian, and brother Ciaran also work in the business. She also has two other brothers, Eoin and Brian.
Aidan (34) grew up in Dunboyne in the middle of John and Anne's three children, and he has two sisters, Caroline and Laura. He was always interested in drama and completed all his speech and drama grades with the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He did a year of TV and film after school, followed by a degree in construction management and engineering in Limerick IT.
He chose that because his dad has a small construction firm, and Aidan worked in it until the recession struck. While he worked at management level, he was also physically building, he says. This ability to build has come in very useful as he makes the theatre sets for TheatreworX's productions. He also acts in the pantos, although Claire was very careful not to tell fellow casting director David Hayes that she had just started dating Aidan when they did the auditions for the first show in 2008.
Naturally, she was delighted when he declared after the auditions that Aidan was the perfect candidate for the part in question. This year he is playing Gastoff in their Helix panto production of Beauty and the Beast. Gastoff is brother to baddie Gaston, played by tenor Paul Byrom in his first panto role. With Orla Jennings as Belle, Chris Corroon as Beast, Colin Hughes as Snookums and Liam Butler as the Dame, it promises to be the magical production for which The Helix and TheatreworX are renowned.
It's their 10th anniversary show this year and runs for eight weeks, and they promise spectacular sets, colourful costumes, stunning special effects and hugely funny, family-friendly comedy.
"The magic of panto is so important to me," says Claire. "It's a quality production and really funny but there are no 'cringe' moments. The panto gets bigger and better every year and I can't believe the number of people who come to it."
As everyone knows, working so closely with your partner and family members can be fraught, but Claire reckons that they have it sussed after 10 years. Outside of work, she and Aidan like to go for dinner and see other shows and plays, and they hang out with friends, many of whom are involved in musical theatre. Aidan has a go-kart and motorbike and confesses to being a bit of an adrenaline junkie. He says he's in awe of Claire and how well she juggles everything, including being a fantastic mother to their small boys and running the schools as well as producing outside productions.
She gives a lot of credit for that to Aidan and says that when she met him, she didn't have as much faith in herself and her ability to do things.
"We're like two peas in a pod," she says. "Aidan gives me strength and an inner confidence that I didn't have before, and I believe in myself because of him."
TheatreworX Productions return to The Helix this Christmas for its 10th anniversary pantomime show, Beauty and the Beast, which runs for eight weeks from November 24 to January 21. Tickets available via www.thehelix.ie.