Tour Memories #15 - Bantry House
If you've never visited Bantry Bay, what are you playing at? In fact, with that said, if you've visited Bantry Bay and not visited Bantry House, what are you playing at? Imagine a cross between Downton Abbey, Incan Mexico, Victorian hedgerows and mazes, colonial lawnscapes, and glistening Atlantic views. It's that good. Then imagine that the majority of the people you might meet in such a place are incredibly friendly, up for a drink and a laugh. That's pretty much Bantry. Our audience there took a while to grow, but it now ranks as one of our fiercest in terms of support. Our Bantry audience truly encapsulate what our version of outdoor theatre, with a picnic, a blanket and something to drink, is all about. Last year they even did it in awful rain!
Read about some selected memories from our previous years below, as well as a couple from the beautiful Eagle Point campsite - also worth a visit just for the views, if you're down that way!
Connor W - Various
"I will never forget rocking up to Bantry House for the first time and seeing where we were set to perform. What an unreal backdrop it is. If you could paint a picture perfect scene to hang behind our stage, of green hillside stooping down into glistening waters, dotted with sail boats and the sun shining down on it all, you still couldn't do a better job than what is already there.
When the wind blows and it rains, that's a different story. It was a mighty relief to discover we could fit our show in the smaller lawn round the side of the house when the weather was bad, as when it is windy at Bantry it is pretty unforgiving indeed!"
Ellie H - Zorro
"Ah Bantry... the most breathtaking views looking out over the water... The stunning gardens leading up a hillside... and a creepy ghostly experience. After a lovely show and a gorgeous sunset the cast and crew of Zorro were packing down the gazebo and loading the van. I played a cameo role as Gina the peasant (her backstory is for another time) and whilst getting out of my costume in one of the upstairs rooms of the house, I realised I was the last one up there. It’s worth noting we had looked around the house earlier on before the show, and seen lots of beautiful Victorian bedrooms, and in one of the smaller rooms, a very creepy looking cot. As I was packing up my costume, I heard a very loud and clear baby gurgle and laugh. Thinking that an audience member was chasing their toddler around the hallway outside, I poked my head around the door to find a very still, quiet and dark landing. I called out and got no response, so shut the door and stood there feeling very uneasy. A few minutes later Nick Crosby from Crosby came up to check everything was cleared, and I told him about the baby noise, to which he assured me there were no audience members left, or indeed, any babies around. The rest of the trip, at creepy moments, Nick made his eyes wide and shouted ‘MAMA’ at me with his arms outstretched. I have learnt never to be the last one to get out of costume ever again!"
Matty G - Around the World in 80 Days
"Laser questing whilst the other half of the company went hunting for fairies."
* Nope, not going to give any context at all for this one.
Connor W - Sinbad
"I remember on the Sinbad tour looking at the pre-sold tickets for the Bantry show and feeling pretty glum about it. We hadn't sold too well, and it was looking a little bit like Bantry, for all it's beauty, might be on the verge of having its last year for OTG. It's always a horrible position to be in when you want a venue to work so well, and that was absolutely the case with Bantry. The new management had just started running events there, and they had been so incredibly helpful in our booking and promo of the show. When they had heard of the lower sales, they pushed even harder. We arrived and set up as usual, the cast none the wiser really, which is always important up to a point in the day. Around half an hour before we were due to start, a large group arrived, followed by another, and another. People who had been sat drinking in the pub and decided to come out to support us, or who had always been planning to, but had spread the word in the pub and attracted a crowd themselves. Of course, them having come from the pub, it was a joyous crowd to perform to. Afterwards there was a real sense of optimism, particularly from those who had been in previous years to Bantry, that we had found our audience in the town. Long may it continue!"
Rob K - Zorro (Or The Perfect Storm, who knows?)
"Having not toured for a few years I decided to visit the gang on the road once more, this time with my wife, Ange. We’ll stay at Eagle Point campsite, I said, it’s beautiful. It is. Apart from when the Atlantic Ocean decides to unleash it’s full force. Whilst walking in the wilds Ange snapped ankle ligaments. It took us 4 hours (and an enforced adventure poo from me) to get her back to the car. No medical centres in Bantry open. Ankle seriously massive by now. Nearest A&E? Cork. 5 hour round trip. Arrived back at Eagle Point at 2am in the midst of an horrendous storm. Crutched it from the car park to the tent (in sleeting rain) to find the tent had been beaten up by the Atlantic storm. It was when Ange was using one of her crutches as a support for the canvas that I thought we might be in a spot of bother. It felt like I was on a movie set on a ship. In a storm. At 3.30am I got hold of the campsite owner and pleaded for help. She very kindly came out to help us and arranged to put us in the campsite TV room for the night. I got Ange in and managed to find some rocks to weigh the now dead tent down. Had a beer to steady the nerves at about 5am and fell asleep. Woke up 2 hours later needing a wee only to find I couldn’t unlock the door of the TV room. Neither could Ange (that made me feel a bit better actually). Thank God we had a 2l bottle of water with us, which quickly became 2l of something else. Waited till 8am when the campsite opened and had to call the owner again. This time to say we had locked ourselves in the TV room. Of course when she came, it opened effortlessly first time when she tried. After a beautiful couple brought us breakfast and made us both cry a bit, I bundled the tent and it’s belongings somehow into the back of my car, we found a nice hotel in Bantry. By midday Ange was having a long soak in our beautiful bathroom whilst I was having some beautiful Murphys and Bushmills in a local pub. I think it was possibly the most challenging 24hrs I’ve had on a “holiday”."
Connor W - Zorro
"I managed to almost simultaneously stab both myself and Felipe at Bantry House during Zorro. As if that isn't a bad enough start, I was playing the only character in the play who literally did not fight for the duration. At the moment of my death, I revealed a knife, with which I did very little before being slain by the eponymous hero. On that night, however, the knife got stuck in my very large, very heavy (very wet) cape, and as I struggled to get it free it shot forward, narrowly missed my middle and Felipe's outstretched hands. Well done me."
Joey D - Sinbad
"Eagle Point. Many a game of 'Togger' was played, in the summer of Sinbad. Some took it too seriously at one point, as I remember. "Their heads have gone!? They don't even want it lads!!". Guilty as charged. "50/50 eh Felipe?" There's always one who thinks he's at Wembley. I'll just go and sit in my tent for a bit. Sorry about me."
Dan M - Witches Abroad
"Our first trip to West Cork wasn’t to any of our current venues, but the beautiful Creagh House, just outside Skibbereen. The venue was run by Martin and Ken who took every opportunity to make smutty innuendos, so we got on with them immediately.
After a 6 hour journey from Carlow (most of the M8 didn’t exist then) we were invited into the house for a much needed cup of tea, and were very politely requested to take our shoes off and to refrain from smoking. This seems very obvious now, but smoking was much better for you in the mid 90s.
The show itself was memorable. For a start we didn’t begin until well after 8 as we had to wait for the audience to arrive in their own good time. At one point during the show a small cat wandered on to stage. The cat was chased by a small dog who was then chased by a small child. Eventually a fully sized parent came to scoop them all up. We had a whole family on stage and no-one in the audience seemed to notice. That said, I’m not sure they were completely sure what we were doing there anyway.
There was one particularly large, hairy member of the audience who had arrived early. When I say early, I still mean late for the actual start time, but earlier than most. He had used his extra time to drink a lot of Special Brew. Once we began he seemed keen to join in and started yelling, “Get Yer Kit Off,” every time someone he took a shine to came onto stage. Having discovered somehow we were from the Wirral he then interspersed his more sexually provocative interjections with calls of, “Woollyback!” At the interval Stew, our producer spoke to Martin and Ken, and asked if there was something they could do about the yelling. Martin came back five minutes later, looking very pleased with himself, and informed us that he had solved the problem by giving the fella a free bottle of wine. This wasn’t the intervention we had in mind. Not altogether surprisingly the shouting became even more vociferous in the second half, especially when I came on dressed as Michael Flatley doing my best Riverdancing.
Once the show was over we packed away and I went to say goodbye to my Mum and Dad who had visited. It was a black night and with no street lights and no mobile phones to help I was genuinely feeling my way back to the house. As I got to the field where we had performed I noticed a huge figure powering towards me. It was obviously Special Brew/bottle of wine large, hairy man. He was heading directly at me, possibly growling, and there was no way for me to run. I considered yelling out, convinced that, as the only woollyback left in the field, he was going to let me know, possibly in physical terms, how he felt about his miserable evening’s entertainment and my terrible desecration of Irish culture. As he got up to me he lit his lighter just to check he’d got the right man, took a deep breath, and clapped me firmly on the shoulder.
“That was f*ckin’ brilliant man. Best night I’ve had in years. F*ckin’ brilliant. You’re fuckin’ better than Flatley. Flatley - what a tw*t. You’re coming to the pub now aren’t you? There’s a beer waiting on the bar for you.”
He disappeared in into the dark yelling that all the cast must join me and throwing in the odd profanity just for good measure. I never made it to the pub, but returned to the house with, “Better than Flatley,” ringing in my ears.
Back at the house, the party was in full swing. Ken and Martin must have put their heads together for the best dinner party guests to suit a touring theatre company and they had done well. The cast were all wearing costume hats and were interspersed between the guests. I was put with a dwarf gardener (a gardener who was a dwarf, rather than…well you get the picture), a Dublin lawyer and a poet who said he had blown up the Imperial War Museum in London in the sixties. The afternoon rules went out of the window quite early on and a constant parade of jazz cigarettes were being passed up and down the trestle tables, and wine bottles came and were emptied and replaced in quick succession. At about 3 in the morning we thought it best to leave, though the party was by no means over. One cast member fell in a ditch and another got very confused by a small hill on the way back to our tents.
It was a reasonably early start again the next day and another 6 hour drive thanks to one of our less impressive pieces of planning. I had been vaguely sensible the night before, in the same sort of way that the big, hairy bloke had been early to the play, but the state of the cast was questionable. They were not, however, in anywhere near as bad a way as our hosts. Ken very kindly tried to bring us a plate of bacon batches but stopped and audibly whimpered when he saw the small hill our tents were on. He left the sandwiches at the bottom. Poor Martin broke into tears of gratitude when we were sorting out the takings from the previous night and basically ended up giving us most of the money as counting was proving too troublesome. We left quietly with promises to see each other again in a year.
Unfortunately our glorious hosts didn’t feel well enough the next year to have us back, possibly still hungover. But we had discovered West Cork and there was no way it was ever going to be off our itinerary again, and 22 years later, its still one of my favourite places in the world."
Jordan C - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Jordan has sent us through a few videos of his time in and around Bantry. As a cast, we took a trip out to Kinsale with Jordan, on a rare day off, so that he could educate us all on one of his favourite topics - the Titanic... Sorry Jordan, I definitely meant the Lusitania. My bad.
Bantry is so pretty that, when we asked for memories from our previous casts, most just sent through stuff along the lines of 'that view!' followed by select emojis, or a series of photos they'd taken. So here we are - here's a couple we got through!