THOMAS MOORE is a man torn. He is celebrated in Britain and on the continent for his songs and lyrics about his native Ireland. Yet his country is a colony of the fast growing British empire.
As he reaches his autumn years he ponders on his life’s work. Has he been a patriot or is he just an entertainer for his colonial overlords?
These aspects of Moore’s life and work are explored in the humorous new play Tom Loves A Lord by the Co Mayo poet Martin Dyar, which will be performed in the Town Hall Theatre on Friday October 29 at 8pm.
Martin Dyar is one of Ireland’s finest young poets and the recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award in 2009, the Raftery Award in 2006, and the Strokestown International Poetry Award in 2001. The Irish Times described him as “a new and original voice in Irish writing...an exciting poet at the beginning of a big career.”
Martin’s interest in Moore and the genesis of Tom Loves A Lord came when he was asked to compere a night of Moore’s music in the National Concert Hall in Dublin in 2004. This evolved into a series of monologues that would be spoken between the songs. He revisited the monologues recently and developed it into Tom Loves A Lord.
The play centres on a dinner party that is to be held in Moore’s honour, and in the build up to the day Moore’s wife Elizabeth Dyke and his fictional biographer Nicholas have to get their man ready and in fit shape.
“This is a one man show, and I will play Moore and Nicholas, and through them perform a variety of other characters,” Martin tells me as we sit in the Town Hall on a Monday afternoon for the interview. “There will be a lot of humour and some campness and the show is for both the expert and those who don’t know about Moore.”
Martin will also be joined on stage by soprano Anna Louise Costello, who will sing some of Moore’s melodies.
Moore (1779 - 1852 ) was the most celebrated songwriter of his day, he enjoyed enormous success with his songs about Ireland, such as ‘The Minstrel Boy’, ‘The Last Rose Of Summer’, and ‘Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms’. He became a society figure in London, registrar to the Admiralty in Bermuda, and the literary executor of Lord Byron.
For many Moore’s songs are celebrations of Ireland with a strong patriotic subtext that can be viewed politically. For others the songs are largely apolitical in content.
“Moore is doing well in the bosom of the empire and late in life he is conscious about his credentials as a patriot,” says Martin. “There is an ambivalence around the nature of his work and its relationship to his mother country, and there is increasing scholarly interest in Moore and this aspect of his work.
“Sometimes he is viewed as a loyalist and sometimes as a Catholic heartbroken at what is happening to his country, but others see the songs as in the continental style with a message that is opaque. It shows the universal appeal of his music.”
The tense and strained relationship between Ireland and England in the 19th century is a key theme of the play.
“Moore is a Catholic Irishman doing well in London and Nicholas is English and he resents how well Moore is doing,” says Martin. “Through them I explore the relationship between the two countries.
“When I was writing the play I realised how much of that I was carrying as an Irish citizen in 2010. People respond to Thomas Moore’s life as Irish experience and we cannot escape that historical dimension. I think the play will prompt some reactions around that, how we still carry it around, and how personal it is.”
Moore’s relationship to his mother country is intense, but so is his relationship to his mother Anastasia Codd.
“Through these vignettes about Moore’s relationship with his mother and his mother country, people will come away with a really strong sense of who she was and her passionate belief in her son and his achievements,” says Martin.
Moore’s wife Elizabeth Dyke was a great supporter of her husband’s work but as Martin points out, she often preferred to remain out of the limelight. Nonetheless she will be featured in Tom Loves A Lord.
“Moore and Nicholas will give an impression of Elizabeth through their monologues which are derived from Moore’s letters.”
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie