THERE ARE some big shows to look forward to in the Galway Arts Festival and in terms of cast-size alone Galway Youth Theatre and Galway Community Theatre’s The Adventures of Shay Mouse is right up there.
With a cast of 32 plus a live band, the production is a new stage musical adapted from the children’s novel by Pat McCabe, first published in 1985.
The show is directed by Andrew Flynn. During a break in rehearsals he took time to chat about the work and give an idea what audiences can expect.
The Adventures of Shay Mouse is not as feted as familiar McCabe works like The Butcher Boy or The Dead School so I began by asking what was it about the book that prompted him to give it this large-scale stage production?
“I was at a dinner party and an eight-year-old boy told me he had read this great book called The Adventures of Shay Mouse and said he thought it would make a great play,” Flynn replies. “So I bought a copy and when I read it I agreed with him. It’s a great story and even though it’s a children’s book it has all the edge of Pat’s other work.
“It’s very quirky, Pat creates this whole world of animals but into that he brings all these human characteristics in terms of their dilemmas – there’s a pigeon who suffers from depression because his girlfriend has left him, and there’s this American dog called Zak who can’t settle in the countryside. Then there is Manky Mouse who smokes cigarettes, and a frog called Sam Phibbian who’s a bit of a dandy spends his days singing by the pond.”
Flynn outlines the central plot of the drama.
“The story is set in Bornacoola Wood in Longford and the main character is Shay Mouse [played by Jarlath Tivnan] who spends his days telling stories to the children of the wood,” says Flynn. “He tells them about the time he beat up a cat in Drumshanbo, and the time he beat the ears off 40 earwigs and another time he beat up six rats. He’s like a local hero for the children who believe completely in everything he says.
“Then one evening a band of rats are burned out of a barn in Mullingar and after being made homeless they decide to take over Bornacoola and they make all the other animals their slaves. The animals look to Shay Mouse to save them but he’s not able to, he’s afraid and he runs away. From there it’s like a road trip about the characters he meets and the lessons he learns, and he ends up becoming a hero unbeknownst to himself from the stuff he learns along the way.
“Shay meets all kinds of people and goes through many episodes on his journey and eventually finds the courage to come back to Bornacoola and face up to the rats.
“It’s a big show. It’s very cartoony and very funny and we’re having a great time making it happen. Pat wrote a number of songs for a radio version he did of it in the 1980s. We’ve taken that material plus the book and used both sources to come up with a new script which is what we did last year with The Butcher Boy.
“It’s a show suitable for all ages. Like the modern cartoon blockbusters, children can enjoy it but there is something there for adults as well. We’re also reprinting the book which will be on sale at the venue”
The Adventures of Shay Mouse runs from Monday July 15 to Sunday 28, at the Nuns Island Theatre at 5pm, with 1pm matinee performances on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are available through www.galwayartsfestival.com and the festival box office, Galway Tourist Office, Forster Street.