Tales from the Holywell: Damien Dempsey’s newest venture opens In the Abbey

Damien Dempsey is no stranger to the stage, having performed all over the world throughout his career of more than 20 years, but his newest venture introduces a side to the Dubliner we haven’t seen before.

Tales From The Holywell – An Abbey Theatre Production by Damien Dempsey

Damien Dempsey’s “Tales from the Holywell” has officially opened in the Abbey Theatre, ahead of its two-week run, with each of the 14 dates already being sold out.

Directed by acclaimed Irish writer and director Conor McPherson, whose previous works include such plays as “The Weir,” and “Girl from the North Country,” this heartfelt performance tells the story of Damo, a name most would know him as, going from his childhood to the early stages in his career, to now: a living legend in the Irish music scene.

“The story of a young boy from Dublin’s northside finding his voice, his music, and his tribe,” one promotional poster reads outside of the venue.

From light-hearted moments from his early days growing up in the 70s and playing Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” in the mirror with an air guitar, to more serious moments, such as being beaten and hospitalised, and his father’s passing during the COVID-19 lockdown; this play had it all.

The Abbey Theatre, home of ‘Tales From The Holywell’ – Photo: Liam Murphy

Despite being a proud Donaghmede native, Damo is well acquainted with The Liberties, having made Vicar Street his December home for the last 20 years.

However, the Damo you’ll see in the Abbey Theatre is different to the man you see on stage in the Thomas Street venue.

In a social media statement issued last week, Dempsey said that the show is “the exact opposite” of his normal singalong concerts, that fans love so much.

“This is me going into seanchaí mode,” he said. “So, it’s a talking and listening show.”

“The audience will be taken on a journey that dips into different times in my life,” Dempsey said.

The six-foot-two self-proclaimed ‘Irish Royalty’ acts as an onstage puppeteer throughout, playing with, and controlling the audience’s emotions as he pleases.

Looking around the room, there are smiles, there are laughs, there are tears, and there are others swaying in their seats trying their hardest not to sing along aloud, as is a usual occurrence at Dempsey’s gigs.

Dempsey on stage in the Iveagh Gardens, July 2022 – Photo: Liam Murphy

The show being a “seanchaí,” or an evening of storytelling, doesn’t mean there’s no music though. The two-hour-long production features some well-loved classics such as “Negative Vibes,” “Patience,” and “Canadian Geese,” along with some brand-new songs.

Damo’s joined onstage by a four-piece band accompanying him throughout the night, each of them behind Dempsey in golden onstage frames.

The band is made up of drummer Rod Quinn, violinist Lucia McPartlin, bassist Aura Stone, and multi-instrumentalist band leader Éamonn de Barra.

“The musicians will create colours,” Damo said. “Different moods to portray the good times and the struggles.”

Speaking with The Liberty about the show, one audience member said she was in awe all throughout.

“Truthfully I didn’t know what to expect,” she said, explaining she isn’t a regular theatre-goer. “But I was in tears during the show. There’s something about his passion that makes a packed-out theatre feel so intimate.”

Dempsey closes out the performance with what he described as a spiritual ritual, a sing song, as he, along with the full-capacity venue, join together for “Sing All Our Cares Away,” one of his most-known songs.

The play runs on the Abbey Stage, in the Abbey Theatre, from Thursday, February 2, until Saturday, February 18.

The two-week run includes an Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreted performance on Thursday, February 9, an Open Captioning (OC) performance on Wednesday, February 15, and an Audio Descriptive (AD) performance, available through an earpiece, on Friday, February 17, along with a Touch Tour of the stage and set that same day.

Tickets are currently sold out online, but all relevant information can be found here.

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