As a lover of theatre and Irish pubs, Clive Stack thought Irish Annie’s at The Grand theatre would be a good craic. He found an odd mix of another kind – sitting somewhere between Mrs Brown’s Boys and adult panto.

I have spent many a good night in an Irish Bar (as I’m sure you have) from Boston, America to Perth, Australia, so I was very much looking forward to spending a couple of hours at Irish Annie’s at The Grand, Blackpool on Thursday night. But this was unlike any Irish bar I have ever been in before.

This Irish Bar had Ricky Tomlinson, playing himself, popping in to do a bit of stand-up, which can’t be a bad thing, but the rest of the “regulars” who came in to do a turn, despite the best efforts of support from the band “The Shenanigans” and vocalist Asa Murphy, failed to give this Blackpool audience a night to remember.

Catherine Rice as host, Irish Annie, did her best with a weak script to engage the audience, but it felt like she was pulling teeth. At one point, she gives Murphy, playing Seamus, a pint-shaped Guinness candle. When Murphy objects that it won’t quench his thirst, she replies, “Well, you get on my wick!” Imagine Mrs Brown’s Boys crossed with an adult panto and you have the acting style and type of humour on offer.

Then Tomlinson makes an odd entrance, not through the open pub door which the rest of the cast used, but through a gap between the free-standing door and the rest of the set. And was that a script in his hand or was it the lyrics to the songs? Anyway, Tomlinson tells us how he was born up the road in Bispham and a story about meeting a classy lass from Lytham who may or may not have been a man.

Asa Murphy, watching from stage left with the band, urges Tomlinson to tell us some tales from his celebrity past and Tomlinson cheerfully recounts, in his own inimitable style, encounters with Ken Dodd, Robert de Niro, and his time on the set with The Royle family with Caroline Ahern, Ralf Little and cast. You feel like the 85-year-old is just getting into full anecdote mode and could go on like this all evening when he is interrupted by Murphy who is ready to sing another song.

The enthusiastic Murphy, the writer and director of the show, has a lovely voice and the songs (Galway Shawl, Dirty Old Town, Danny Boy and many other Irish favourites) go down well with the audience. But he and Tomlinson look like they were the only ones who were really enjoying it. Certainly, the band all sat stoney-faced throughout the performance. They had heard it all before, of course, but as they can be seen the whole time they are on stage, it would have helped the tone if they could have looked like they were having a good time rather than like they would rather be somewhere else.

Irish Annie’s has been on tour for two years, and this is the second time it has been at The Grand, however, it didn’t feel like quite the right venue for it to me. But maybe this was my fault. On a Friday night, with a couple of pints of Guinness and a generous measure of Bushmills inside me I might have had a better craic!

To see what else is coming up at The Grand visit their website.

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