5 July 2023

Review: Harry’s Bar- a Touch of the Blarney

By Rachel Sloane
The cast of Harry’s Bar- A Touch of the Blarney (photo by Gillian Atacocugu)

Arriving at the Two Sisters Arts Centre in Trimley the audience was greeted with traditional Irish music, played on keyboards, fiddle and bodhran, which meant feet were tapping even before Harry’s Bar – A Touch of the Blarney, began. As the story, based around WB Yeats, the Irish writer, (played by Thomas Haigh) and the Irish Nationalists fighting for independence was told, the experienced cast of Black and White Productions, used writer/producer Suzanne Hawkes well-established mix of music, humour and poetry to create an entertaining and informative evening.  

This is the 13th in the Harry’s Bar series:  and all have well-sung songs, (mainly performed by Paul Stone and Stephanie Stoddart), some laugh out loud jokes (and some that make you groan) and poetry, but all have a different storyline. All are linked by comic character Harry (played by Paul Pascall)  and his bar, which is used as a meeting place for the characters. Music is provided by Bill Stoddart (keyboards) Bryon Quainton (violin), Suzanne Hawkes (bodhran) ) and Dennis Bowron (guitar).  

Suzanne Hawkes and Paul Pascall (photo by Gillian Atacocugu)

The thirteen versions have included a detective/crime story for Harry’s Bar, a wartime one, a Russian spy version, one set in a Dickens Christmas and now Suzanne Hawkes has created one with an Irish theme.

‘Harry’s Bar 13 just started in my head as a general Irish theme – but as I read round the subject and came across Yeats interest in the mystic and the fascinating (and humorous)  characters involved – and also his connection to the Abbey Theatre – I decided to focus on those elements ‘ she explained.

All of the music was either Irish traditional, written by Irish composers, or were pop songs originally sung by Irish singers, (even Eurovision winners!) The story of the Abbey Theatre enabled extracts from Pygmalion and The Importance of Being Ernest to be included.

The accents, whether Irish, cockney, Russian or cut-glass Queens English, were well-mastered by the cast, the extra humour provided by the robed secret society The Golden Dawn (Phil Corey, Steve Roche and Alan Dix) who swept in and, in pantomime style, over-acted and ad-libbed. Paul Pascall was also the pub entertainer, comic Jimmy Cricket. Suzanne’s research always throws up some surprises – there really was The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that Yeats joined in 1890!

Add a seance (clairvoyant Madam Blavatsky, played by Suzanne Hawkes), and a rejected love interest (ardent nationalist Maude Gonne – Virginia Betts),  and there really is a lot going on in Harry’s Bar.

What will Suzanne come up with for Harry and his bar next?

Harry Bar – a Touch of the Blarney – at The Two Sisters Arts Centre Thursday 6th July – Sunday 9th July 2023


Jimmy Cricket , played by Paul Pascall. (photo by Gillian Atacocugu)