RTE legend Gay Byrne’s one-man-show a huge boost for Excel Theatre

Bernie Commins

Bernie Commins

“This difficulty is that I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I can’t play the piano and I’m not an actor,” said RTE television and radio legend Gay Byrne, speaking modestly of his new show which he takes on a nationwide tour starting next month.

“Generally speaking when people see a poster that tells them they are going to see Christy Moore tonight at 8pm, they know what to expect, when people see Gay Byrne on a poster they are very entitled to ask, doing what?” he said jovially.

Having entertained, educated and informed the masses for the past 50 years, people will have an instant interest in seeing one of Ireland’s greatest television presenters and broadcasters performing live on stage, regardless. On May 24, people from Tipperary and further afield will have that chance when Mr. Byrne takes his one-man show, ‘Gay Byrne Live On Stage’, to the state-of-the-art Simon Ryan Theatre at the Tipperary Excel in Tipperary Town.

While specific details of the show were off limits, Mr. Byrne promised that people could expect to see a more comic side to him, a side that he might have exhibited occasionally over his many years on RTE.

“People will be seeing Gay Byrne as you have seen flashes of over the years,” he said, but one thing that he is eager to portray is that the show is certainly not a lecture in radio, television or broadcasting in any way. But it is an opportunity to hear about some of the greatest show-biz stories from behind the scenes of Mr. Byrne’s long and varied career - some of the greatest stories that have never been told.

“I will be talking about the people I have met over the years and it will be great fun. I do sing a song, that is part of the comedy act routine, but it is more comedy parodies that I do,” he said modestly.

Mr. Byrne first performed his one-man show last September in the Gate Theatre, it was a charity show in aid of the Irish Cancer Society. The concept, which he admits was in his head for many years, grew legs very quickly following a conversation with John Colgan of Riverdance fame, and quickly developed from an idea to reality with Colgan on board as producer. Following September’s gig, Mr. Byrne then performed for two nights in the Civic Theatre in Tallaght and it was a wonderful success.

A firm supporter of the arts and theatre Mr. Byrne is now taking what the Irish Times referred to an ‘exhilarating two hours plus’ show to theatres around the country including and appropriately, the Simon Ryan Theatre.

Mr. Byrne was a good friend of the late Dr. Tony Ryan, Tipperary native and co-founder of Ryanair. The theatre which was founded in 2001, received generous financial support from Mr. Ryan but he stipulated that it must be named after his brother Simon, who was a lover of all things theatre and who co-founded the theatre company the Stacumny Players in Celbridge in 1995. In fact Mr. Byrne attended a number of productions of the Stacumny Players over the years. Simon Ryan died unexpectedly in February 2011 but his memory lives on with the Simon Ryan Theatre, which Mr. Byrne agrees is a valuable asset to a community in these tough times.

The Tipperary Excel, like all other similar facilities in the country is experiencing the financial challenge that recession brings, but is continuing to provide excellent entertainment for people each week in a wonderful venue, an asset that other counties would love to have.

“I was keen on taking this show on tour in February but we found we had difficulty getting theatres at that time, they were all busy doing shows and plays, amateur and professional, the theatres were all booked up, The earliest we could get was May. It is wonderful to think that so much is going on, but people are more choosy now about what they spend their money on.”

“Local people need a local theatre and venue, and I would be in favour of keeping anything going that promotes theatre and shows. A night at the theatre gives people an opportunity to get out of themselves for an hour or two,” said Mr. Byrne.

‘Gay Byrne - Live On Stage’ will take place in the Simon Ryan Theatre on May 24. Tickets cost €18 and €20