GAY Byrne, the man who has been an institution in Irish homes for more than 50 years, is bringing his one-man show to the Limerick stage this April for one night only, where he will share his memories, stories, some songs and plenty of laughs.
The broadcasting icon’s show Gay Byrne: Live on Stage takes place on Wednesday, April 10 at the Lime Tree Theatre.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Gay said it is difficult to describe the show as no one really knows what to expect from such a production.
“The difficulty with the show is it is very hard to describe and the difficulty which we had all along is if you see a notice saying tonight at 8 o’clock Phil Coulter, you have a pretty good idea of what you are going to get.
“If you have a notice tonight at 8 o’clock with Daniel O’Donnell or Christy Moore, you know what you are going to get but if you see a notice saying tonight with Gay Byrne, everybody asks, ‘doing what’?
“The problem is that they think that it is some sort of look back on The Late Late Show or look back on the radio programme or look back on 50 years of RTÉ and it is none of those things.
“It’s just me coming on talking about people I’ve met, the things they said, the things they did and the things that happened to them. It seems like a very serious subject but it’s not. There are lots and lots of laughs and people go away very happy,” he said.
Gay welcomes his wife Kathleen on stage during the show, who shares some of her favourite poetry.
“There is a lot of laughter in the stories and there’s no particular theme but I do talk a bit about comedy and the comedians I’ve met and the things they’ve said and did.
“Then Kathleen comes on halfway through and does about 15 minutes of poetry and they are the poems that people remember so well from their school days and they haven’t heard for years. They are absolutely delira and excira to hear them again,” he said.
Speaking about how the show came about and his reasons for doing it, Gay said, “I’ve been thinking about it for a good number of years. I started out thinking of doing ‘an evening with’ format, where you go on stage and you invite a whole pile of your friends on and you put them up to asking questions to which you have answers and they remind you of this, that and the other and it’s supposed to be all off the cuff but it is well organised.
“That’s what I started thinking of first and then I realised I didn’t have to do that, I could do it entirely on my own. In the course of conversation with John McColgan of Riverdance fame and Michael Colgan of the Gate Theatre, they suddenly decided it would be great for Gay to do a one-man show. Suddenly, before I knew where I was, they booked the Gate Theatre on a Sunday night and suddenly Gay was doing a one-man show.
“I walked on stage thinking how in the name of God did I get myself into this and how in the name of God can I get out of this now? It’s too late now and here I am stuck on stage and that was it. Like a lot of things that happen in life, it was pretty much random and was without any great planning. Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been invited to come and we were invited by various theatres,” he said.
While Gay considered a format that would include interaction from the audience initially, he said, in practice, it became like “a very bad Late Late Show of years ago; people don’t ask questions, they stand up and make speeches”.
“When people do ask a question, the answers to the question is to me so boring because it is like how did you first start in show business and tell me about your time in insurance or who was the most memorable person you met on The Late Late Show and there is no answer to that because in 40 years of The Late Late Show, I can’t think of anybody who is the most memorable.
“So we decided that wasn’t a good idea, that it would not be very interactive. But if somebody stands up and asks a question, I’ve no problem with that and I’ll answer it as best I can but we don’t encourage it,” Gay said.
From a musical front, Gay asks people not to confuse him with the likes of Frank McNamara or Jim Doherty, as he says his piano playing does “little more than provide a little musical vamp, which is just about enough to keep me vaguely in tune while I’m singing our funny parodies”.
Having performed to packed houses at 14 venues across the country, Gay is wrapping up this show with two last performances before the summer, the first in the Lime Tree Theatre on April 10, before closing the show at The Source in Thurles the following night.
Although the show is coming to a close, Gay says he continues to enjoy each night’s performance.
“It’s not taking a toll at all. We’ve been extremely lucky and we’ve been playing to capacity houses. Playing to audiences that are reacting extremely well is a pleasure, it really is. So the show has not been a burden, it has been a delight so far and I know we’re very lucky,” he concluded.
Gay is taking the summer off and says he and the producers will assess whether to tour further later in the year.
For booking details or more information about the Lime Tree Theatre performance, call 061 774774, or visit www.limetreetheatre.ie.