Arts Derbyshire




An award-winning musical play about The Great Famine is coming to Buxton as part of the Buxton Fringe Festival. O’Brien’s Dream follows the story of one young man’s journey from Ireland to Liverpool in 1847, as he searches for salvation in ‘the promised land’ of America, only to find many adversities along the way.

The ground-breaking play is coming to St. Mary’s Church from Fri 12th July through to Sun 14th July for three days and nights courtesy of the award winning Keyhole Theatre Company. Featuring drama, love, song and spoken word, O’Brien’s Dream shines a light on the brutal realities of the Liverpool slums of the 1800s and the hardships the Irish immigrants endured.

Facing unemployment, starvation and disease in County Clare, Sean O’Brien flees Ireland for the promise of a better life in America — only to find himself stuck in Liverpool after being robbed of his boat ticket. What follows is a fascinating and deeply moving insight into what life was truly like for people like Sean during the great Irish migration.

The gripping production was first showcased in 2009 — written and directed by Bill Morrison, with the score written by BBC Radio Merseyside favourite Frankie Connor and Alan Crowley. With Bill and Alan having sadly passed away, the play was brought back to life by Bill’s partner Ann Bates, Founder of Keyhole Theatre Company, and now comes to Buxton after sell-out shows in Liverpool.

Ann said: “Many people know things about The Great Famine and the plight of the Irish as they sought a better life, but not everyone knows the brutal realities and what went on. O’Brien’s Dream captures that time profoundly and to bring it back again is a great honour, especially as it was written and directed by my partner who passed away.”

After selling out over three nights in Liverpool, the production comes to Buxton as part of the huge Buxton International Festival that offers a diverse programme of entertainment and culture throughout July. The play will likely resonate with many members of the audience deeply, particularly those whose ancestors experienced such adversities.

Ann said: “We have a large and diverse cast of 16 for this production, who are all fine actors and singers in their own right — along with talented keyboard player, Tom Magness. The Great Famine is an important part of Liverpool’s history, so it means a lot to us all to tell the story through O’Brien’s Dream.”

Keyhole Theatre Company is an award winning production company founded by Ann Bates over 20 years ago, providing a platform for grassroots acting talent. With tours spanning as far as London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Keyhole have won awards at the Leverhulme Drama Festival and recently won Best Production and Best Drama at the Liverpool Fringe Festival 2023 for O’Brien’s Dream.

O’Brien’s Dream is one of the latest from the award winning theatre group, following Sean O’Brien on his eventful journey to find ‘the promised land’. Doing what he can to survive and becoming entangled in the gritty industrial life of Liverpool, he takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster as he does whatever it takes to find love and a life worth living.

O’Brien’s Dream is coming to St. Mary’s Church in Buxton on the evenings of Fri 12th July and Sat 13th July and the afternoons of Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th July courtesy of Keyhole Theatre Company, with tickets starting at just £8 plus booking fee. The play tells the profound story of the plight of the Irish in Liverpool during The Great Famine.

O’Brien’s Dream / St Mary’s Church, Dale Road, Buxton, SK17 6LN / Fri 12th — Sun 14th July 2024


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