Lime Tree playing a fine tune as it heads into third autumn season

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

Muti-tasking: Lime Tree boss Louise Donlon accompanies singer Tommy Fleming on the piano at the launch this Monday of the theatre's autumn season programme. Picture: Brian Gavin/Press 22
IT is launch day for the Lime Tree’s third autumn season programme and an invited audience are milling around the stage, looking out at the 510 seater auditorium.

IT is launch day for the Lime Tree’s third autumn season programme and an invited audience are milling around the stage, looking out at the 510 seater auditorium.

Standing on the stage offers an ever so disconcerting glimpse for the layperson into the world of the theatre and those that tread the boards on it.

Louise Donlon, the theatre’s boss, appears at home on the stage however, introducing a season that includes luminaries as diverse as Bill Whelan, Tommy Fleming, the Irish Youth Opera, Bell X1 and Limerick Panto Society - plus the returning children’s festival, Bualadh Bos, a legacy event of City of Culture that ran to great success in 2014.

Such is Ms Donlon’s ease, she accompanies Tommy Fleming on piano as the Sligo singer offers a sneak preview of his musical drama Paddy, taking to the Lime Tree stage on November 21.

The theatre boss admitted that the programme launch was “an exciting morning, a great one for us and looking at the programme - two programmes in fact - we are really delighted with the range and the breadth of it.

“When you are starting out and programming, you really want to have something for everybody. There is always of course the element of self doubt and will we do it this time, but I think we have pulled it out of the bag. There is a great range of stuff, a lot of new people, new performers and a lot of the old regulars, so it is a good mix.”

The autumn schedule includes a premiere of a new composition by Riverdance composer Bill Whelan in the form of Rough Magic’s The Train, telling the story of the burgeoning Irish women’s liberation movement.

“As soon as I heard Bill’s name, I said yes, definitely, this is something that we want,” she explained.

“I do suspect that Bill himself wanted to open the show here in Limerick, so it is great that he felt the venue could take it, because it is going to be a big show,” she added.

Now three years into the job, Ms Donlon said she felt that the Lime Tree had established itself in the region, with over 140,000 punters having attended shows at the 510 seater theatre.

“It has taken a number of years to get into the DNA of the city, but I certainly think, in the last few months, that when you mention the Lime Tree, everyone knows of it and more and more people have been here,” she said of the theatre, which also unveiled details of the Bualadh Bos children’s festival, which returns in October.

“As that word goes around, it is like a ripple effect, as performers come here, they tell others about a great experience, great audiences, they are getting a response, so they are coming back in bigger numbers.

“Our name is getting out there. That recognition factor of the brand is really important to us and it is making an impact, very much so,” she added.

For Fleming, it was a pleasure to stand on the stage for the first time, where his musical drama will be performed in a matter of months. He admitted to feeling some nerves ahead of his “first acting role in 13 years”.

“We are four weeks away from opening night, it is a bit mad, a bit mental,” he said of the show, which tells the tale of a young Irish man who leaves his Mayo home, bound for London.