The Wife of Michael Cleary: new piece of music theatre in development

Hi friends,

For a couple of years I’ve been working on a piece of music theatre based on the true story of Bridget Cleary, who was killed by her family in 1895 in Co. Tipperary because they believed her to be a fairy changeling. Her life is a moving story about an independent, clever, ambitious woman who fell prey to misogynistic gossip and the power of superstition.

When I learned of Bridget’s story, I immediately heard music. The fairies, the nationalist backdrop, the rural 19th-Century Irish community, the free-spirited young woman: these all suggested musical themes to me.

I started writing it in 2017, on my own, in my flat, using Logic Pro. In the Summer of 2018 I took a research trip to Co. Tipperary and spent a fascinating week exploring the area Bridget used to live in. I found the site of her cottage, the shop where she apprenticed to a dressmaker, and many fairy rings in the local area.

Fairies, in Irish folklore, are not sweet or pretty. The gaelic name is the aos sí or the Tuatha Dé Danann, meaning the people of the Goddess Danu. They are amoral, and aligned with nature and the old ways. They were known to take people, especially children and young women, jealous and wanting them for their own. They would replace them with a changeling, who looked exactly like the human they had taken, but was actually a fairy which would bring decay and misfortune to the community.

I kept working on the music when I came back from my trip and in 2020 I received some funding from EFDSS to work with a writer on the script. Dramaturg Alan Flanagan helped me develop a draft of the whole piece, and  In September 2020 I was invited to Britten Pears Arts to workshop it with a group of wonderful creative people (2 metres apart of course!) We were filmed and our week’s work was shown as part of the digital Festival of New in February 2021.

The piece is called ‘The Wife of Michael Cleary’ and below is a work-in-progress of the opening number, ‘Trouble Always Comes to a Woman Like That.’
I’m loving writing the piece and can’t wait to share more of it with you as it develops. Hopefully there will be a full production in the works before too long.
Maz x
Composer: Maz O’Connor
Director: Tinuke Craig
Movement Director: Martin Bassindale
Dramaturg: Alan Flanagan
Film by John Fensom
Musicians: Nicola Lyons and David Delarre
Actor-singers: Rebecca Gilhooley, Rosie Hilal, Bebe Sanders, Jeremy Lloyd, Josh Maddison, Dale Mathurin and Brendan O’Rourke.

Recent Comments

  • James
    August 26, 2021 - 9:31 am ·

    Hey Maz,

    I was just googling Irish Witches and stumbled across the Cleary case and thought, what an amazing idea for a musical. And then I kept reading and saw someone had already done it! Just a message to wish you all the very best with it!

    • mazadmin
      September 27, 2021 - 10:15 am ·

      Hello James,

      Thank you for your good wishes. It’s an amazingly rich story, isn’t it!

      Best wishes,

  • Helen O'Connor
    September 17, 2021 - 10:02 pm ·

    I was curious about The Wife of Michael Cleary” as I had read ‘The Burning of Bridget Cleary’ by Angela Bourke a few years ago, so decided to go to the EFDSS as your event sounded interesting. I was not disappointed It was amazing and I loved your take on the story. I thought it quite operatic. What a wonderful group of singers and musicians to entertain us. I am very much looking forward to seeing your full production in due course. I wish you the very best.