The world’s a stage for the­atre pair

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS -

Claire Tighe and Ai­dan Man­nion met through mu­si­cal the­atre, and now work to­gether and raise two young sons, writes An­drea Smith

THE­ATRE school CEO Claire Tighe vividly re­mem­bers chore­ograph­ing her hus­band Ai­dan Man­nion in his role of Scare­crow in The Wizard of Oz when she was 16. As he was four years younger, she would scarcely have imag­ined at the time that they would end up mar­ried one day, but oh yes they did!

They hung around with the same mu­si­cal the­atre crowd and be­gan dat­ing in the sum­mer of 2008. What they liked about one an­other was that they both had a keen sense of fun and mis­chief. “Claire and I seemed to be the ring­leaders of the fun,” Ai­dan re­calls. “She is a beau­ti­ful-look­ing girl and I couldn’t be­lieve she liked me. I thanked my lucky stars for that as I had al­ways held her on a higher pedestal.”

Ai­dan pro­posed to Claire on a hol­i­day in Mar­bella in 2012 and they were mar­ried in nearby Sotogrande in June 2013. A to­tal of 150 fam­ily and friends flew over for the wed­ding, which they say was amaz­ing fun. Claire was 13 weeks preg­nant at the wed­ding with their son, Cian, who is now three, and they now also have a one-year-old boy, Daire.

“I al­ways knew Ai­dan was a good man, but it was won­der­ful see­ing him be­come such a great fa­ther and hus­band,” says Claire. “He is such a fun dad, and re­ally hon­est and hard­work­ing. Ai­dan is such a like­able per­son, and I was at­tracted to his smile, his gor­geous eyes and his height.”

While they now live in Dun­boyne, Claire (39) is from Leixlip, and she grew up in a fam­ily steeped in panto and mu­si­cal the­atre. Her mum Rita and aunt and un­cle were founder mem­bers of Leixlip Mu­si­cal and Va­ri­ety Group. She was al­ways pas­sion­ate about dance and stud­ied dance per­for­mance for two years, and also achieved her Lamda (Lon­don Academy of Mu­sic and Dra­matic Arts) qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Claire started teach­ing at 16, as she took over her for­mer teacher’s class af­ter she re­tired. This de­vel­oped into the es­tab­lish­ment of three Theatre­worx stage schools in Leixlip, Dun­boyne and Kil­cock, and a train­ing academy at the Axis in Bal­ly­mun.

The schools of­fer fun classes in dance, drama and singing to stu­dents aged three to 18. The whole thing is a real fam­ily af­fair as Claire’s par­ents, Rita and Brian, and brother Ciaran also work in the busi­ness. She also has two other brothers, Eoin and Brian.

Ai­dan (34) grew up in Dun­boyne in the mid­dle of John and Anne’s three chil­dren, and he has two sis­ters, Caro­line and Laura. He was al­ways in­ter­ested in drama and com­pleted all his speech and drama grades with the Royal Ir­ish Academy of Mu­sic. He did a year of TV and film af­ter school, fol­lowed by a de­gree in con­struc­tion man­age­ment and en­gi­neer­ing in Lim­er­ick IT.

He chose that be­cause his dad has a small con­struc­tion firm, and Ai­dan worked in it un­til the re­ces­sion struck. While he worked at man­age­ment level, he was also phys­i­cally building, he says. This abil­ity to build has come in very use­ful as he makes the the­atre sets for

‘Ai­dan gives me strength and an in­ner con­fi­dence’

Theatre­worx’s pro­duc­tions. He also acts in the pan­tos, al­though Claire was very care­ful not to tell fel­low cast­ing direc­tor David Hayes that she had just started dat­ing Ai­dan when they did the au­di­tions for the first show in 2008.

Nat­u­rally, she was de­lighted when he de­clared af­ter the au­di­tions that Ai­dan was the per­fect can­di­date for the part in ques­tion. This year he is play­ing Gastoff in their Helix panto pro­duc­tion of Beauty and the Beast. Gastoff is brother to bad­die Gas­ton, played by tenor Paul By­rom in his first panto role. With Orla Jen­nings as Belle, Chris Cor­roon as Beast, Colin Hughes as Snookums and Liam But­ler as the Dame, it prom­ises to be the mag­i­cal pro­duc­tion for which The Helix and Theatre­worx are renowned.

It’s their 10th an­niver­sary show this year and runs for eight weeks, and they prom­ise spec­tac­u­lar sets, colour­ful cos­tumes, stun­ning spe­cial ef­fects and hugely funny, fam­ily-friendly com­edy.

“The magic of panto is so im­por­tant to me,” says Claire. “It’s a qual­ity pro­duc­tion and re­ally funny but there are no ‘cringe’ mo­ments. The panto gets big­ger and bet­ter ev­ery year and I can’t be­lieve the num­ber of peo­ple who come to it.”

As ev­ery­one knows, work­ing so closely with your part­ner and fam­ily mem­bers can be fraught, but Claire reck­ons that they have it sussed af­ter 10 years. Out­side of work, she and Ai­dan like to go for din­ner and see other shows and plays, and they hang out with friends, many of whom are in­volved in mu­si­cal the­atre. Ai­dan has a go-kart and mo­tor­bike and con­fesses to be­ing a bit of an adren­a­line junkie. He says he’s in awe of Claire and how well she jug­gles ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing be­ing a fan­tas­tic mother to their small boys and run­ning the schools as well as pro­duc­ing out­side pro­duc­tions.

She gives a lot of credit for that to Ai­dan and says that when she met him, she didn’t have as much faith in her­self and her abil­ity to do things.

“We’re like two peas in a pod,” she says. “Ai­dan gives me strength and an in­ner con­fi­dence that I didn’t have be­fore, and I be­lieve in my­self be­cause of him.”

Theatre­worx Pro­duc­tions re­turn to The Helix this Christ­mas for its 10th an­niver­sary pan­tomime show, Beauty and the Beast, which runs for eight weeks from Novem­ber 24 to Jan­uary 21. Tick­ets avail­able via www.the­he­lix.ie.

Claire Tighe and Ai­dan Man­nion are heav­ily in­volved in The Helix’s an­nual panto. Photo: Steve Humphreys

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