Come meet the cast of "The Last Torch"!  

"The Last Torch" is set in 16th century Ireland, where survivors of a shipwreck from the Spanish Armada have washed ashore, setting the stage for forces of love, liberty, sovereignty, spirituality & magic to collide.

With a mixture of Spanish and Irish music, this musical tells of the last clan leader standing against the English. O’Rourke’s story is famous but has never been told on stage. Descended from Irish royalty, he was an extremely learned and handsome clan leader who made a last ditch attempt to push the English out of Ireland nearing the end of the full conquest by the British crown. Although historical, the musical also contains ‘fictional’ characters in the way of witches who narrate and wind fae who are represented by flautists.

The story is set in the past but is linked to the present in that it starts in the modern day. The musical is a mitochondrial slide down the double helix of this clan who ended up scattered throughout the world.

In the famous shipwreck of 1588, O’Rourke saved many Spaniards from certain death in direct rebellion of Queen Elisabeth I. One of the Spaniards washed ashore was Captain Francisco Cuellar, who left a detailed report of his adventures in Ireland. O’Rourke and his men have faced a giant storm in the night to save wounded Spaniards. Unbeknownst to O’Rourke he meets the Captain, who is injured and semi-conscious. Unfortunately due to the Captains state and the approaching English, O’Rourke covers him and leaves him off the beach. Cuellar gains consciousness and starts to stagger into the rugged Irish countryside and is tricked by an Irishman who means to have him work for free as a Smith. Arriving the next morning for his horseshoes, O’Rourke discovers the Captain who is shackled in the pigpen. They recognise each other from the beach and the Captain is taken back to the castle.

The first act is one of celebration as O’Rourke’s niece, Erin comes of age and the clan proudly sing of their defiance to the crown. O’Rourke’s wife Eleanor, who is heavily pregnant amuses herself with the Captains vain attempts at palm reading. Captain Cuellar falls in love with Erin and O’Rourke’s ally “one-eyed” MacSweeny lusts after her.

At a tactical meeting MacSweeny promises O’Rourke the full support of his munster-men in the North. The meeting is interrupted by the Queens Governor, Sir Richard Bingham, who, orders O’Rourke to hand over the Spaniards in his protection. O’Rourke spits at this command and Bingham nervously and quickly leaves the party to take the message back to the Queen.

Captain Cuellar believes Erin to be the angel he saw in his feverish dreams and it is love at first sight. In the quiet after the party they sing a duet and consummate their passion. Eleanor sings of her fears for her unborn child who she believes will be born into servitude and a life of hardship.

That night witches conduct a pagan ritual in the light of the full moon invoking the Irish goddess trio. This is interrupted by O’Rourke and his men who are out scouting. The head witch is captured, to be detained and sentenced. The witch curses O’Rourke warning him of his impending doom.

In the second act Captain Cuellar, Erin and O’Rourke contemplate their destinies. Will O’Rourke allow Erin to be with the Spaniard? O’Rourke struggles with his decision to continue this fight.

Erin waits for Captain Cuellar outside the walls of Parkes castle and is met by MacSweeny. He forces himself on her and disregards her, throwing her a coin for her trouble. Eleanor and Captain Cuellar find her and Eleanor stops the Captain from taking revenge, begging him to leave it to her husband. Eleanor is left alone and the exhaustion and strain starts to show.

Queen Elisabeth hears of the response to her request from Bingham and flies into a rage. She laments the situation in Ireland and orders the swift end of the conflict.

Symbolically, Erin symbolises Ireland, and the rape does not need to be explicit but this actual historical event is probably the most important as it turns destiny on its head. Finding out this terrible thing occurred, O’Rourke confronts MacSweeny who escapes after trying to convince that Erin wanted it. This event means that O’Rourke loses many men promised by MacSweeny, which leaves him vulnerable and on the run. For Eleanor this event marks a further decline in her mental health, which leads to a miscarriage.

Taking shelter in the land of Tueth, O’Rourke regroups and in stubborn, prideful O’Rourke fashion plans a surprise attack on the English. Unfortunately the English conduct a surprise attack first, Eleanor is stabbed and O’Rourke and surviving clan flee to Scotland to seek protection from King James.

O’Rourke was hung drawn and quartered at Tyburn square amongst what is described as a ‘riot in London’. RIP.

On many levels The Last Torch is a love story. It tells of the love of the Irish for their culture and land, the love for their children and their love for each other. It is romance and passion on the backdrop of conflict. This story gives homage to the fallen, to the men and women who have fought for their independence against dire odds and have given their lives in the name of freedom. It explores Indigenous, colonization and power issues all of which are relevant today.

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Tags: Armada, Arts, Australia, Drama, Leitrim, Music, O'Rourke, Sligo, Spain, Theater, More…Visual Arts

Comment by Gerry Regan on September 13, 2014 at 10:21am

I am delighted to see how artfully this productions seems to have come together, and even more so to think that we might have played even the most modest of roles in bringing more attention to it. Congratulations, Fran, and one and all who are now part of this truly historic production!

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