Annabelle's Star

Annabelle's Star by Raymond Keane and Mary McNally at The Ark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Annabelle's Star by Raymond Keane and Mary McNally at The Ark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Annabelle's Star with CatrĂ­ona Ennis. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Annabelle's Star with CatrĂ­ona Ennis. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Another Christmas, another wonderful production by the Ark. This year's Christmas production, Annabelle's Star, takes its audience on a magical wordless journey through loss and despair to hope and new beginnings. Set to beautiful original music by Conor Mitchell, Annabelle's Star tells the story of a lone little girl and her struggle to come to terms with the loss of her parents. Never one to shy away from complex and often adult emotional themes, director and co-writer Raymond Keane, and co-writer Mary McNally, explore the reality of loss and its impact on Annabelle's happiness and sense of self. We get the sense that Annabelle has been rendered voiceless from her family tragedy, highlighting the harsh reality of loss and its largely unspoken nature in relation to discourses of childhood. 
Annabelle's voicelessness is coupled with a loss of self-confidence. We see her hide from the initially fearsome audience and then confront them through the use of an imaginary hand puppet. Annabelle's low self-esteem leaves her unable to make decisions for herself, and she is constantly referring to the audience for direction on how to proceed. In this way it can be seen that it is Annabelle's social interaction with others and her building sense of happiness that gives her her voice. 
This is a visually spectacular show. The effects created by the lighting, and the object manipulation by Bryan Burroughs, evoke a sense of awe and wonder among its young audience and create an atmosphere of magic and possibility. We see two stars, presumably representative of Annabelle's parents, guide her throughout her journey as they float and twinkle across the sky. An enormous, illuminated and colourful Christmas present from Annabelle's parents is the source of endless delight and fascination as it produces gift after gift for Annabelle. A miniature Annabelle plays with her friends and, when the gift of wings fails Annabelle, the miniature Annabelle symbolically flies up to the sky to join her two stars. A russian doll-like box-within-a-box motif reminds Annabelle of different stages of her childhood, symbolically bringing her through stages of grief, until she finally reaches acceptance. 
The costume design by Miriam Duffy emphasises Annabelle's childishness, as suggested by her mismatched wardrobe of red tartan dress, gold sparkly boots, pink tutu, frilly bloomers and red nose. This, in combination with the use of mime and movement and the play's mystical aesthetic, is reminiscent to that of Cirque du Soleil, and has an other worldly feel about it.Caitriona Ennis is a mesmorising performer. She builds a rapport with the audience with her childlike movements and sense of fun, while her poignant moments of connection with an off-stage star highlight her character's vulnerability and showcase Ennis as a highly skilled and versatile actor.
There are often moments of near complete darkness which may be unsettling for young children and, while aesthetically impressive, the story is difficult to understand at times and children may find some elements quite confusing. Having said this, Annabelle's Star, while not overtly Christmassy in theme, has the audience leave with a heightened sense of Christmas spirit and hope for the future. 
Helen Cusack has a BA in Drama and English and M.Phil in Children's Literature from Trinity College. She is an avid theatregoer and is currently studying for her H.Dip. in Primary Education.


  • Review
  • Theatre

Annabelle's Star by Mary McNally and Raymond Keane

26 Nov-30 Dec, 2013

Produced by Raymond Keane
In The Ark, Temple Bar, Dublin

Directed by Raymond Keane

Original Music: Conor Mitchell

Lighting Design: Mark Galione

Costume Design: Miriam Duffy

Object manipulation: Bryan Burroughs

With: Caitriona Ennis

Ages: 4-8