There will be few people here in Northern Ireland who haven’t heard about the Miami Showband Massacre.
As someone in their thirties, it obviously happened before my time, but it was always something I knew about, particularly given my mum often talked about the showbands and her love for them in the 70s.
And of course, Netflix then released a documentary about the killings earlier this year which brought the massacre into the forefront once again.
Therefore, I was intrigued as to how such a terrible atrocity could be made into all-singing, all-dancing musical, written by Marie Jones and Martin Lynch.
However, the show is, in the most part, about the formation of the band (the ‘Irish Beatles’) from different groups around Ireland- Belfast, Bray and Cork- and the heyday of the showband era.
The first half of the play features fantastic live performances of the band’s hit cover songs and their own original tracks, to the delight of the audience members who knew every word! Expect to hear classics such as ‘Simple Simon says’ and ‘Clap your hand, Stomp your feet.’ (And the audience did!)
But course, it also deals with the 1975 tragedy and the aftermath of three of the band members being killed. This was very sensitively done and you could honestly hear a pin drop as the play depicted the band members lining up in what they thought was a normal border checkpoint, as the audience knew what was coming.
It also touches on the effect the killings had on the surviving members, in particular, Des Lee’s battle with alcoholism and the difficulty he had performing on stage without his band mates.
My only negative was the fact the six male singers performed a few different roles, so at the beginning I found it a little hard to distinguish between the three bands from which the Miami Showband was formed.
An important line in the play is “we didn’t change the world with our music, but we brought people together” and this comes across very well. The band were truly a success story, loved by people right across Ireland, regardless of religion.
I was too young to know every song but you don’t need to a fan of the showband to enjoy this well-written and well-performed play, with the live music being the real star of the show! A must see for those wanting to be taken back to the Floral Hall in Belfast!
The Miami Showband Story runs at the Grand Opera House until Saturday 17 August.