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Dancing In The Moonlight: A play about Phil Lynott

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Review by Damien Doherty

The thing you’ll immediately notice when the stage illuminates is that Miles Mlambo looks extraordinarily like Phil Lynott, in fact the resemblance is uncanny.

In his one man play Dancing In The Moonlight, A Play About Phil Lynott, Mlambo documents Lynott’s story from the time his mother Philomena leaves Dublin for England until the formation of Thin Lizzy.

We are treated to a stellar performance as he portrays Phil as child, adolescent and young adult in this enjoyable, witty, yet sometimes emotional show.

Set on the night that his daughter Sarah was born this is an imagining of Philo reminiscing on his past as he ponders what her future may hold. Mlambo explores the difficulties that Philomena endured as an unmarried mother of a mixed race child in 1950s society; the racism and inequalities they encountered, the struggle to put food on the table, and the eventual heart-breaking separation of mother and son at age 7.

He reflects on life in Dublin with the Lynott family, the trials of being one of the only black people in the city, the fierce pride in his Irish identity, and the enduring bond with his beloved mother. The young Phil’s early romantic life is also explored from the heart-warming story of a shy teenager asking out his first girlfriend to a terrible sadness borne from the relationship.

Formative moments in Lynott’s musical career are examined: Joining the Black Eagles band, the arrival of Brush Shiels on his doorstep, his early relationship with Brian Downey, and his participation in the local music and poetry scene.

A reluctant karaoke performance of “I left my heart in San Francisco” at the Clifton Grange Hotel (“The Biz”), urged on presumably by Philomena and her partner Denis Keeley, perfectly captures Phil’s initial shyness at the start of the song through to his confident performance working the crowd at its culmination, an apt metaphor for the singer’s musical journey.

A highlight of the show for me occurs as the play draws near to its close. Now I’ve heard the story of how Eric Bell met Phil and Brian many times, but the portrayal of the event by Mlambo accurately and hilariously reflects how I’d always imagined it playing out; Bell fresh out of the untrendy showband scene, tripping on acid and on a hunt for a rhythm section winning over the initially sceptical duo backstage at a gig.

The production is currently touring Ireland so make sure and look out for a performance near you, and here’s hoping Part 2 is in the works shortly. For dates and updates you can follow the Facebook page “Dancing In The Moonlight: A Play About Phil Lynott”.

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