Lemonade Sandwich: Story of an amateur boxer is back in Belfast
The hard-hitting play Lemonade Sandwich, based on the true story of Gerard McManus as a young amateur boxer battling drugs, drink and street violence is back in Belfast.
The play, written by Mick Draine and directed by Tony Devlin follows the journey of Gerard as he turns his life around and trains professional boxer Paddy Gallagher.
Gerard, who now owns Arena Health and Fitness, said: “There were two reasons that I agreed to let them go forth with the play: Paddy Gallagher and Mick Draine. I saw that it was something good for them.”
The 37-year-old started boxing at an early age at Immaculata Amateur Boxing Club, but later experimented with drugs and alcohol and went on a downward spiral.
He said: “There are years of my life that I can't even remember because of all the toxins I put in my body and that's a shame.
“There's a very true saying, 'hurt people hurt people,' and I always thought why me and that my parents weren't good, but they were struggling with the loss of my brother and I don't blame them for anything that happened to me as a kid growing up.”
The first time Gerard watched Lemonade Sandwich he was emotional and recently seeing the play again, brought on a much stronger feeling. He said: “I was more emotional because of Paddy. I'm not training him any more and that was a massive part of my life at one time, but as much as I've helped Paddy he's helped me."
Paddy Gallagher, a professional boxer, who won the welterweight gold at the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi, India, was trained and coached by Gerard, who flew to see him fight when he made it to the final round of the games.
Paddy said: “I was at a boxing club for a few years and he just came in and started helping a few of us at the club. He is a very good hearted person. He's good at helping people and good at doing things for others.”
Paddy has seen Lemonade Sandwich twice and thinks that it's an accurate depiction of his former trainer and coach. He said: “People were crying at sad stories and the next minute they were bursting with laughter. It's an up and down roller coaster.”
Although Paddy is no longer being trained by Gerard, he is continuing his career in boxing and his next fight will be in Belfast this November.
Mick Draine, the writer of Lemonade Sandwich, met Gerard at a gym in Belfast. He said: “I found out about his life story and I thought that it would make for a great play. I had never boxed before, but I trained for about eight weeks with him and it was a great experience.”
Tony Devlin, the director, found out about the play through the actor, Gerard Jordan, who invited him to the reading. He said: “I met Mick at the read through and I told him that it was a great story and that he had a great imagination and he looked at me and said 'it's all true'.
“I thought it was so ludicrous. This guy was brought up in tough circumstances with his brother being murdered, his mother passing, getting involved with drugs and alcohol, and then changed his life around, but it was all true.”
From the first show in 2013, Mick and Tony have changed a few parts in the play because the original was too long.
Tony said: “We thought there was too much information to process and it overshadowed the story line, but now it's much stronger.
“We didn't have much money for the first showing of the play, but the Belfast City Council gave us more money to do it this time and the play has been brought to a different level.”
Gerard has decided to take a back seat to boxing and focus on his children and business, but he would like to get back into it when he's a little older.
He said: “I hope this play catches one person and changes their lives because if it helps just one person then it was all worth it.”
For more information on the play and upcoming shows visit http://www.brassnecktheatrecompany.com.