Belfast Telegraph

Belfast actress Emily Olive Boyd treads the same London boards as her ancestor 90 years ago

By Chris McCullough

When Emily Olive Boyd from Belfast stepped out on a London theatre stage to perform in a hit musical, little did she know she was following in one of her ancestor's footsteps.

The West End star has just finished a run in The Commitments at the Palace Theatre in London and was amazed to discover that her great-great-uncle played in the same theatre exactly 90 years earlier.

Her uncle, Johnny Flanagan, originally came from Richhill in County Armagh and was a member of the Prince of Wales Players who performed in one of the most successful musicals of the day, 'No No Nanette', a show that ran on the London stage for an amazing 665 performances.

Emily, who played Alice in the West End adaptation of Roddy Doyle's best-selling novel about the ups and downs of a Dublin soul band, said: "Sadly, my great-great-uncle Johnny didn't have long to enjoy his successes. Having contracted tuberculosis, he died in 1927 aged just 31.

"Among his possessions were letters from a former London rooming mate, David Davies, better known as Ivor Novello. Earlier in his career he had also played alongside Fred Astaire in a musical comedy called Stop Flirting."

The Commitments will begin its UK tour next year, with stints in Dublin and Belfast on the busy schedule.

Meanwhile, Emily has been appearing in her own cabaret at the Black Box in Belfast over the Christmas period, singing the songs of Ella Fitzgerald in a show called Get Happy!'

The 23 year-old star, who is regarded as one of the finest young soul and jazz voices in the West End, was joined by two of her West End friends, Sarah O'Connor, who has appeared in The Commitments, Les Miserables and Mamma Mia) and well-known Belfast actor Conleth Kane.

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