When Maggie Byrne, children fighting in the back, suddenly hears on the radio one of the nuns who taught her at convent school, she is so distracted that she crashes the car. This stirs another argument in the already strained relationship with her husband. The affair that Maggie had recently ended to try to save their marriage remains a very sore point. Wondering whether her old school might be one for her daughter who’s about to go to secondary, she digs out a prize for her musical accomplishments and promise, a book about the school’s foundress, Cornelia Connelly. A sheet of music, Chopin’s Adieu waltz, flutters from its pages. Out of practice, as she attempts to play the first notes of the music, she can hold it together no more. For many years a lapsed Catholic, deeply unhappy, longing to find a way out of the marriage and back to her lover, in desperation, she finds herself unexpectedly praying for guidance to Cornelia.
And so, sharing a common love for music and dance, Cornelia’s remarkable life begins to waltz and weave through Maggie’s. During the acrimonious divorce that follows, including the loss of custody of her two children, Maggie continues to draw inspiration and courage from Cornelia’s capacity to endure the tragedies and triumphs that marked her own remarkable and true experience from Protestant vicar’s wife to Catholic nun, Reverend Mother and educational pioneer.
WALTZ WITH ME is a new play, to be performed by actors and musicians, about marriage, devotion, devastation and what lies beyond. It brings to life the challenges of motherhood, the calling of vocation, nature of personal sacrifice for a greater cause and the impact of faith, infusing live waltz, sacred and folk music through the unfolding drama. More than anything, it dives into how little and how much has changed across two centuries in the struggles faced by women with passion and talent who are inspired to play a role in the wider world whilst also caring for their children. And a way forward. For in the end WALTZ WITH ME embraces the human ability to transform adversity and loss into deeper understanding and generosity of action, in a surprisingly moving, perhaps even miraculous, denouement.