Get ready for a threesome with Little John Nee

Actor/writer to stage Talking Derry Boat, The Church of Chill, and Ribbons

Little John Nee. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Little John Nee. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

LITTLE JOHN Nee presents his new show Talking Derry Boat, at the Town Hall Theatre studio tomorrow and Saturday, in what is the first of three shows at the venue, the others being The Church of Chill in March and Ribbons, a collaboration with Laura Sheeran, in April.

Talking Derry Boat relates the magical story behind his smash hit 1998 show The Derry Boat which secured LJ an Outstanding Lead Actor nomination in Washington DC’s prestigious Helen Hayes Awards and enjoyed sell-out runs in Ireland, Scotland, and the US. Not bad for a show that had its beginning in Padraic Breathnach’s kitchen.

“The notion of The Derry Boat first came to me when I read Patrick McGill – who mentions the Derry Boat –and it was the first time I had recognized the story of my people in literature,” Little John tells me. “Padraic agreed to direct it. I’d been talking to him about it for a long while, he was its dramaturg in a sense. We had hardly any money for it, the entire budget was about £400, to cover everything. We had to do some of the rehearsals in Padraic’s house.

“It was a whole new departure for me. The work excited me and I was delighted with what we were coming up with. The original title was 21st Century Gael, but thank God I stuck with Derry Boat because it sold out on the title alone when we first did it Ramelton Town Hall. The same thing happened when I did at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, all the Donegal people there came to see it and the show sold out, we had to start putting on matinees. A lot of its success was on the title alone.”

Little John outlines the content of Talking Derry Boat; “There are three overlapping parts in the show, the story of Derry Boat’s background, there are extracts from the show and I say how they came about, for instance its use of props like getting a tar barrel to represent a coalmine. Then there is the touring section and our adventures on the road. I remember people would be coming up to us with their own Derry boat stories like the show gave them validation. I used to have Margo’s ‘Destination Donegal’ as pre-show music and the whole audience would start singing and swaying along to it even before the house lights went down.”

The Church of Chill will run from Thursday March 3 to Saturday 5. “The Church of Chill is pure fun,” Little John declares. “I first did it out the back in Taylors' Bar then it went to Punchbag. It’s an alternative biography of my life in contrast to the memoir shows, it’s more comic. It’s a gospel style preacher show, centred round a ‘church for old punks and assorted wasters’ and it describes things like Jimi Hendrix appearing to me in Rahoon. I’ve reworked it for this new staging.”

Little John’s theatrical threesome is completed by a preview of his newest work, provisionally titled Ribbons, which sees him team up with the supremely gifted musician Laura Sheeran. This is their first new work together since the highly acclaimed The Mental. Ribbons is a lyrical story about a journey interwoven with a powerful score and delicious songs. “It was originally titled All the People I Loved Are Dying,” LJ reveals “It’s all about that nature of impermanence and about the creative spirit. It considers those sublime moments of bliss in life contrasted with the grief and fear that take away our experience of being. It’s strongly musical and the music in it is very different from my stuff with the band.”

Plenty to look forward to then from Little John in the months ahead, starting this weekend with Talking Derry Boat. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie

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