ARTS COLUMN: With Conor Malone

ARTS COLUMN: With Conor Malone
There are three nights remaining of Little Shop of Horrors at An Grianan, Letterkenny, which finishes up on Saturday, Feb. 21st. It’s a great show – very funny with some brilliant music. Go and see it.

There are three nights remaining of Little Shop of Horrors at An Grianan, Letterkenny, which finishes up on Saturday, Feb. 21st. It’s a great show – very funny with some brilliant music. Go and see it.

Elsewhere, Mike Denver and Guests are at The Millennium Forum, Derry tonight (Thursday Feb 19th). Tomorrow night, Friday February 20th, PJ Gallagher is at The Alley, Strabane, Tommy Fleming is at The Millennium Forum, Derry and Little John Nee and the Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra launch their Songs From The Lough Swilly Delta album at The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny.

The Give My Head Peace comedy team are at The Alley, Strabane on Saturday. There’s more comedy on Sunday when Des Bishop comes to An Grianan, Letterkenny. Also on Sunday, Scottish folk singer Isla Grant visits The Alley, Strabane.

The Butt Drama Circle’s festival play, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, opens a three night run at The Balor, Ballybofey on Tuesday February 24th. It’s there until Thursday 26th. And on Wednesday afternoon, An Grianan Letterkenny hosts Idan Meir’s Bassam, the powerful true story of ex-Israeli soldier Bassam Aramin, co-founder of the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement Combatants For Peace.

Highly Strung

With popular shows such as Rural Electric, The Derry Boat, Dead Rooster Blues and Sparkplug to his credit, Little John Nee has long been one of Donegal’s most popular theatrical performers. A feature of his plays is the consistent brilliance of the music and soundscapes that he creates, as acknowledged by his winning an Irish Times Theatre Award for best sound design for his show Sparkplug in 2013.

Ordinarily a solo performer, it was in his play The Mothers Arms that John first incorporated musicians Fionn Robinson (guitar), Orlaith Gilcreest (vocals and clarinet) and Jeremy Howard (keys) into his stage show and the Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra was born.

A successful crowdfunding campaign last year lead to the recording and release of Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta. Recorded in Termon’s Attica Studios, the album is a mixture of comic blues and haunted ballads taken from Little John’s back catalogue of plays and given the Highly Strung treatment, adding energy sensitivity and layers of delicate and powerful harmony. It’s a great album and, if you haven’t heard it already, you really should.

The Donegal launch of Songs From The Lough Swilly Delta takes place tomorrow night, Friday February 20th, in The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny at 8pm. It promises to be a fantastic night of blues, ballads and fun from a really talented quartet of musicians. Tickets are priced at €12 (€10 concession) and are available from the An Grianan Box Office on 074 9120777. Little John Nee is phenomenonally popular around these parts and this gig is highly anticipated, so advance booking would be highly recommended.

The Glass Menagerie

It’s a busy week for Orlaith Gilcreest. Not only is she one of the musicians in the aforementioned Little John Nee and The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra in the Regional Cultural Centre on Friday. She’s also starring as Laura in The Butt Drama Circle’s production of the Tennessee Williams classic The Glass Menagerie at The Balor, Ballybofey from Tuesday to Thursday next week.

A classic of American theatre, The Glass Menagerie is the play that catapulted Tennessee Williams from obscurity to fame. It’s strongly autobiographical, with the characters and storyline closely resembling Williams’ own life.

Abandoned by her husband, Amanda Wingfield comforts herself with recollections of her earlier, more gracious life in Blue Mountain when she was pursued by “gentleman callers”. Her son Tom, a poet with a job in a warehouse, longs for adventure and escape from his mother’s suffocating embrace while Laura, her shy crippled daughter, has her glass menagerie and her memories. Amanda is desperate to find her daughter a husband but, when the long awaited gentleman caller does arrive, Laura’s romantic illusions are crushed.

The Glass Menagerie is The Butt Drama Circle’s 2015 festival play. Joining Orlaith in the cast are Butt Drama Circle stalwarts Kathleen McGowan (Amanda) and Sean Byrne as Tom, while the role of The Gentleman Caller is played by Cronan Scanlon. It’s a powerful evocation of loneliness and lost love and it remains one of Tennessee Williams most powerful and moving pieces.

The Glass Menagerie opens next Tuesday, February 24th and runs for three nights til Thursday February 26th at 8pm nightly at The Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey. Admission is €12 (€10 concession) and tickets are available from The Balor box Office on 074 9131840 or online at www.balorartscentre.com.

A Weekend Of Comedy

There’s a potentially busy weekend ahead for comedy afficianados. You could, if you so, choose, attend comedy gigs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Kicking off the weekend is PJ Gallagher who’s at The Alley, Strabane this Friday. PJ is still best known for his work on RTE hidden camera show The Naked Camera where he played, amongst other roles, whistling newspaper wielding Jake Stevens and The Dirty Aul One, but he’s a hilarious ball of energy when he takes to the stage for stand-up.

There’s more comedy at The Alley on Saturday with Give My Head Peace. It’s a stage version of the popular TV programme featuring up to the minute satire from Ulster’s favourite dysfunctional family and hilarious stand up from Tim McGarry.

Rounding out the weekend is Des Bishop who brings his new show Coming Home to An Grianan, Letterkenny on Sunday February 22nd. After spending the last year in China, Des has lots of fun new stories to tell – from working in a restaurant in the North East for a month to trying to find a wife.

PJ Gallagher is at The Alley, Strabane on Friday Febraury 20th at 8.00pm, admission £15. Give My Head Peace plays The Alley on Saturday 21st at 8.00pm tickets £22. You can contact The Alley on 048 7138 4444 or book online at www.alley-theatre.com.

Des Bishop is at An Grianan, Letterkeny on Sunday 22nd at 8pm. Tickets are €25 (4 for €90) available from An Grianan – 074 9120777 or onine at www.angrianan.com.

Tommy Fleming

North West audiences have two chances over the coming weeks to catch popular singer Tommy Fleming in concert. Tommy is on tour following the release of another successful album, The West’s Awake. He plays The Millennium Forum, Derry tomorrow night (Friday, February 20th) and the following Friday, Feb 27th, he’ll be at The Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey.

Tommy’s new album has brought him back to his roots musically, including as it does songs like Sonny, The West’s Awake and John O Dreams but his concerts will also include his biggest hits such as Danny Boy, Bright Blue Rose and Hard Times, delivered in own unique emotional style that has brought him worldwide recognition and critical acclaim.

Tommy Fleming is at The Millennium Forum, Derry on Friday February 20th at 8pm. Tickets are £26.50 sterling and available from The Forum on 048 7126 4455 or onine at www.millenniumforum.co.uk. Tickets for his Balor gig (Friday, February 27th) are €28 available from the Balor Box Office on 074 9131840 or online at www.balorartscentre.com.