Flawed genius brought back to life in strangely sinister production

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The life of one of Londonderry’s most famous sons, Josef Locke, was revitalised at the Millenium Forum at the weekend.

Scripted by local author and journalist Felicity McCall, ‘Josef Locke - A Grand Adventure,’ tells the story of Joseph McLaughlin’s rise from humble beginnings as the son-of-a-butcher from ‘Thundering Down’ to the world famous tenor he became in the post-war years.

The weirdly sinister production, directed by The Playhouse’s, Kieran Griffiths, doesn’t shirk the less sympathetic aspects of Locke’s reputed character as they’ve been passed down to us in local lore justly or otherwise.

The hubris [he fancied himself a Tauber or McCormack but was in effect a music hall variety act]; the second and third hungers [he was a parsimonious philanderer, it’s said]; and the grating egoism, are all alluded to.

Brilliantly sung and acted by a cast including young Brenn Doherty (the son of local photographer Lorcan), Edendork singer Karl McGuckin, local actor and comic Peter E. Davidson and Orla Mullan, fresh from credits on the ‘The Fall,’ the darker-than-expected narrative is interspersed with classics of the Locke canon, the stage Irish sentimental music hall numbers and operettan snippets juxtaposed against the demons dogging the famous Derry man.

Obligatory crowd pleasers ‘Hear My Song, Violetta,’ ‘I’ll Take You home Again, Kathleen,’ ‘The Drinking Song’ and ‘Galway Bay’ are all present and correct. ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ also get an airing.

If you like music hall, which your reviewer does, you’ll like this.

But ‘A Grand Adventure’ is more than a twee blast from the past. This biodrama is a meaty examination of a fascinating and flawed genius from the Moor whose sentorious pomp resounded around the world.

It’s playing three nights in the Lyric in Belfast from November 13 to 15. Well worth looking at.