#WATCH The political sting to Jimmy’s Hall

SCOT Graham McLaren was appointed director to The Abbey Theatre a year ago with Neil Murray in a shared, agreed appointment. The two were on a plane to Scotland one day when Murray ran past him the concept of Ken Roache’s film ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ as a piece for musical theatre. The film script was written by a mutual friend, Paul Laverty.

“I thought the film was really upper street,” McLaren recalls. “It says things about community and … this is the first show that I would make, literally, on the stage of The Abbey. I thought it was a really beautiful movie and could be really beautiful stage play.”

And thus this 2018 Abbey production tours to Limerick on Saturday July 14, running nightly 8pm into Saturday 21. The cast are mostly singers and dancers as well as actors, their shared portfolio impresses. Remember Lisa Lambe from Bill Whelan’s ‘The Train’? Joined by Bosco Hogan, Donal O’Kelly, Bríd Ní Neachtain, Richard Clements as Jimmy, and more.

Lisa Lambe and the village get it on

McLaren is mad about the subtext to the true story of how Jimmy Gralton was deported from Leitrim in 1932 by his fellow countrymen for running a successful dance hall in that lonely outpost.

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“It’s about community in different social and economic circumstances … making it happen for people to fall in love and be happy”. He coughs a snort at the Ireland of the 1930s, the emergence of the new State “when DeValera climbed into bed with the Catholic Church.”

Jimmy Gralton is a man whom this director perceives as victimised by institutions, “those two ideas of Church and State working together. There was no room for another voice, the voice of the community in Ireland.”

Graham McLaren draws a corollary with theatre audiences; we are identified as another bunch of heads coming together.

For us, he wanted “to create that perfect lock-in or dance hall, a perfect night at a wedding where people fell in love and celebrated life and love and community.”

Thus the music is jig-time to ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ with recording artists Ruth McGill and Lisa Lambe giving it sox. Aindrias de Staic is an accomplished trad musician and what Jimmy’s Hall seems to promise  is [humming to Chique] everybody dance, clap your hands, clap your hands.  There will be songs from The Pogues, The Clash, punk rock, a Christy Moore toon and trad.

“We have been really liberal with the storytelling and bring in a song from Philip Chevron and from Whitney Houston.”

Anticipate “a radiance, the experience of a great night and great energy.”

I wouldn’t doubt it.

Booking on www.limetreetheatre.ie