INTERVIEW: Jenny Dillon talks to Naas man Joe O'Neill of The Little Shadow Theatre Company

Out of the shadows into the limelight

Jenny Dillon

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Jenny Dillon

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INTERVIEW: Jenny Dillon talks to Naas man Joe O'Neill of The Little Shadow Theatre Company

Joe O'Neill

 At 8.15pm on a Wednesday in June 2015, a Naas man brought The Little Shadow Theatre Company to the stage for the first time. Within the Civic Theatre Tallaght, an audience sat expectantly, waiting to lose themselves in another world. 

Although it must have been a challenge to step out on stage with this new company, those involved had come prepared. The cast put on a memorable performance of an original play, Goodbye to Marie, written and co-directed by company founder and local artist, Joe O’Neill.

Two years later, the organisation has toured around Ireland and performed in London with a few of their productions.  They have already accomplished a lot in their short existence, such as creating a new festival, titled The New Irish Playbook, which was held for the first time in 2016 by The Sean O’Casey Theatre, Dublin. It’s a week-long  production, showcasing the next generation of Irish writers, directors and actors.

Everything began with one person, named Joe O’Neill. The Naas local says he originally founded the company as a way of promoting his own work and he’s happy to see it grow into something much larger, a company that gives aspiring writers a chance to have their work produced.

“Even though the initial idea for the company was to promote my own writing it has grown to a company that produces original plays by up and coming Irish writers,” he said.

Joe  is an up and coming writer himself and has had a number of scripts produced by different theatres across Ireland, receiving a lot of positive feedback for his work. He writes mainly shorter pieces and with so many scripts containing such originality, it’s difficult to see where Joe gets his many ideas from.

“My plays are based on different life experiences and just general ideas that I have or something that I’ve seen going on. I like to think that I’m taking things in society and tweaking them to have different quirks and show more of my writing style.”

As with all artists and creators, Joe has his ways of finding inspiration. When he finds he’s a bit stuck for ideas or having a bit of a writer’s block, he says that he likes to put his Spotify account to good use.

“Every time I’m looking for inspiration, I listen to a specific album that I found on Spotify by Van Morrison. Something about the way he sings always helps me with my writing.”

A series of short plays written and directed by Joe O’Neill will be performed by the Little Shadow Theatre in Naas this week. 

The production will be hosted by McAuley Place tomorrow, Friday, December 1. Similarly to the festival mentioned previously, the upcoming production in Naas has been given the title The New Irish Playbook by Joe O’Neill.

“The New Irish Playbook is the name of the festival that I started in 2016. Four of my plays were performed as part of the festivals and so I decided to keep the name for the production in Naas. It’s a series of short plays that I’ve written myself and I guess I’m using the name almost as a spin-off of the festival.”

Recently, Joe has been producing short films which are published on YouTube.

 Coming Out, is the title of his first short, consisting of a comedic script which has raked up over 52,000 views on the channel alone. 

He also wrote a piece, named Our Child, which is classed as a dramatic comedy.

 These two short films together have had over 200,000 views on Facebook and YouTube combined. Both of these will be performed on the performance night in McAuley place. 

As with all writers and directors, Joe would like to make his audiences feel something. 

The company doesn’t seem to have that many specific aims, but the production is a way of getting themselves out there and promoting their original work. “I have to say that my aim is to entertain above all. You need to write about a topic that will engage the audience. 

“If you write something to purposely offend anyone, then you don’t really have any talent, you’re just a bad person. Even if you don’t completely agree with the point you’re making in the script, you can still do it in a way which includes a view that maybe the audience hadn’t really understood before. Other than that I suppose the aim would be to be able to make a living out of it.”

Most of those involved in the theatre company have graduated university with a performing arts degree and so are already well on their way in their careers. As leader and founder of the company, Joe has high hopes for all the people he has worked with.

“I believe everyone will go on to have a successful career as they’re all extremely talented. I get the opportunity to work with amazing actors and if I can help them in any way and play a part in their success, it would be great.”

Tickets to the event at the McAuley place are available online at eventbrite.ie and the company will only be here for one night only so don’t miss your chance to see them.