Owen O'Neill: Ten Songs to Die For

Owen O'Neill
Assembly Rooms
to

Owen O’Neill’s latest solo show, performed in a shipping container in the middle of George Street as most of the former venues in the iconic Assembly Rooms have been sold off by the council for retail, consists of stories from his teenage years, which, if not wholly true, certainly have the ring of authenticity about them, together with photos of the main people featured.

Each story features a significant song which accompanies the memory, not fanfared as a title but subtly incorporated into the plot. I didn’t count them to check there were ten, but they include “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”, “Sylvia’s Mother”, “Forever Young” and “Highway to Hell”.

However it begins with the Bridie Gallagher Irish classic “Two Little Orphans”, not the sort of song you want to be caught singing in public by your peers when you’re 14½. Especially when you’re going out with the coolest girl in school. Fortunately a mischievous friend was around to save the day with a stunt for which it was worth getting punished.

The other stories include a spiritual experience while stealing apples, a close encounter with the mother of another girl he fancied that resulted in a brush with the IRA, a sad tale involving the cool friend who introduced him to LSD and how he lost then found his mother, then found, lost and found again his half-brother.

The stories are often funny but sometimes also dangerous, sad or uplifting, told with the skill of an experienced storyteller. The ending returns unexpectedly but perfectly to something introduced right at the beginning, which is very satisfying when you realise where it’s going.

David Chadderton