The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon discusses theatre production Swallows and Amazons
The musical is to be directed by War Horse's Tom Morris
‘I don’t think of myself as much of a collaborator …’ muses Neil Hannon. A chuckle follows, the irony of his statement kicking in. When he’s not being frontman to The Divine Comedy, the Northern Irish pop star has written music for Father Ted and Doctor Who, and collaborated with the likes of Ulster Orchestra and French electronic duo Air. This month his collaborative work will be on show at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, in the form of musical family play, Swallows and Amazons.
What attracted him to the project? ‘I write funny, poignant lyrics with good tunes, and I like surprising people,’ he says, ‘and I loved the idea of doing a good, ripping family musical that everyone could enjoy.’
Based on the poplar 1930s book by Arthur Ransome and directed here by War Horse's Tom Morris, Swallows and Amazons follows the children of two families in the sun-kissed Lake District of 1929. After reading the novel to his young daughter, Hannon was sold.
Taking his inspiration from such evergreen musicals as My Fair Lady, High Society and The Sound of Music, as well as a variety of his own abiding influences, Hannon admits the ‘album-worth’ of songs in the show each have their own unique verve. ‘It was a learning curve,’ he laughs. ‘I can be quite cerebral, so it was fun to find chirpy and adventurous elements to play with. It’s a great story with a good heart; I think people will respond to that.’
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 31 Jan–Sat 4 Feb.