JOE met up with Little John Nee ahead of his show 'Sparkplug' at this year's ABSOLUTE Fringe 2012. He's one seriously cool dude and we're assured that this is one seriously cool show.
JOE: Your show 'Sparkplug' has kicked off at the ABSOLUTE Fringe Fest 2012. Tell us a bit about what to expect.
Little John Nee: I am so close to the work that sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine what it must appear like to anyone else. It's surreal, it's rural, it's funny, it's odd; a blues love story steeped in contemporary vintage imagery, it's like no other show at the festival. I created the set, wrote the show and music and songs, the music is all played live using loop pedals and a variety of intriguing instruments.
JOE: Tell us a bit about your past. Is it true you used to impersonate Charlie Chaplin on Grafton Street? What was it like to impersonate someone who is considered one of the ‘greats’?
Little John Nee: I moved to Dublin 1982, I had spent the previous five years in London in squats. It was a great time to be doing street shows, Thom McGinty the ‘Diceman’ was very encouraging, and Grafton St. had just been pedestrianised.
One day I was going home after busking, still in costume and in character, when a woman came running out of her house with a baby in her arms, as her cooker had caught fire. So I put out the fire in character, by the time I came out of the smoky kitchen a crowd had gathered. I tipped my hat, kicked my cane, and waddled off down the road.
I learnt so much about movement, comic timing and pathos from Chaplin. I had great times in Spain and France; older people in particular treated me like an old friend.
JOE: Do you remember those day’s with fond memories? Did it pay the bills?
Little John Nee: I remember those days with mixed emotions. I had many good friends and people who were very good to me, but I was a bit lost really. Sometimes it paid the bills, frequently it didn't.
JOE: How did your love of the ukulele come about and is it easier to tell a story with one?
Little John Nee: I always liked the ukulele for its handy size and beauty, and Buster Keaton playing the ukulele inspired me, but generally there were only cheap ukes available and it was frustrating trying to keep them in tune. It was a real task to find a good one. I like musical storytelling, it's fun, but I think it might be harder rather than easier to tell a story with one, you have to be convincing on two counts.
JOE: What do you think is the biggest thing that annoys Sparkplug Callaghan about Ireland right now?
Little John Nee: He's quite bamboozled by the sale of our sovereignty and the lack of integrity among our politicians.
JOE: Where can we check out more of your work?
ABSOLUT Fringe 2012 – Little John Nee’s show ‘Sparkplug’ runs at The Lir until Sep 15. Bookings & further info www.fringefest.com