Streetcar, Stella, Shawn Mendes...and Shrek!

Portrush Music Society’s production of Shrek was just one of the many arts events postponed because of the Coronavirus lockdown.

Barrister Aidan Hughes was due to play the title role of the Scottish ogre - and still will as the musical has been rescheduled for Coleraine’s Riverside Theatre in April 2021.!

Here, Aidan answers our questions:

Q. What is your favourite song/album and why?

A. I don’t really tend to listen to albums all that much any more. Since I subscribed to Apple Music I only ever tend to stream playlists. I have such a varied taste in music. I love all sorts. The song that comes to mind at the minute is ‘There’s Nothing Holding Me Back’ by Shawn Mendes. It maybe seems like a random one but I have two best friends and this is our song. We would always listen to it on car journeys, before nights out and we’d always send a video to each other if it ever came on. There is always a laugh when we hear it. It seems all the more significant now due to lockdown and the fact we can’t all see each other but there’ll be some celebration on the other side.

Q. What is your favourite film and why?

A. Again I’m a huge film fan and like all sorts of genres. I tend to prefer horror/thrillers. I love something that either scares me or keeps me guessing the whole way through with a great twist at the end. One of my favourites is called ‘Identity.’ It is like a modern day Agatha Christie where ten strangers end up in a motel in the middle of a storm and they start disappearing one by one. The ending certainly didn’t disappoint.

Q. What is your favourite piece of classical music and why?

A. The one that comes to mind is ‘O Fortuna,’ (the one that you might hear at the beginning of The X Factor or some other talent show). This one comes to mind because I think it’s quite dramatic and I love the more intense moments it has. I think it also reminds me of films that it has been used in as well.

Q. Who is your favourite artist and why?

A. If I’m being completely honest I wouldn’t be a great follower of art however I do quite like the work of a Northern Irish artist, Keith Drury. He uses quirky images and brilliant, vibrant colours and shapes to illustrate certain cities or landmarks. I always think his pieces look really well when displayed in a home. Everyone knows where the painting is of and what they are looking at. I like how modern it seems.

Q. What is your favourite play and why?

A. Without a doubt my favourite play is ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams. I loved this play since I studied it for AS English Literature. My favourite performance of it was by the National Theatre at the Young Vic with Gillian Anderson as Blanche Dubois. She was absolutely brilliant.

I was lucky enough to direct this show with Belvoir Players in Belfast last March. We had a sold out run and a standing ovation each night. There are some amazing moments and quotes in this play: ‘I don’t want realism, I want magic’ and ‘I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.’ Not to mention ‘Stelllllllaaaa!’

Q. What is your favourite musical and why?

A. At the minute my favourite musical is Shrek! It has very much taken over my life and the soundtrack is never off. Shrek was one of my favourite films when I was growing up and the musical is just as good, if not better. It’s very funny and the music is brilliant. I was in stitches laughing the first time I saw Shrek and Fiona having a farting/burping competition in the middle of one of their songs! I absolutely love singing ‘Who I’d Be,’ which finishes the first act. It’s such a great song. It’s just a feel-good, upbeat and colourful show with all your favourite fairy tale characters. One which definitely has you on your feet dancing at the end and has you leaving on a high! I’m so privileged to be a part of Portrush Music Society’s production of it in the Riverside Theatre, Coleraine in April 2021.

Q. What is your most special moment in the arts and why?

A. A moment that was particularly special for me was my first play with Belvoir Players. It was called ‘After Dresden’ and it was written by local man Phillip Orr. It was based on the war diaries of Reverend Ray Davey who was one of the founders of Corrymeela in Ballycastle.

I played the young Ray Davey and the play showed his experience of being a prisoner of war during the Second World War. It was based around him meeting an elderly German woman and how they became friends. The meeting occurred around the bombing of Dresden and how both sides came to terms with such an atrocity.

When he came home, he used his experiences and established the cross community space of Corrymeela. This was a haven for many during the Troubles here. Due to its success we were lucky enough to take this production on tour, performing it in festivals and most importantly in Corrymeela itself which was such a special moment.

On the way we got to meet many people who knew Ray Davey personally and who were very complimentary about the play and our depiction of his character. It was such a touching and special piece.

Q. What ‘classic’ just doesn’t do it for you?

A. I am a big fan of Shakespeare and I love the majority of his plays however the one that I simply can’t warm to at all is ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Everyone seems to love this one, so I’m probably in the minority. I just find it very long-winded and it doesn’t really capture my interest. I think it is missing the tension and drama of some of the other classics ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Othello,’ ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ and of course ‘the Scottish play’.

Q. What do you plan to read/watch/listen to/revisit during the Coronavirus period?

A. I’ve been using the time to catch up on a lot of Netflix television shows that I have been meaning to watch for a while but I just haven’t got round to. Like a lot of other people I binged the ‘Tiger King’ documentary and watched in disbelief. I have three nieces, Caitlin, Lauren and Aimee, and I have introduced them to Dr Who so we’re working our way through those episodes from the Christopher Eccleston series. They are absolutely hooked and it’s quite a nice, easy watch to take your mind off the Coronavirus.

I have also taken the time to try out podcasts. I have started with a crime podcast, ‘Serial,’ which I was instantly addicted to and would definitely recommend. Growing up I also loved ‘The Hunger Games’ series. The author has now written a prequel, which has just arrived in the post this morning, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into that!

* Tickets for Shrek are on sale now at https://www.riversidetheatre.org.uk/