Josef Locke - as you’ve never seen him before

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He is, to this day, one of the most famous voices in Derry. Josef Locke - whose career spanned five decades - led a life both on and off stage which filled many column inches.

And now local playwright Felicity McCall is bring the ‘grand adventure’ of his life to the stage of the Playhouse - in a dynamic and inventive way.

Karl McGuckin who is playing the part of Josef Locke in the upcoming musical at the Playhouse. DER3814MC068

Karl McGuckin who is playing the part of Josef Locke in the upcoming musical at the Playhouse. DER3814MC068

Taking on the role of such a larger than life character is no mean feat for any actor - and indeed in the production three local actors share the role.

Ten years old Brenn Doherty plays young Josef, while Peter Davidson plays an old and reflective version of the famous tenor. It falls however to Dungannon man Karl McGuckin to bring to life Josef in his performing prime - which of course includes singing some of Josef’s best known and loved songs.

“Of course there is an extra pressure going on the stage in Derry and playing the role of Josef Locke,” Karl, a classically trained baritone, said.

Although to be fair, he is used to being under pressure in his day job - as a barrister working out of the Law Library in Belfast.

It’s an interesting combination - but one that Karl thinks works well together. “I suppose working in the courtroom has its own theatrical aspect to it, and that is part of what drew me to training as a barrister - the performance element and the public speaking.”

He finds the two jobs - working as a professional baritone outside office hours as well - gel well together.

“I like having the security of the law behind me - but also I enjoy singing as a hobby. I always feared that if I took on singing full time I would stop enjoying it so much - so I have the best of both worlds.

“Also barristers are self employed, so if a good opportunity comes up for a show I have the freedom to be able to take time off.”

For now though, Karl is travelling up and down between Derry and Belfast to rehearsals at the Playhouse. And when he isn’t travelling, working, or rehearsing he is searching for old videos of Josef Locke.

But although in the play he will sing - he is purposely not trying to mimic Locke’s unique sound.

“It would be very easy to come to Derry and stand on a stage and do an impression of Josef Locke and it would go down a storm - but there is a real truth to this show which is about more than the sound.

“He led a very tumultuous life - not least when he was exiled to Ireland for tax evasion for a time.

“But when you talk to people about him, they agree most of all that he was a very likeable man.”

Splitting the role of Josef in three gives the story a unique perspective. Karl explained: “It shows all the different aspects of his life. Old Josef is more reflective and nostalgic perhaps.

“Young Josef shows in the innocence of the wee lad growing up in Creggan who sang in the church choir. While I get to take on the performance side - the real showman at the top of his game.”

The play sees the three characters interact with each other and of course includes a number of Locke’s best loved songs. It has been directed by Kieran Griffiths with musical direction from Kristine Donnan.

‘Josef Locke- A Grand Adventure’ will run at the Playhouse from October 1-4.

To book tickets, priced at £15, £12 or £10 call the Box Office on 02871268027 or visit www.derryplayhouse,co.uk