Deigh’s life on the stage in Derry

Deigh Reid. DER015-126KM
Deigh Reid. DER015-126KM

Currently, Deigh Reid is busy in rehearsals for the Londonderry Musical Society’s production of the ‘Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’.

It will be the first time the play has been produced and performed here in Derry.

The musical by Larry L King is based on a story by King that was inspired by the real-life Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas.

‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on June 19, 1978 and ran for 1,584 performances, it was subsequently made into a film starring Dolly Parton and Burt Lancaster.

Deigh - who’s the longest ever serving director with the Londonderry Musical Society - says audiences are in for a treat later this month when the show is staged in the Millennium Forum.

The respected local director knows a thing or two when it comes to what audiences want.

Since the tender age of seven, when he was first introduced to the performing arts at Holy Child Primary School in Creggan, his life has revolved around the world of theatre.

“I grew up in Creggan and at that time, during the Troubles, you were encouraged to do anything which kept you off the streets so I started staying back after school to do drama. At that stage it was the priests who would have organised it. To be honest, at the very start I didn’t get straight into it because I had to stay back after school when most people were able to just go on home!

“But after doing it for a while I really got into it and I remember even doing little features at home when I was quite young. When I moved on to St Peter’s Secondary School I kept it up. There was a bit more interest there because doing drama meant that boys got to work with the girls in St Mary’s, so that was an incentive for a lot of people!”

By this time, the seed had been firmly planted with Deigh, and his passion for the performing arts continued.

He worked in local amateur drama groups and his first major role was in ‘Grease’ in 1994.

Deigh worked together with Girls Aloud star, Nadine Coyle and her father, Niall while treading the boards in St Columb’s Hall, however when his involvement with the Londonderry Musical Society began in 1999, Deigh’s career in local theatre was well and truly cemented.

He also made the transition from on stage to back stage and is now more known for his outstanding skills as a director. He feels privileged, he says, to be able to play a key part with the highly established Londonderry Musical Society.

“The group has built such an amazing reputation locally and over the past 50 years has continued to bring brilliant productions to audiences locally. It’s the longest running amateur theatre group in the city and I think it continues to bring to the stage shows that people want to see.”

The high calibre of the society’s productions has been proven by the number of awards they’ve won. Their 2012 show, ‘The King and I’ - one of their most successful ever - received three awards (Best Actor, Best Visual Display and Best Ensemble) from AIMS (the Association of Irish Musical Societies), as well as being awarded the runner-up trophy for Best Overall Show, beating off stiff competition from musical groups throughout the island of Ireland.

“Those awards were really amazing,” says Deigh. “To be able to achieve those on a national level was brilliant. “Working with the society has been brilliant and the transition from performing to directing felt pretty smooth for me. I’ve worked on productions like ‘Annie’ and ‘Jekyll and Hide’ and I really feel lucky that I’m able to continue doing the kind of work that I love.

“On our current production, I’m delighted to be working alongside Peter Doherty, a newcomer to the production team and also to be working once again with my partner, Vanessa Chapman, a choreographer. We also have a very hardworking cast who show great commitment to the whole production.”

Aside from his work with the Londonderry Musical Society, Deigh also works alongside another group of actors who form the Marvel Arts Theatre Company.

To date, the group has performed productions like ‘Of Mice and Men’ ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Misery’ and they continue to meet regularly with more shows planned.

Looking ahead to future projects Deigh plans to stay in the world of local theatre, where, he says, there are more opportunities than ever before.

“I love the creative process, whether I’m on stage or off it. In the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be able to play a part in events like ‘The Return of Colmcille’ which really took me in a new direction. Since then I’ve worked on the Hallowe’en and St Patrick’s Day parades. I think the City of Culture really had a massive impact here and you can still feel that. There’s so much happening now for those of us involved in performing arts and for theatre going audiences.”

The LMS performance of ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ runs in the Millennium Forum from Wednesday March 25 to Saturday March 28 and tickets are now on sale.