Creative resistance and comedy in Radio Rosario

Little John Nee in Derrigimlagh, Connemara, the site of the world’s first commercial transatlantic wireless station. PHOTO: COLM HOGAN.
Little John Nee in Derrigimlagh, Connemara, the site of the world’s first commercial transatlantic wireless station. PHOTO: COLM HOGAN.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

The latest show from the much-loved adopted Galwegian Little John Nee sounds like a perfect one for our times.  The “serious comedy” that is Radio Rosario is set sometime in the near future against a background of rising fascism. Its central character, Valve Hegarty is a disillusioned cabaret singer, an artist on the edge who’s obliged to do advertising jingles on radio to pay the rent although it’s a task he hates.

Much of the action is set in the Berliner Strasse Baron Galway’s Docks where Valve plays every Saturday.

“He’s an artist and in his modest way, he’s involved in a creative resistance,” explains Little John, adding that Valve “is a slightly comic character”.

Happily, Valve discovers fulfilment in early traditional valve radios. These beautifully crafted machines that helped shape and capture events of the early 20th century lead Valve down an unusual road. It’s one that brings him to the site of the Connemara Marconi Wireless station, built more than a century ago.

One of Little John’s inspirations for the piece was an old radio – he too loves them.  Galway’s dialogue with Europe as part of the bid for Capital of Culture 2020 was another factor, he explains.

“It got me thinking about when Marconi came to Connemara and broadcast to the world.”

However, reading up on Marconi, John grew to realise “what a fascist he was and lost any interest in writing about him – he wasn’t interesting enough”.

“But the history of radio does interest me and fascism does interest me.”

Last year, John toured a previous show, Small Halls and Potholes, to Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic and visited a place in Slovakia where Hitler had given a public oration. One thing that struck him about those countries was their “lack of multi-ethnicity”. Trump’s election as US President followed shortly afterwards. John realised that fascism and the distortion of truth was becoming a theme he needed to explore.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.