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Aidan O'Neil On...George Best and Dancing Shoes

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New musical Dancing Shoes is set to bring a new audience to this popular genre, as the show is about the life of times of footballer, George Best. Written by Stones In His Pockets' Marie Jones, the show explores the legendary footballer's life on and off the pitch and opens at the Lowry next month. Rebecca Cohen spoke to lead actor Aidan O'Neil who plays George Best.

Are you a Man United fan yourself?

I’m not going to lie, I’m not a supporter of any football team. Most of my friends are mainly Manchester United fans and Conor Grimes - who is also in the show - is an avid fan. I come from a family of six kids - my dad and two brothers are all football fans, but I was the artistic kid.

What have you found most challenging about playing such an iconic role, and what have you most enjoyed?

I think what I have found most enjoyable is playing him as a kid - I play him as a seven year old boy. People have likened it to Blood Brothers. The most challenging thing, I guess, is physically trying to look like George Best. I haven’t had a haircut in nearly eight months, I’ve been watching my diet and slimming down, because obviously he was a professional footballer.

Can you tell us about the production itself and what aspects of his life does it explore?

It is a story about the life of George Best. If you don’t know who George Best is, it doesn’t matter. This is a story of a boy with a gift -  a very talented young kid - who grew up in a very modest estate in Belfast, surrounded by a lot of very interesting people. It’s a story from his life as a seven year old kid, all the way up until his final days, when he’s lying in a hospital bed. You meet every single person, it’s a fast moving comedy with amazing songs and I really don’t think people will get what they expect when they come to this musical. It baffles people when you talk of a musical about George Best.

Having had such a rollercoaster of a life - being European Footballer of the Year and then having to deal with alcoholism - I should imagine the music is quite diverse? What is your favourite song in the piece and why?

Yeh, there is a mixture of everything - from very childish ones, to the title track - which is quite an emotional song towards the end of the show, to "We Had A Ball" - where Alex Higgins comes into the hospital room and they sing and dance about all their trials and tribulations. My favourite song to sing is definitely ‘We Had A Ball’.

How have Manchester United fans previously reacted to the production?

A lot of people that come to this production aren’t actually theatre-goers. It’s attracting people that would never normally go. I’ve yet to meet anybody that has said anything negative about it.

How have you found your partnership with Kerri Quinn, who plays George Best’s ex-wife Angie Best?

Easy, it’s been great. When you get along with somebody offstage, it’s an awful lot easier to work with them onstage. Everybody in the cast gets on, which I think is another reason as to why this has been such a success. This is a new production, and you have to lock yourself away in a rehearsal room for x amount of time and if people get on, then ideas flow and people are in a good place to come up with more ideas.

You’ve done a fair bit of theatre work, ranging from Cinderella to A Midsummer Night’s Dream - if you could play any role in any production, what would it be?

I would love to play Boq in Wicked and be seen for the role. I’d also love to be in Avenue Q and play Mickey Johnstone in Blood Brothers.

What are your plans following the tour?

Venice with my girlfriend and then I am playing Jack in Jack And The Beanstalk at the Opera House in Belfast.

Aidan O’Neill was speaking to Rebecca Cohen.

Dancing Shoes is at the Lowry from 5 - 10 September.


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