'Moone Boy' double act: Thumbs up for O'Dowd at screening

Mon, Aug 13, 2012, 01:00

BEFORE THE screening Chris O’Dowd said he wouldn’t watch it as he’d be watching the crowd, nervously waiting for their reaction, ready to make a quick getaway “if things got ugly”.

But at the Lough Key Forest Park near Boyle on Saturday evening, peals of laughter filled the outdoor amphitheatre where Rockingham House once stood, as Sky One premiered its new comedy Moone Boy, a semi-autobiographical account of O’Dowd’s childhood in the area.

It quickly became clear that the people of the town were not taking offence and O’Dowd left his front-row seat, not to flee the wrath of his neighbours, but to sit on the grass beside his father Seán and mother Denise. The three were riveted to the big screen, clearly moved by the warm reaction of local people who burst into spontaneous applause every time a familiar “extra” came into view on the screen.

When Sky One announced that the premiere of the six-part series, co-written and starring O’Dowd, would be held in the park, the 500 available tickets were snapped up in a few hours. This must have been flattering, but terrifying for the actor, who knew that guessing which real-life locals the characters were based upon would be a preoccupation for neighbours in the months ahead.

“I am absolutely bricking it,” was the indelicate way the star of Bridesmaids and The IT Crowd acknowledged his fear.

“I can’t believe I just shook hands with Johnny Vegas,” boasted a woman to her friend, as the British comedian and actor who plays a character called “Crunchie ‘Danger’ Haystacks” in the series chatted to locals. A stony-faced Steve Coogan, creator of Alan Partridge, and rumoured to be playing the town mayor in the series, was being welcomed to Boyle by the actual mayor of Roscommon, Cllr Tom Crosby.

Actress and stand-up comic Deirdre O’Kane, who joked that she was delighted to be playing Chris Dowd’s mother and not his grandmother, was briefly surrounded by husbands, including her real-life partner Stephen Bradley, her co-star Peter McDonald who plays O’Dowd’s father in the series, and the actor’s real-life father Seán O’Dowd – creator of the Real Boyle news website.

“When Chris told me he wanted to act I said ‘not another bloody artist in the family – who will keep me in my old age’,” he joked.

Sky has commissioned a second series even before the first is aired, and O’Dowd says he would love to do “at least four”. Shooting starts today and the action will move to Boyle within weeks.

Moone Boy is set in 1989 and is about the adventures of 11-year-old Martin Moone, played by Leitrim schoolboy David Rawle, who took the media attention in his stride. The first episode, a quirky look at the issue of school bullies, is to be aired next month.