Jamie Lee O’Donnell starring in ‘Girls and Doll’s

‘Girls and Dolls is the stunning debut play from the Writer/Producer of the hit Channel Four comedy series, Derry Girls, Lisa McGee.  This brand new production by Millennium Forum Productions and Sodabread Theatre Company performs at the Millennium Forum from Monday 17th to
Thursday 20th September as part of an Irish Tour.
Starring Jamie Lee O’Donnell (Derry Girls) and Jennifer Barry (The Young Offenders), this production is hot on the heels of the massive success of both hit comedy series and is guaranteed to be the hottest ticket in town!’
This North West Culture Gal was rather excited about the prospect of meeting ‘Derry Girl’ Jamie Lee to talk about her part in Girls and Dolls. A huge fan of the TV series I wanted to see what Jamie Lee was like in person and her outlook for this forthcoming play. I really wasn’t disappointed. 
As with any exceptionally popular TV series, as Derry Girls is, an actor/actress can sometimes become known only for their role in that show. Jamie Lee O’Donnell is very much an established actress in her own right and very excited about her role in Girls and Dolls. Her passion and enthusiasm for her work and this play comes across immediately. She’s more than happy to discuss Derry Girls but she’s very much focused right now on this play and the coming weeks where she will be on the Dublin stage, Derry stage and finishing off on the Belfast stage. This is one hugely talented Derry Girl.
So just how is Jamie Lee feeling about Girls and Dolls? “I’m very excited”, she tells me. “This play is very funny but it takes you on  very real journey too. The comedy is quite similar to Derry Girls but this is not another Derry Girls.”
Lisa McGee describes the play: “ “Girls and Dolls tells the story of two ten year old girls, Emma and Clare, who meet  on an unusually hot Summers day in the 1980’s. It will be a brief friendship, but one which will cast a shadow over them for the rest of their lives. Set in Derry, in the same colourful neighbourhood that my sitcom Derry Girls takes place, Emma and Clare guide us through their world, it’s larger than life characters and the sectarian tension they don’t fully understand. When I wrote Girls and Dolls back in 2006, I wanted to write about memory, about how two people may view the same event completely differently, and to ask the question, can we ever really escape our past?  As Emma and Clare tell the story of that summer, they struggle to understand what they did, what they became, and how they were judged. I’m very excited about this new production. Jamie Lee and Jennifer are huge talents and the Millennium Forum are to be applauded for such stellar casting. I can’t wait to see them in action.”
I asked Jamie Lee if the play is all flashback? She explains that “a lot of it is flashback. We play nine different characters (herself and Jennifer) in all, so we are telling the story of the girls at different stages. You just have to come see it to totally understand it.” There’s no getting to find out this plot and it really does sound intriguing. Jamie Lee is very passionate when talking about this production. With opening night just a few days away now, how does she feel about going on that Dublin stage? “I’ve never been on the Dublin stage before so this will be my first. I’m very excited about it and about Dublin.”

Just how different is it preparing for a stage production to that of a screen production I asked Jamie Lee? “It’s very different. There’s a lot more lines, and with theater you really get to stay in the moment.  As  I said earlier, between the two of us, we play nine different characters, so yes, it really is very different! But it’s just such a great play. Lisa has written this really well. The narrative is really easy to follow. You just have to come see it to know how great is really is.”

A lot of the advertising for this play is highlighting the question: ‘Can best friends really last forever?’ I asked Jamie Lee if she believes they can? “Course they can”, she says. I totally agree I must admit. 
We don’t know what these two friends on stage have been through or come through. Jamie Lee told me, “what this play will do is open channels for discussion. it will provide an opportunity to talk.” With everything she says about the play, I’m more eager to see it. Anything that opens channels for discussion can only be good. 

Whether I had planned to go see this play or not, talking to Jamie Lee, there’s no way I’m missing out on this one. 

Of course I couldn’t possible leave this Derry Girl without asking about the next season of Derry Girls. What can we expect? “I don’t know yet what will be in it”, Jamie Lee laughs. So I’m no further ahead there!

Although I learned from my chat with Jamie Lee that Girls and Dolls is definitely going to be the play to see this September for me, I also learned that there’s so much more to this Derry Girl than just Michelle from the TV show. This is one very down-to-earth professional actress. She clearly gives her all to every acting role, and although Derry Girls has certainly helped her career and such, it’s her professionalism and her dedication to that career that makes her the lovable young woman that she is. She clearly loves her role in Derry Girls but right now her focus is very much on Girls and Dolls. 

I asked her for one last word about the play and its’ showing in Derry: “I just want people to come out and support it. Lisa has written a brilliant piece and it’s going to be great. I would just ask folk to come see the show.” 

This North West Culture Gal for one will certainly be there to see it.

Girls and Dolls runs at Millennium Forum, Derry from 17th – 20th September. Bookings can be made via the box office at www.millenniumforum.co.uk or Tel: 02871264455. 

This is one Derry Girl to be very proud of. 


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