Neil Hannon makes a surprisingly convincing case for the contemporary relevance of his musical adaptation of Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome's rose-tinted s tale of jolly children camping and sailing on Coniston in the Lake District. The slight, surprisingly serious Hannon speaks as the father of a nine-year-old daughter, Willow, by his ex-wife Orla, but also as a man who recognises the creative conundrum that Ransome sneaked into his narrative. The book is a paean to the imaginative possibility of children's play. The four Walker children, the crew of the Swallow, first compete against, then team up with the Blackett sisters - the Amazons - to wage war on the Blacketts' uncle, a grumpy writer on a houseboat. I feel a certain kinship with that problem - you are so busy writing about life that you don't get to experience it.
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For a homebird like Neil Hannon, soundtracking the new Swallows and Amazons musical was a world away from his usual. The pop star tells superfan Kirstie McCrum about his first foray into musical theatre. THERE are few recording artists who can lay claim to having a truly varied career, but Neil Hannon is definitely in that bracket. The diminutive Northern Irishman may have started out penning fey indie pop songs in the s for his band The Divine Comedy, but from there his CV has taken in such unusual tasks as writing the theme for ecclesiastical comedy Father Ted and creating a cricket-themed concept album as one half of the Duckworth Lewis Method. Not such a leap, then, to his latest project — writing the songs for the hit musical Swallows And Amazons. I was not outward bound as a child. Neil and Tom, along with playwright Helen Edmundson, sequestered themselves in the National Theatre studios in London and came up with the stage show which has been filling venues around the UK.