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Sky Arts Phil Edgar Jones on Enda Walsh’s ‘The Last Hotel’
11 Apr 2016 : Seán Brosnan
‘The Last Hotel’ airs on Sky Arts tonight at 9pm
With theatre/film/opera hybrid ‘The Last Hotel’ hitting Sky Arts tonight– we talk to Director of Sky Arts Phil Edgar-Jones about the critically acclaimed Enda Walsh scripted production.

In ‘The Last Hotel’ – the worlds of theatre, opera and film collide with acclaimed, Tony-Award winning playwright Enda Walsh joining forces with lauded classical composer Donnacha Dennehy to tell a dark - almost Hitchcockian - tale about an Irish woman meeting an English couple at a hotel. The stage version has received universal praise; The Irish Times, The Times in England and The Guardian are among the productions’ champions.

The film version of the project – produced by Juliette Bonass as well as Anne Clarke and Fergus Shiel – is a result of the Sky Arts Amplify Scheme – spearheaded by Edgar Jones – which was set up to encourage arts organisations and production companies to pitch collaboratively for up to €1,250,000 annually on new TV ideas for the channel.

“We were over here looking for ideas and this one stood out a mile”, says Edgar-Jones, who hails from Scotland. “This was partly due to the name Enda Walsh and partly because this was something so completely different. It is such a rewarding experience.”

Conducted by André de Ridder, the opera stars Robin Adams, Claudia Boyle, Katherine Manley and the actor Mikel Murfi. The orchestra is the 12-strong Crash Ensemble, founded by Dennehy.

“It’s like a singing version of a Hitchcock film”, continues Edgar-Jones. “The music by Donnacha Dennehy just drags you through the whole thing – it’s a phenomenal piece of work. I am hoping people will get over their notions of not liking opera and watch this as it will definitely pay off if they do.”

Aside from being primarily known for their programming dedicated to what some would see as high-brow arts - theatrical performances, movies, documentaries and music – Edgar Jones is quick to point out that Sky Arts will air anything that can have an audience – from a documentary about Punk-Rock band The Jam to following Irish musician Shane McGowan in his quest to find new teeth.

“We do a whole range of things on the channel”, continues Edgar-Jones, whose first gig was as a writer for a show called ‘Barry’s Joy Pad’ which featured a then unknown performer called David Walliams. “That Shane McGowan programme was wonderful. Aside from the obvious humour – there were really touching moments of his wife bringing him to the dentist and him biting into an apple for the first time in years with his new teeth.”

For Edgar Jones – schemes like Sky Arts Amplify – calling for ideas from writers and producers and investing in these ideas – are paramount to the industry moving forward.

“The only way to find something that is going to be a hit is to find something that hasn’t been done yet. A lot of television these days is the same so if you can find something that will surprise audiences – it can do really well and they will want more of it.”

And that leads us back to the little gem that is ‘The Last Hotel’ with Edgar-Jones confident of it landing an audience.

“The good thing about ‘The Last Hotel’ is that we are giving it a very prominent slot on a Monday night but it will also exist for a long time on our on-demand service. So, I am confident people will stumble across through word of mouth or whatever – because I think it will surprise people and they will love it.”

With the Sky Arts Amplify Scheme open to creatives in the UK and Ireland – did Edgar-Jones receive a lot of submissions from Ireland?

“There wasn’t as many as I hoped for in truth. I am coming back again later this year to re-open the scheme so hopefully there will be more submissions then.”

‘The Last Hotel’ will air on Sky Arts on Monday, April 11th at 9pm. It will also be available on Sky TV's On Demand service.

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