Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines is always worthy of a visit. So last Thursday night was a double bonus as I attended the launch of Marked Off, a Dublin-based crime thriller by my good friend and fellow writer Don Cameron. The evening was a resounding success and well-attended by enthusiastic family members and friends, who ventured out in spite of the cold February chill.
Mariel Deegan, who spoke of her enthusiasm and determination to support the work of new authors, represented the publishers New Island Books. Special guest speaker Patricia O’Reilly, author of The Interview, spoke warmly and eloquently about Don’s book, and the importance of encouraging new writers; it was easy to see the respect and enthusiasm she holds for the written word.
Afterwards, I took a quiet moment to browse, row upon row, the books of every hue and genre, and it was not difficult to see why Hanna’s has survived and prospered in this difficult industry. Yes, if you are looking for the latest populist publication you will certainly find it here, but Hanna’s has so much more to offer. Browse a little deeper and you’ll discover that the depth and wealth of publications available across all genres is truly astounding. And if by chance they don’t have a first addition of the Gutenberg Bible, I’m sure they’ll try and order it for you!
This fourth generation, family-run business founded by Alan Hanna continues to flourish, and deservedly so. The name Hanna’s is part of the very fabric of Rathmines life – a literary landmark. And if there’s one thing that you can be certain of, it’s that the people at Hanna’s know their books.
Last week I met up with writer Don Cameron, to interview him for ON THE SPOT, our new video platform for the promotion of new writers. His first novel Marked Off a crime thriller set in Dublin, was recently published by New Island Books. The official launch of the book will take place at 6.30 on Thursday 12th February in Alan Hanna’s Bookshop Rathmines, Dublin.
As another year escapes our grasp, and we head remorsesly towards Christmas pantomime season, there’s still time left to take in one or two more visits to the theatre. So I was more than pleased to accept an invitation from fellow writer and blogger Don Cameron to see OUR FEW AND EVIL DAYS, written and directed by Mark O’Rowe, at the Abbey Theatre.
Earlier that same day, I bumped into my niece Cyrena Hayes who was of the opinion that ‘if I was to pick one more play to see this year, then this was the one.’ Credible praise indeed from an accomplished actor in her own right.
The play is set in the home of Michael (Ciaran Hinds) and Margaret (Sinead Cusack), a married couple in their fifties. They have a daughter Adele, (Charlie Murphy) in her thirties.
The opening scene sees Margaret sleeping on the living room couch, suggesting some deeper issues within their relationship. The arrival of Adele’s new boyfriend Dennis (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), takes on a sinister twist as he unashamedly probes personal family skeletons. And when Adele fails to return, Dennis is invited to spend the night, culminating in more uncomfortable and shocking revelations.
Adele’s preoccupation with her friend Belinda’s endless relationship problems with boyfriend Garry (Ian Lloyd Anderson) causes friction between father and daughter. This is later highlighted by her father’s propensity for violence, when Garry turns up to confront Adele over Belinda’s recent death. This in turn raises many unanswered questions surrounding the disappearance of her 11 year old brother Jonathan.
As the play reaches its conclusion the emotional tension is tangible, as a lifetime of unresolved guilt, and trauma, comes to a head, threatening to consume all concerned.
If I have one small criticism it would be in the final segment, of the last scene, which followed a pivotal and emotionally charged scene between Michael and Margaret, and its inclusion was unnecessary and sadly weakened the piece.
That apart, this play was very well crafted, and directed, by Mark O’Rowe, and a seamless performance by the actors, did the piece proud.
For me, OUR FEW AND EVIL DAYS and WET HOUSE, by award winning Newcastle playwright Paddy Campbell, stand out as two of my favourite plays this year. So, if OUR FEW AND EVIL DAYS makes a return, or should WET HOUSE reach these shores, make a date with both. I know I will.
I’m off now to see QUEENS OF PIMLICO by Derek Masterson at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght, before rescuing the Christmas decorations from the attic.
Mark O’Rowe’s previous productions at the Abbey include TERMINUS (2007) and MADE IN CHINA (2001).
Last week I was invited to lunch in Croke Park with my fellow graduates from the ISME (Business Development programme).After a splendid dinner our guest speaker, Mr John Moran, took to the podium, deputising for Minister Michael Noonan, who was unable to attend due to personal matters.
Mr Moran is Secretary General of the Department of Finance, and has held many senior posts in the banking world, warmed to his theme by outlining the Trojan work he and his government were engaged in to resolve the present economic crisis. While he appreciated the sacrifices made by us all, he felt the business community could do more to help themselves. Mr Moran expressed his dismay at this sector, particularly the small to medium sized businesses who he felt could do more to embrace new technologies, and to develop a greater online presence. He assured his audience that the banks were more than willing to reach out and assist anyone with a valid business plan but, in his opinion, a significant number of businesses needed to ‘raise their game.’ if they wanted financial support from the banks.
Surly these businesses would not be looking for financial help in the first place, had the banks not singlehandedly driven them, and this country, to the brink of bankruptcy.
The Irish business community has proven, time and time again, that it can do business with the best. And it will do so again. They do not need marketing advice, they need money. When that happens our business men and women will once again be in a position to compete with their European counterparts, on a level playing field.
Before I left the stadium, I made my way onto the Hogan Stand. Even in that vast emptiness and silence, you could hear the roar of the crowd. My grandfather was the gaffer (foreman) back when they built the original stand. As I stood there, I wondered what he would have made of it today.
Afterwards we adjourned to Dicey Reilly’s on Harcourt Street for some liquid refreshments!
I went to see WAR HORSE on Thursday night at the Bord Gais Theatre in Dublin. I’m ashamed to say that this was my first time in this venue, and I was suitably impressed. As expected, this is a very modern building and the layout affords good viewing and comfort, but thankfully still manages to retain that feel of a more traditional theatre. Having seen the movie, I was slightly skeptical that WAR HORSE could transfer successfully to the stage, without losing some of the visual impact which is vital in the telling of this story. Happily I was proved wrong.
Right from the start the audience was drawn into the action. Great lighting and the clever use of clouds to capture both the location and historical time frame were pure genius. Apart from the ‘ human’ cast members, who did a superb job, the beautifully engineered war horses stole the show – a testament to the great skill of the puppeteers. Also, the clever inclusion of a goose added a lighter note to what is an emotionally charged story.The standing ovation at the end hardly reflected the audiences appreciation. This is a wonderful production, way beyond my expectations. If you get a chance to catch it, do so.You won’t be disappointed!
Last Thursday, I made a rare trip across the Liffey with some friends to see a play at the Viking Theatre in Clontarf. The theatre opened two years ago above Connolly’s pub, better known as the Sheds, a popular and longstanding watering hole.
The play, Charlie and Me is based on an adaptation of the book by author Catherine Barry. A published poet and novelist, Barry has previously written fiction: Skin Deep (2004), Null and Void (2002) and The House That Jack Built (2001). Charlie and Me, her first work of non-fiction is based on the author’s own life experiences.
Cathy, a married mother of two, finds herself attending Alcoholics Anonymous, where she meets a man called Charlie, who later becomes her sponsor. The relationship that develops between them takes us on a journey that is both harrowing and humorous in equal measure. This powerful and well written play never fails to engage the audience, as we journey into the world of alcoholism and the pain and suffering it can inflict on family life. But above all else, it’s a tale of hope.
Actors Maeve Fitzgerald and Steve Blount, who played Cathy and Charlie, are without question, two fine actors and brought great passion, sensitivity and humour to their respective rolls.
This production was directed by Peter Sheridan and produced by Donal Shiels. The run at the Viking Theatre, which played to full houses, finished its run last Saturday. If you ever get a chance see this play in the future – Don’t miss it.
I always look forward to attending a number of book events and launches during the year. My last outing was in December 2013 for the authors’ night at Dubray Books in Rathmines. The evening was hosted by international bestselling author John Connolly who was joined by fellow writers, Sarah Harte, Alan Glynn, Maurice Curtis, Arlene Hunt, Sean O’ Connor, David Graham, Susan Stairs, Jennifer Ridyard and Rosemary Mc Loughlin. With some coaxing from the persuasive host, this refreshingly, modest group of writers willingly shared with us a unique insight into the writing process, and their journey to becoming published authors. Finally, John interviewed Jennifer Ridyard, his partner and co-author of their latest publication CONQUEST, The Chronicles of the Invaders. Both managed to bring humour and a great deal of insight into the collaborative process and highlighted the professional respect and sensitivity required in such an endeavour. 2014! – can a book night be far away?
Tuesday night saw the opening of The Bark, a new coffee bar at Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines, Dublin. The intimate gathering were educated and entertained, in equal measures , by the renowned Canadian wordsmith and poet Robert Priest. Robert read from Rosa Rose, his children’s book of poems, and from his new book Previously Feared Darkness. Not content to be a fine poet, he also played some tracks from his album Feeling the Pinch, which left me wondering if there was anything the man was not good at. I was half expecting him to unveil his latest painting! Maybe next year? Alas,the evening was all too short, so we adjourned in good Irish tradition, to a local hostelry with Robert for a pint of the black stuff. Nice man, great poet!