Welcome 2015!

Happy New Year to all my followers. Lets hope that in 2015, we can begin to fulfil our dreams.

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OUR FEW AND EVIL DAYS

photo-028As 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).

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The Gaiety Theatre

Last week I went to The Actor’s Lament by Steven Berkoff, in the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. The Gaiety, with its intimate atmosphere is one of my favourite venues, and a perfect setting for this play.
Berkoff a successful actor, playwright and theatre director was joined on stage by fellow actors Jay Benedict and Andree Bernard. Berkoff was the founder of The London Theatre Group, and is also remembered for his villainous role in the movie First Blood (Rambo). Jay Benedict was one of the original cast members of the 70s musical The Rocky Horror Show, and recently played John Kieffer in Foyle’s War. Andree Bernard is a TV, Film & Theatre Actress. Her most recent TV roles include were in Hollyoaks, Doctors and Casualty.the actors lament Gaiety theatreDublin
The minimalist stage setting allows both actors and audience to embark on a marathon journey on the wings of dialogue, which relies heavily on Steven Berkoff’s and his fellow actors’ formidable stage presence. And they don’t disappoint. They explore the different roles played by the writer, producer, director and critic alike, roles enhanced by the use of cleverly choreographed mime. The audience is both witness and sometimes a target of their scorn.
The Actor’s Lament is essentially an irreverent rant on the life of the struggling actor. It cleverly highlights the highs and lows, the passions and pains encountered on that journey. It is enhanced by clever observations, wit and cynicism, in equal measure. At a little over an hour in length, this play is well-crafted and honed to perfection in the capable hands of Berkoff and his fellow actors.

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The Interview

photo-016Last week, I made my way to Hodges Figgis, one of the few remaining bookshops in Dublin worthy of the title.
As I exited from the LUAS (Dublin’s light rail system) on a warm summer evening, I was immediately reminded of what a great city Dublin is, when sunny weather favours us with a visit. Crossing St Stephen’s Green I made my way down Dawson Street, past the coffee shops where patrons sipped their cappuccinos. On my arrival at the book store, it was gratifying to see that a large crowd had already gathered for the launch of Patricia O’ Reilly’s new book The Interview
Patricia is the author of four other works of fiction ‘A Type of Beauty’, the story of Kathleen Newton (1854-1882), ‘Time & Destiny’, ‘Felicity’s Wedding’ and ‘Once upon a Summer’. Her other publications include non-fiction, and numerous short stories. She also lectures on writing and editing in UCD.
The book launch was opened by Eoin Purcell of New Island Publishing, and followed by guest speaker and award winning author Christine Dwyer Hickey, who spoke of her longstanding friendship and respect for the authors work.
Patricia’s book centres on a meeting which took place in Paris in 1972, between Eileen Gray, an Irish born architect and designer, and Bruce Chatwin, the Sunday Times Magazine writer and art critic. I must confess that before this evening I knew very little of either individuals, central to this book.

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray (1878-1976) was born near Enniscorthy, Co Wexford in 1878 and spent most of her childhood between Ireland and London. A furniture designer and architect Eileen was a pioneer of the Modern Movement in architecture. She is best remembered for her Bibendum furniture designs, and her Dragon Chair sold for a record €21.9million Euros, the highest amount ever paid for a piece of decorative art. She died in France, aged 98.

Charles Bruce Chatwin (1940 –1989) was an English novelist and travel writer. He won the James Tait Prize for his novel On the Black Hill. He worked in the Art Department at Sotheby’s auction house, as an expert on Impressionist art.
In 1972, Chatwin was hired by The Sunday Times Magazine as an adviser on art and architecture. Chatwin, who was a huge admirer of Gray, met and interviewed the then 93 year-old in her Paris salon. While there he noticed a map of Patagonia in South America which Eileen had painted. “I’ve always wanted to go there,” he told her. ‘So have I,’ she replied, ‘go there for me.’ Two years later in 1974, he flew to Patagonia and spent the next six months in the area, a trip that resulted in the book In Patagonia. This work established his reputation as a travel writer.

Although married, Bruce like Eileen was bisexual, and was one of the first prominent men in Britain known to have contracted HIV. He died of AIDS at his home in Nice in 1989, aged 48.

Charles Chatwin

Charles Chatwin

While there has been much speculation as to what emerged during their meeting, we can never be sure, as the interview sadly was never published.
Patricia’s recreation of that meeting in The Interview is based on her instinct and extensive research, and obvious passion for the two strong central characters, and leaves you in no doubt as to the authenticity of this work. Her writing style allows fact and fiction to merge seamlessly, while still managing to maintain the integrity and respect that Gray and Chatwin had for each other.

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Lunch in Croke Park

photo-002Last 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!

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Stags & Hens

stags and hensLast Friday night I paid my first visit to ‘The New Theatre’ in Dublin’s Temple Bar. The venue is located over Connolly’s bookshop at 43, East Essex Street, and this 80 seater creates an intimate and friendly atmosphere.
The play I saw was ‘Stags and Hens’, written by Willy Russell in 1978, and performed by the graduation class in Theatre Studies and Performance, of Inchicore College of Further education.
Russell set the original in working class England of the 1970s, but it fits seamlessly into working class Ireland of 2014, loosing nothing in translation.

Set in a Dublin disco, the play focuses on Linda (The bride) and Dave (The groom) who celebrate their Hen and Stag nights on the same evening, with the main action taking place in the Women’s and Men’s toilets. When the girls realise that the now comatose Dave and his mates have also arrived at the club, they pull out all the stops to prevent Linda finding out. Added to this is the arrival of Linda’s now famous ex- boyfriend from London, to perform at the club, and you have all the ingredients for a great evening of comedy.

The cast all performed their parts magnificently, and did justice to Russell’s work. It’s heartening to know that the all the hard work put in by students and teachers alike of Inchicore College has been very productive indeed. The future of theatre in Ireland is in safe hands. Take a bow!

 

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Thank you, Sue Townsend

Author Sue TownsendI was saddened to hear of the passing of novelist Sue Townsend, author of the Adrian Mole series. I must admit that The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole is still one of my all-time favourite books. Her wonderful storytelling and effortless writing style allowed us to travel with Adrian on his journey through life, from boy to adulthood. But it was her comic timing, as she captured the pain and absurdity of the human condition, which revealed the true depth of her talent. It truly set her apart. The world of writing is a lesser place without her. Thank you, Sue Townsend, for setting such high standards for your fellow writers.

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Worth the wait!

War_horse_new_poster2I 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!

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Marked Off….makes its mark

Bloomsday 16th June 2013 097Congratulations! to my good friend and fellow writer  Don Cameron on winning  the ‘Get Your Book Published’ competition in association with RTÉ Today and New Island Books .
Don’s  first crime novel ‘Marked Off’ will be published by New Island Books early in 2015. You can catch up with  Don in his  weekly column, don’sdublin, in the all new Dublin City Gazzette.

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Charlie & Me

Clontarf 007-001Last 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.

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