John Toomey on Slipping: the author interrogates himself

Like his life has been squandered. In chaotic conditions. I think the manic arrogance of him, the egotism and bravado, is somewhat amusing. Yeah, I suppose so. So when I finished Slipping, just over a year ago, here are some of the things I put to myself and some of the meandering answers I chiselled out: 1. I’m not sure but I don’t think so. To imagine how I could or would respond to certain questions. I give the form of a text quite a bit of thought and time. Your form is a conduit for your plot and your characterisation. Self-indulgence. Is this all necessary? What I’m seeking, of course, is to find out whether my responses will hold any water. In the end, the story is his attempt to explain his failure and his regret. Wearing a coat and hat, drinking lots of tea, with an electric heater under the rickety self-assembled desk from Argos. I’m the author here, you know, and I tell the story the way I think best suits it. So then came Charlie, the novelist, and I thought, “Let this guy set the narrative up, let us know how he got hold of the account and worked on it.” ADVERTISEMENT Then I began to wonder, “What would Charlie do?” Surely he’d want to talk to this guy, see how he was in the wake of all this. The talking-heads bits were really because I wanted to juxtapose Albert’s manic narrative with a series of more real ones. Can you talk a little about the structure? I wrote it to the end. You cheeky bastard! Not quite. I began with Albert’s account. Is it meant to be funny? The central character catches a glimpse of the infinite universe and his tiny insignificance and, unable to shake it off, he descends into a spiral of questions for which there can be no satisfactory answer. Are there aspects of the story you can relate to in some way? It happens, as I’ve often said before, by whatever means it can. For a writer there are hardly better reasons than those. To interview myself. 5. If you have a plot. Then I thought: How would such a thing make it into the public sphere? Ultimately. Can he be? And to be honest, Slipping is a little light on plot. Irrespective of the support you may have around you. …

Nialler9’s New Irish Music: Ships, Fionn Regan, Dreaming of Jupiter and more

Diggin’ deeper. Ivy Nations – Live By Design The Dublin indie-rock band who have recently supported the likes of The Stryples and Kodaline, turn their attention to 21st-century technology on their new single. First single The Blazing Sun is winter-tinged atmospheric folk anchored by Lindfors’ undeniably expressive timbre. The video reinforces the song’s message. Placemats And Second Cuts weaves Enright’s magnetising vocals with organs, handclaps, country-rock swagger and and a spaciousness maturity that draws you in and keeps you close. Fionn Regan – Cormorant Bird Regan’s new album The Meetings of the Waters arrives on April 14th and judging from the title track and this new song, he’s fixing to deliver an album of deep sweeping songcraft that make his old songs sound like pretty little ditties. SONGS OF THE WEEK Ships – All Will Be Simon Cullen and Sorca McGrath’s Ships project has sporadically arrived at the shore laden with cosmic disco and synth-pop goodies over the past few years. Well now the pair have an announced a debut album Precession and its proceeded by this absolutely stonking groove track. Debut single Light Of My Life was released in late 2016 and takes inspiration from the depths of London Grammar and adds a guitar-rock flavour and electronic production touches. VIDEO OF THE WEEK Stoat – Trampolina  Video by Stoat “Met her on a stag weekend in Cork / she was with a headbanger from Dundalk.” The video for the long-standing band’s idiosyncratic new single eschews any fancy technology for a simple idea – often done but not enough – representing the lyrics with actions and symbols in someone’s gaff with a gusto that is infectious. This is a number-one hit in some alternative Irish universe. Second single Eyes Of Stone has a funk flavour to it. ADVERTISEMENT ALBUM OF THE WEEK Marlene Enright – Placemats And Second Cuts The Cork singer and songwriter has released a debut album that puts her on equal footing with well-known artists in folk, indie, roots and Americana. NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK Dreaming Of Jupiter A new Dublin-based three-piece who fuse rock, soul and pop. “We live by design / We live out our fantasies,” they sing a on the new song that reminds the listener of Two Door Cinema Club. Sailing Stones – The Blazing Sun Dublin singer and songwriter Jenny Lindfors has spent the last few years living in London writing …

The Eurydice Project review: ancient Greek feminists versus the police state

Until April 1 Choreography lifts their exchanges from the risk of bathos, with Monika Bieniek’s movement responding expressively to Jane Deasy’s percussive score, performed live on stage. Barry McKiernan succeeds in making the God of the Underworld a mercurial, charming character rather than a cardboard symbol. ADVERTISEMENT Beyond the marital struggles of Orpheus and Eurydice, what emerges is a forceful feminist critique of power structures. On her marriage to him, Eurydice finds herself suffocated, and longs to escape. Coming between the couple, even on their wedding day, is the figure of Hades. ★★★★ Project Arts Centre, Dublin The slippery ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is dismantled and recreated for our times in this multilayered dance-theatre piece from the White Label collective. Director Lee Wilson’s production doesn’t attempt any classical pastiche but is austerely beautiful, with Ger Clancy’s stripped geometric stage grid dominated by light projections of the moon and night sky, by the design group Algorithm. Observations about strong states protecting their borders, vaunting national and masculine pride and women’s violent reaction against attempts to control them make this a sharply contemporary piece. Alternately playful, satirical and impassioned, it reveals how the ancient myths re-incarnate themselves. Tilting the focus away from the mellifluous-voiced Orpheus and his quest to rescue Eurydice from the Underworld, this production presents Orpheus’s kingdom of Thrace through Eurydice’s eyes, as a police state, with sinister undertones. In a number of accomplished productions over the past two years, White Label, a loose affiliation of theatre artists, has demonstrated visual and technical flair, evident again here. Here she gives a voice to Eurydice, portraying a clever, sensual woman, rather than the pallid maiden familiar from the canon of poetry, opera and art. Limited and repressive ways of thinking about government, justice, communication, the environment, even religion, come under the microscope, with Eurydice re-empowered by a renewed affiliation with the female earth goddess. Picking through the shards of myth, this production has itself a shifting, appropriately fragmentary form. Accounting for his 10 years abroad, Orpheus knowingly refers to his voyage with Jason and the Argonauts as “my full epic-journey experience”, as if he’d just won a computer game. Making her playwriting debut, theatre producer, translator and critic Joanna Crawley joins writers such as Margaret Atwood, Christa Wolf and Jeanette Winterson, determined to rescue the women of Greek myth from passivity and victimhood. As the doomed lovers, Michael-David McKernan …

Grime for a change: how Stormzy is taking the music world by storm

Standing at 6ft 5in, typically clad in black, and possessing the kind of gigawatt smile that could redirect wayward planes, Stormzy has the old-money swagger of a much more established star. Rather than just venting, he also teamed up with Twickets to ensure a market for face price tickets to his shows. This charisma is everywhere present on Gang Signs, an album that took the firecracker energy of his grit-hewn, car-park freestyles, before adding several layers of polished nuance, culminating in punchy anthems such as Big For Your Boots or First Things First as well as smoother, more contemplative cuts such as Lay Me Bare or the blissed-out crush jam Velvet. Although Wednesday’s show at Dublin’s Olympia sold out long ago, Stormzy is also set to play Longitude this summer, so Irish fans will have a second, welcome chance to witness the further ascent of grime’sbiggest star. ADVERTISEMENT However, the big draws for a live Stormzy show are the call-and-response classics such as Shut Up and Mr Skeng, tracks so anthemic they were surely brewed-up in an underground lab by a dangerously rude coterie of grime boffins, and either of which are expected to reduce the whole into a sweating mass of grimacing acolytes. Not content with making the music press blink, Stormzy may have earned the love of music fans everywhere in his impassioned rants against secondary ticketing services, which he took to Twitter to upbraid sites such as Seatwave for ripping off his fans, admonishing them with a colourful selection of anglo-saxon verbiage. Following the release of debut album Gang Signs & Prayer, the 23-year-old grime MC has been gaining musical plaudits from high streets to broadsheets, and diversifying his public offerings into the bargain; whether in the adorable baby-adorned photo-op, or the recent Channel 4 News appearance covering his battles with mental health. There’s a growing sense that 2017 is to be Stormzy’s year. At a time when few musicians turn away free headlines, Stormzy’s demand for tact when dealing with such a sensitive issue shows a wealth of class. Moreover, his assertion of his rights to his own image shows a rare willingness to bite back at an industry long grown too comfortable with co-opting young artists’ talents to their own ends. Impressive too was his impassioned, full-throated condemnation of the NME for tackily using his face and words for a cover story on depression, without …

Watch: Mother’s Day video reminds us ‘we are only given one mother’

So I implore you, embrace her. And we are only given one mother. Performers from nine colleges will battle it out over three rounds to be crowned champion on March 29th at the National College of Art and Design on Thomas Street, Dublin 8. Callaly got in touch with an offer: “I was completely blown away by the stuff he was doing.” The voice in the film is Kenny’s. So I later wondered. But then I thought, could I be partly the blame? See cuz for all the things she’s asked of me that I could have, would have, should have done but didn’t do, even though I knew that she just wanted a chat, over a cup of tea we sat at the ever available, emotionally unstable table to discuss her frequents with Queen Mab, of times ever Mabel. Embrace her now, hold her close, closer than any other for she is only given one heart. “For years I wanted to put a video to it,” he says. I went in to record in the studio last Thursday. Was it living with the shame of slaving a 54-hour-a-week shift, just to come home and sift her way to couch to drift off watching her soaps which instead of giving her a much needed lift, had now become the dope that suppressed her inner screams. I’ll probably show it to her when it comes out.” His next project is the All Ireland Intervarsity Poetry Slam, which he set up, and is now in its third year. Embrace her, embrace her now! Which sadly is now the only time of the day she spends chasing her hopes and inner dreams. Son: David Moore Directed by Tony Callaly Music by The Swedish Railway Orchestra V/O & Sound Mix by Raygun Special Thanks: Jason Foran at Teach Solais, Colin Browne at Film Equipment Ireland, Thyrza Ging and Nathan and Daiane Morais Henderson May by Lewis Kenny I hugged my mother today for the first time in God knows how long, Just to show her that her son still cared and loved her, y’know? So please I beg you just embrace her. Is it the wasting of life on what was promised to be fulfilling and happy by a man who has since long forgotten All the things which they had once shared in common in what has now become just mere memory of …

Love Actually: a film so awful, it might be a masterpiece

I’d like to say it was one of those organic traditions that just emerges spontaneously and sustains itself through the love and care of those who partake in it. Like some Freudian nightmare, eros is frustrated, misdirected or straight-up cartoonish. They are not so much people as temptations; unholy mirages in Richard Curtis’ sexless desert of the real.  The BBC’s Red Nose Day coverage, on March 24th, will feature a short Love Actually sequel, Red Nose Day Actually, by Richard Curtis, which picks up the stories of the various happy couples from the 2003 original He really loves that kid. It has become something of a tradition round our house to watch Love Actually on the night before Christmas Eve. I have decided that, in spite of all the evidence, Love Actually is – and this is where I put on my best Hugh Grant voice – actually good. Forget Taken, forget Schindler’s List – this is moment for which Liam Neeson ought to be remembered. It is also incredibly inarticulate; the characters simply realise they are in love, often without speaking to the other party. t shows just how bad things can get when we let hubris get the better of us. They are rewarded. Despite the fact that it is demonstrably, relentlessly, vomit-inducingly bad, I have decided that we must watch Love Actually every year from now until we shuffle off this mortal coil. By attempting to erase them, it only makes the faultlines of modern life more obvious. The only other moment that comes close is when Liam Neeson bursts through a set of double doors after the school play and roars, with an unbridled passion utterly inappropriate for the situation, “Saaaaammmmmmyyyyyy!”. There are no simple happy endings for those two. It is good for a couple of obvious reasons: it is sometimes funny, and all the music is great. Nothing soothes my soul like the turn-of-the-millennium pop of Dido and All Saints. Grant’s prime minister is not a politician with a country, or even a party, to serve – he is a celebrity who stands in for the idea that you can do politics with nothing more than a smile and the odd recourse to nationalist symbolism. Courage equal to desire The question Love Actually poses is this: do we have the courage to act on our desires? Alan Rickman’s character, the self-described “classic fool”, does …

The slave girl’s story I wasn’t supposed to write

And this point of connection, this friendship, becomes ever more vital as both girls’ worlds fall apart. But there is no “right” answer, only the reader’s interpretation of what happened, just like there always is. I’ve a feeling I will be asked this more than for my other books. It became that feeling I get when I know it’s something I want to write about. You see, this novel is new territory for me. I knew she was a child straight away, and I didn’t want to undertake a book about a child in slavery. But despite how well the characters were developing, I worried. “Where did you get the idea for this book?” This is the question you get asked the most as a novelist. But I had never been in a place like this – a place where the horror of human beings being bought and sold seemed sealed into the cold stone walls – and it was here that the knowledge become more than knowledge. Photograph: Alexis Pace It was EL who came to me first. It wasn’t my story to write and besides, if I wanted to write about a child’s experience of traumatic historical events, I had plenty of options to choose from closer to home. An Irish-American teenager growing up in the affluent suburb of Brooklyn Heights, she should have nothing in common with her co-narrator EL – a slave who has lost both parents and will lose much more over the course of the book. How it had been the heart of the anti-slavery movement in New York and my shabby writing cafe was mere blocks from a famous church that was part of the Underground Railroad, where the most famous abolitionist of the time had helped free many slaves. But the more I ignored EL, the louder her voice became and I found myself writing about her on the side, just to get her out of my system, so I could start my “real” book. Then one day a friend I met for lunch in Brooklyn Heights told me a little of the history of the area. And that was the day Cassie first showed up on the page. Time to wander in a new place – especially a city – has always been fertile writing ground for me. After that, I worried less. ADVERTISEMENT The central question of I’m Right Here …

Eileen Battersby’s favourite sporting books

It explores her art, her determination, the pressures which made her both from within and without, the politics which defined her. I don’t know why Coventry wrote it as a novel when he had the means of writing a brilliant history. It is a complete, absorbing and frankly bonkers study but tennis fans, look no further. Well I remember watching the surging impossibility of Canadian Ben Johnson exploding down the Seoul track in the Olympic 100 metres final in 1988. Moore has written several good books on cycling, and he was well able to take on this thriller…wait a minute? Federer and Me – A Story of Obsession by William Skidelsky I am not obsessed with Federer, but Skidelsky, who would strike most observers as perfectly normal, is beyond obsessed. ADVERTISEMENT Today We Die A Little – The story of Emil Zatopek by Richard Askwith Another fan but Richard Askwith is far more self-controlled than Skidelsky and the great Zatopek was dead, so this very good book is far less zany but a tremendous read and also a reminder of the lost purity of track and field. But prose style aside, it is a great story. This is a big book and Tsiolkas is an overbearing writer but his central character experiences a catastrophic reaction to defeat…it is a book containing some staggering set pieces such as the Sydney Olympics. Maclean has a story to tell yet never loses sight of the art of fly fishing. The Invisible Mile by David Coventry In 1928, an ANZA team – five cyclists from Australia and New Zealand – got together to become the first English-speaking team to compete in the Tour de France. And as one of the sport’s greatest fans, Norman Mailer’s The Fight, his dramatic study of the world heavyweight championship bout between the ageing Muhammad Ali and the pretender, George Foreman, in Zaire in 1975, yet again reiterates that sport inspires supreme and lasting journalism. The Dirtiest Race in History by Richard Moore Anything you ever thought you knew about fair play goes out the window in this. In this case, he is a baseball player. This is what can happen to a fan – possibly he wrote the book in the winter, during bad weather and when he had no electricity to power his TV. Are we talking about sport? It looked unreal because it was unreal. Coarse, …

Pat Kenny irons things out with the Dáil’s ‘Untuckables’

As Forbes talks about turning RTÉ into a “more nimble organisation”, her choice of language is as striking as her plans. But when Forbes talks about “the top-line direction of travel”, O’Rourke pulls her up, sharply inquiring what the phrase actually means. Moment of the Week: Martin McGuinness’s unlikely friend Following the death of Martin McGuinness, the most inspiring comments come from Rev David Latimer of the First Derry Presbyterian Church, who talks about their friendship on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). A proud member of those casually attired TDs who might be termed “the Untuckables”, he says the focus on wardrobe is a distraction. Asked by O’Rourke about the abrupt closure of RTÉ’s young people’s department, she admits that “it wasn’t our finest hour”, but adds “we’ve learned from that and moved on from it.”  O’Rourke doesn’t ask whether those who worked in the shuttered department have moved on too. Political minefield Elsewhere, Seán O’Rourke ventures into a particularly perilous political minefield on Wednesday. Boyd Barrett disdains suits, ties or indeed tucked-in shirts as characteristics of the “establishment parties”. He even revisits the subject the following day, after the video has gone viral. Maybe so, but that doesn’t deter Pat Kenny, who discusses the topic at length with Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett and PR guru Terry Prone (The Pat Kenny Show, Newstalk, weekdays). The host ensures it doesn’t get too emotive by asking a question about religion, a favourite bugbear: “Did you fall out with God?” Kilbane doesn’t exactly say yes, but concedes he’s no longer a regular Mass-goer. So inconsequential is this fare that it’s like Derek Mooney, D’Arcy’s predecessor, never went away. Then again, a much more likely explanation is that it’s just another lacklustre segment on the show. His interview with former Republic of Ireland international Kevin Kilbane turns sharply from perfunctory career recap into more personal territory. ADVERTISEMENT Either way, it’s edgy stuff. There are still moments where D’Arcy reminds us of his pedigree as a compelling, prickly, curious broadcaster. He may have had many an on-air ministerial dust-up in his time, but his interview with RTÉ director general Dee Forbes (on Today with Sean O’Rourke, RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) sees the host navigating the hazardous straits between public interest and institutional self-preservation. But while mindful of their views, Latimer says that, “I have to assist people to see the man Martin …

Culture Shock: what sings in one place can sink in another

My opening show played to silence. I am off on my travels again. It was like Scandinavia had a convention for Christmas jumpers. Still, as I check the temperature in Auckland and pack my bag accordingly, I remind myself, Sonya, default to factory settings. This went down a storm in Carrick-on-Shannon.” There were a couple of trip hazards. So New Zealand 2017, here we come. One: The Olympics. The French tend to clap for at least 15 minutes, the last five of which is in unison. Total silence There are other audience anomalies. It is now their experience of your experience that matters. Judging by an interview I did for a Kiwi newspaper, it could go either way. Forget about the show you did in the Town Hall theatre in Galway when the lights went down at the end and you were deafened by the thunk of flipping seats as the good people of the west stood in unison. The coalface of experience has taught me when it comes to theatrical memoir, what sings in one place can sink in another. I went there with How To Keep An Alien last year. My first play, The Wheelchair on My Face, a myopic memoir produced by Fishamble, toured to 50 Irish venues in 2012. It’s no longer your experience. The auditorium was packed with straight-backed Ouluians. Two: The unforgettable ritual that is the First Holy Communion doesn’t have the same emotional recall in the UK. Rough Magic Theatre’s How To Keep An Alien: a story about falling in love and proving it to the government, is off to New Zealand for a tour of three festivals. Course, we’ve had it here since 2013. The connection ran deep. New Zealand has long been trying to jostle free of its neighbour’s schoolyard hair-tousling headlock. The play charts my de facto visa application process, enabling my Australian partner Kate to live in Ireland indefinitely. In Finland it takes the audience 20 seconds to fill a theatre – in total silence. ADVERTISEMENT Overjoyed and completely arrogant, I was ironically blind to the comeuppance that was ahead of me. I hear you ask, “why would an Australian who is free to live in Australia all of the time, want to come and live in Ireland deliberately?” It turns out the Irish happen to be very fall-in-loveable with, or to quote an Australian friend of ours, who …

Aquarius: “It is the duty of people of goodwill to boycott this film”

“I could never have expected that when writing it. Social media was alive with complaints that the film-makers were shaming the nation. In the 1990s, he began experimenting with short film before delivering the singular, ecstatically praised feature Neighbouring Sounds in 2013. “The New York Times reported a committee member saying they did not necessarily choose the best film, but chose the one that would appeal to the old people in the Academy. She shares his interest in popular culture. I originally had the idea that a non-professional would play the role. But there was one regrettable kickback. Sônia Braga is mesmerising as Clara, a retired music writer striving to hold onto her beachside property in Recife. I would do it all again.” Aquarius is out now “They also slashed the ministry of culture the week we were there. “Also, when you are a journalist sometimes you are seen as a threat – just because your job is exercising a point of view. That just made it more successful than ever,” Mendonça laughs. Right-wing papers were angrier still. As in real life, a cadre of scheming men is trying to oust a powerful, intelligent woman. “I could have just written Clara as a space engineer or a botanist, but I know little about these professions. Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius is among the most remarkable films of the last 12 months. The eventual submission, David Schurmann’s Little Secret, vanished without trace. The music and cinematography are delicious. The apartment building in which Clara lives has already become a tourist attraction. I learnt about Manhattan from Woody Allen.” The character of Clara says something about Kleber. “Sonia has said it felt like the script was written for her,” he says. I am happy to say that we ended up as friends.” Now, he moves on to an ambitious western set in the Brazilian interior. But these things happen in literature or film. Clueless “It really blew up in their face,” he says. In his home country, helped along by the controversy, it has become something of a sensation. “It happens to so many film-makers from so many different cultures,” he says. The week the film opened in Brazil, Ms Rousseff was ejected from her home. “Ha ha! This is worth saying at the top because its initial emergence was overshadowed by political controversy. That was embarrassing.  “Well, it was just a quiet …

Nelly Furtado: ‘ “Did ya get the ride?” I love that. That’s why Ireland is so cool’

With this recommendation, Furtado flew to Dallas, Texas, and showed up at his studio “kind of just cold turkey” to see what they could make. “And when I met him, I was at a point in my career where I was like, ‘Yeah, I need a new way to enjoy this.. Just the nature of writing. She wanted The Ride to have an “alternative” sound so when she asked her good pal Annie Clark (St Vincent) what she should do, she pointed in the direction of John Congleton, who has produced music for Goldfrapp, Spoon, Modest Mouse, David Byrne, Sparks and Explosions in the Sky among others. And I used to write songs in the Ramada Hotel cleaning the floors when I was 18,” she says. That’s the best news I’ve heard! It wasn’t making him happy so he had to slow down and do the things that made him happy,” she says. I.. You say, ‘Did ya get the ride last night?’ ‘Did ya get the ride?’ Oh. In my living room, on my guitar after cleaning the floors. This month, she has ditched the folk music and cast the R&B club sound aside and is back with The Ride, an alternative pop album with a very subtle indie undertone. “I think there’s something to be said for just living a life, you know?” ADVERTISEMENT I wrote a lot of these songs in my living room…. Now I’m 38. “Since Barney, I’m the first pop artist that John has worked with.” The Ride is a pop album with a conscience and the music is reflective of an artist who has come full circle in her career. Kind of naked And what they made is a “raw, vulnerable, kind of naked” album that explores the repercussions of being sold and believing in pipe dreams. love that. So, I’ve seen a lot and I’ve done a lot. It’s a stylistic thing, I realise. Since the release of her debut single I’m Like a Bird in 2000, Nelly Furtado has had the ability to burst into our lives, cause a ruckus in the charts for a while, retreat and then return with a new album boasting a different sound and a different outlook. For Furtado and its producer Timbaland, Loose was a game-changer, spitting out chart hits such as Do It, Say It Right, Promiscuous and Maneater, a throbbing pop song that was …