In a Word . . . Critic

From krites (judge) inaword@irishtimes.com When, in those later years, angry people would ask me what qualifications I had to be a critic anyhow, I’d tell them that story. More next week. My talent was already clear. But I have been a critic. In my college years in Galway I spent so much more time with the Drama Society (Dramsoc) rather than in the library. They were, he said, “like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves”. Critic, from the Latin criticus; Greek kritikos, one capable of judging. Its only appeal lay in its brevity, about 20 minutes long, and it has about as many cast, 17 if memory serves. Sadly, I’ve never been in a harem. It was an “interesting” five years. I, became a critic. I turned her down. I was theatre critic for the Irish Press newspaper from 1990 until it closed down in 1995 – an unrelated event! I am not a eunuch, though there are those long spells when I might as well be. Both would go on to conquer the known world, many times over, with the Druid theatre company which they founded. Generally, no further explanation was necessary. No less than college contemporary Garry Hynes told me I had no stage presence. Recommended. I was a mediocre director, moderately useful backstage, and most noteworthy for being disruptive at committee meetings. Auditions for Everyman took place next door to where Garry Hynes was casting her first play, Brian Friel’s The Loves of Cass Maguire. She was not suitable to be Fellowship, Cousin, Kindred, Goods, Good Deeds, Knowledge, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, any one of the Five Wits, God, Death, or Everyman. A favourite Brendan Behan quote concerns critics, of whom he was not a lover. But, my cum laude moment in the critic qualification stakes happened in my first year at then UCG, now renamed NUI Galway, when I was persuaded to co-direct that awful medieval morality dirge, Everyman. I was also eminently qualified. As for acting, I was terrible. A student who auditioned for one of the 17 roles in Everyman was another first year, Marie Mullen. To mention a few Rejected, she went next door to where Garry cast her as lead in The Loves of Cass Maguire.

Nialler9’s New Irish Music: Touts, Interskalactic, Bitch Falcon & more

<a data-cke-saved-href=”http://interskalactic.bandcamp.com/album/interskalactic” href=”http://interskalactic.bandcamp.com/album/interskalactic”>Interskalactic by Interskalactic</a> VIDEO OF THE WEEK Bitch Falcon – Syncope Video by Kate Dolan There’s a lot to be said for a music video that makes you want to join the cast of delinquents even if the gang of “stun huns” go too far in their antics and steal a dog. Joshua Burnside – Blood Drive (Ryan Vail remix) The Northern Irish singer-songwriter will release Ephrata, his album conceived and inspired by Columbia and its music. R.S.A.G. A new EP Doves & Ravens drops next Friday. Following in Sharkey and Co’s footsteps’, Derry band Touts deliver a short-sharp burst of Strummer-soundalike punk to jump around a messy bedroom and play air guitar to. Brién – Hoke From new Extended Play 061 compilation feat ten Irish nuggets of house and techno and also featuring Ejeca, Bobby Analog and Quinton Campbell, Brién’s contribution has a summer-facing jazz electronic flavour to it. Everything about this video and song is badass. Same band, same viewpoint, but evolved. On his new song, Kilkenny man Jeremy Hickey is more sonically engaging than ever, growing his palette in the process. Kennedy has been co-writing with producers Charlie Hugall, Koz and Carey Willetts and if tunes like this are on the cards, he should keep it up. NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK Touts Pressing play on Sold Out is as close as a 21st century kid will ever get to understanding the thrill that their parents got at their age when they put the needle on the record of a 7” single from The Clash or The Undertones. Catch them at pretty much every festival going this summer. AE Mak I Walk Already in their short career, Aoife McCann and Ellie McMahon have demonstrated a flair for creativity, passion and performance on a debut EP and live shows which make considerations for things most young artists are only grappling with – costumes, dance, style and overall sound. Meet You There One of the most proficient and multitalented drummers in Ireland has never limited his skillset to the kit. RELEASE OF THE WEEK Interskalactic – Interskalactic EP It can’t be easy to get a soccer team-sized number of musicians together to play tunes, nevermind to find 11 players who want to play ska. If earlier songs were grating with their overwhelming positivity to some listeners, I Walk adds some textured maturity to things. This song has received …

No women need apply as Ivan Yates brings manly swagger to Sundays

The appealing, affable Kerr in particular gives reason for optimism. Already possessing an overwhelmingly middle-aged and male roster of weekday presenters, the station has revamped its Sunday line-up by adding Ivan Yates and Bobby Kerr, both of whom are, well, middle-aged and male. “It doesn’t bore me,” replies the host, adding that, after all, “This is called ‘Yates on Sunday’.” Therein lies the problem. (As a middle-aged male, I’m aware I may be thin ice here.) Still, it’s early days. “We are an Irish advocate,” comes the pithy rejoinder.  There are also the mandatory forays into attention-grabbing rhetoric. So, on the face of things, his return to air as the host of Yates on Sunday (Newstalk) seems like a sensible move,, if hardly a radical one. In his previous role, Yates was at his best when sparring with cohost Chris Donoghue. Yates, a former Fine Gael minister, is characteristically impatient with Fianna Fáil’s ambivalent support of the Government; Donnelly, equally characteristically, sounds patronising towards those who disagree with him: “If you don’t think it’s clear, I can explain it to you.” But, disappointingly, that’s pretty much the extent of the sparks. Not everyone on the programme is as buoyant. But the show highlights the perils of broadcasting from a windswept location. As well as being a reductive notion, this represents a missed opportunity. In fairness, the presenters in question have assets beyond their age and gender. “This is going to bore all your listeners,” he says. Yates, by and large, seems to agree with O’Leary and clearly enjoys his company, so the conversation is chummy rather than charged. There’s the odd misstep, as when Yates suggests that the Government should help put Britain’s Brexit case to the EU. Radio Moment of the Week: Tubridy’s giant glitch It’s off to the Giant’s Causeway with Ryan Tubridy (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), who visits Co Antrim’s natural wonder to bring us soft-focus interviews fit for a tourist brochure. As the link is re-established with Tubridy, he can be heard muttering “disaster”. (Pub bores also encounter this problem of diminishing impact.) A more collegiate atmosphere prevails during his interview with Michael O’Leary. His opening speech is obliterated by bloops and bleeps, before the sound cuts out during conversations: in the end, Aonghus McAnally has to step in to play music from a Dublin studio. “Keep it positive” is his motto. “Are we an Anglo …

A guard unlocks door on Irish Prison Service

Prison officers are non-statutory, take no oath and, according to the late judge and Inspector of Prisons Michael Reilly, are in fact civilians. You are defined by what lies within. In fact it’s called jail, gaol, place of detention, institution, Borstal. I knew the truth, that’s what mattered. How much of you do you let the staff see? After August 2007, to me it was equally important that I shed that life, examine it honestly and put my take on it. The main enterance to Mountjoy Prison. Reilly confirms in his report titled “Road Map… a way forward” that the Department of Justice more or less ran the Prison Service as an adjunct of St Stephens Green with the main task of keeping the Minister free from problems and issues. The prisoner shares time and space with you. I was surprised at the size of some of the staff. It being a very hot May Saturday – everything starts on a Saturday in the prison system – I was almost knocked out by the stink that hung in the air. It was important to remember that for the first 25 years of my life I wasn’t a prison officer. In time I learned that neither uniform nor size made the man or the woman who worked in our jails. Photograph: David Sleator My book takes us through one year. As a child my mother had brought me to the zoo. I have to say that when I read that three months ago, I was shocked. Better, how much of yourself do you expose to inmates? First impressions are lasting, they say. There I stood outside the monkey houses which also stank. I don’t act as a defender or accuser of the service I was attached to. In time I was to find out that it was as late as 1999 that the Irish Authority (intern) Prison Board was set up. My book charts my journey from the western seaboard village of Blacksod with absolutely no knowledge about prisons. Once inside, after being fitted out in a one-size-fits-all uniform and cap, we were brought into the bowels of the main jail. Cheap serge uniforms on the male staff that I encountered. Police, firemen and ambulance staff would all be seen as frontline service personnel. Inside The Monkey House is my take on the years I put into the job. “What we …

Harry Styles: Sign of the Times shows he’s done with the fame circus

He was not a pop act anymore, his collection of ironic rosary beads around his neck screamed. Modelling himself on a young Mick Jagger, his shirts started to button a little lower and the rims on his hats became a little wider. And today it lands.  He’s ready to be taken seriously.  Styles announced on March 30th (coincidentally the 30th anniversary of Prince’s album Sign o’ the Times) that he would be releasing his new single Sign of the Times. The cheeky chappy who won our hearts over with his wide grin and lust for life on The X Factor was no more. Way back in 2013, in a little indie documentary called One Direction: This Is Us, it was clear to almost everyone that Harry Styles was over this shit. He’s soaking it all in. With every One Direction solo single, we learn a little bit about the men behind the music. Or perhaps it’s a nod to his role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. In a bid to display this pain, his strained vocals swerve from gravelly to Bee Gee pitch. With Zayn Malik’s Pillowtalk, we discovered that he likes to have a lot of sex. “Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times / Welcome to the final show / I hope you’re wearing your best clothes”, goes this piano ballad, and while it’s no What Makes You Beautiful (simpler times), this is the debut single that Malik and Horan wish they could have released. Oh, he’s got them all. Emotions? With Niall Horan’s My Town, we discovered that he likes his guitar but loves Mullingar. With Harry Styles, we learn that he is done with the fame circus, while remaining very, very famous.  Just like Katy Perry, or Wokey Perry as we call her now, he is feeling the pain of the world and he needs to sing about it. Either way, we’ve got a pop star in water and he’s about to make a splash. The video for Sign of the Times is yet to be released so we cannot comment on the status of his shirt buttons, but the single artwork finds him sitting in a pool of water.

The Trip to Spain review: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon get stuck into food and death

Here in San Sebastian, dining al fresco on grilled fresh fish, Brydon already envisages mercifully executing his comrade. “How nice to hear your voice,” his wife says in this series, with no apparent irony, when he phones in the style of David Frost. And yet there is such substance in the show. In series one, Coogan imagined giving Brydon’s eulogy. Coogan is a libidinous loner with few interests beyond himself. This time, literary allusions are more muted, although Coogan is fascinated with the tragic arc of Laurie Lee’s return journey, and Brydon with the comic double act of Cervantes’s Don Quixote – their first attempt to see another country from a perspective that is not British. “It’s grotesque that we talk about death,” he says later in the series. In series two, they held skulls and quoted Hamlet. It’s why watching the show feels like such a gorgeous escape, and why, you feel, you should really be planning a holiday. Coogan’s… Who else would have them? Brydon’s Brydon, on the other hand, is too eager to impress, hiding behind so many impersonations it’s as though he alone leaves no impression. In the first two series, the pair followed the journeys of Wordsworth and Coleridge in the north of England, and Byron and Shelley in Italy, for which Winterbottom found wry (usually undercutting) parallels of creation, mortality, posterity and raging appetites. oh… But such dark undercurrents make happiness – sometimes as fleeting as “life-affirming butter” – taste all the sweeter. Between some hilarious goofing (mostly improvised; it’s a delight to see Brydon geting Coogan to crack up) and constant ribbing, they are frequently led towards mordant reflections on mortality. “Great,” he says, with light laceration when Brydon agrees yet again. The Trip to Spain (Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 10pm), the third iteration of director Michael Winterbottom’s deceptively simple comedy, is initiated, as ever, with the flimsy pretext of reviewing restaurants for a newspaper, an adventure for which Coogan needs an accomplice. But for all that sharp mimicry, the slyest impersonations that Coogan and Brydon give are of themselves: a petty narcissist and an excitable chatterbox, bickering about their careers, dining in style, consumed with death and singing all the way. Their conversation, always prickly and often hilarious, is interrupted by Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins, shouted down by an eruptive Al Pacino or a wheezy Michael Caine, moped over by Alan Bennett, …

With rue my heart is laden: a writer immortalises his dog

My Buller was small for his age when we first met, but this condition didn’t last for long. While The Barrowfields is undoubtedly a work of fiction, a few people along the way have asked me whether any of the characters in the book are based on real people, and the answer is generally no – except in the case of one remarkable dog by the name of Buller. One of his favourite things was to get a running-go and leap blindly through the shower curtain while I was taking a shower, an act that had unpredictable consequences and occasionally resulted in injuries to one or both of us. In my search for a dog, I came across an advertisement in the local paper: golden retriever puppies for sale! Here’s to my dear Buller: the always brave, the proud, my best friend; the most loving, kindest soul I’ve ever known. Lying on his side, he became catatonic, and his legs were stiff. When left alone, though, even for a moment, he became a whirling dervish of destruction, eating books, plants, legs of chairs, window sills, and literally anything within reach of his tireless golden mouth. The vet administered the life-ending concoction and he laid him down on the floor and it was over. At maturity he had a square jaw, a broad chest, and pranced about like a show horse, making him appear almost majestic – until you saw the stuffed animal he was carrying. By the time we got to the vet’s office, he had recovered. On visits home, Buller often crept off down the hill and covered himself head to toe with fresh (ie, wet) cow manure, such that he was a completely different colour and almost unrecognisable. It slowly came to me that something was horribly wrong, and that there was nothing that could be done. The Barrowfields follows the lives and tragedies of the Aster family across the decades, set in the high Appalachian mountains and the historic low country of South Carolina I had just finished reading Beryl Markham’s extraordinary book West with the Night, and thus when casting about for a possible name for my new friend, I hit upon Buller, which was the name of Beryl’s dynamic dog and cat-hunting avenger during her childhood years in east Africa. At night he’d bound up onto the bed with me and sleep with his head …

My novel’s roots? A rootless half-life roaming ghost estates

I lived a weird half-life there, mostly alone, among football fans and hen parties. Far truer to me is the idea of the reader feeling into darkness for something solid to cling onto, and being frightened by the gradual realisation that there is nothing there. Odd long evenings, nothing doing, I used borrow my mother’s Micra and spin the by-roads of Louth. One by one, they simply vanish. This seems to spook readers more than any of the strange events described. Nothing on Earth by Conor O’Callaghan: an original story, brilliantly told Nothing on Earth by Conor O’Callaghan: April’s Irish Times Book Club choice I would park discreetly, squeeze through the metal barrier and drift around. Less obvious, though, is my novel’s implicit elegy for the family of four I broke up. 2010? I remember bare breeze-blocks, graffiti, ragwort and poppies in among the rubble, scraps of glass and scaffolding. I didn’t know what happens, and still don’t, and I wasn’t going to make up a resolution just to give the reader a safe landing point. The man is not me. However, it can be purchased for only €4.99 if bought with a copy of The Irish Times in any branch of Eason until April 14th. I wanted a tale that would creep the bejesus out of all who entered in. A member of my community workshop who was serving life for republican activities. I haven’t researched the statistical truth of that. Nothing on Earth is about a family of four in the show house of a never-to-be-completed development. Conor O’Callaghan in Chinatown, Manchester. All of that was invisible to me at the time. His flat had been bugged by MI5. There were moments there when I felt fear like never before or since, and legged it to the car, and sped back to a world marginally more populated. Something… The resulting story has been likened by one friend, filmmaker Eamon Little, to an episode of Father Ted directed by David Lynch. The houses feel haunted by lives that someone hoped for, but which never came to pass. There is no resolution. The man turns out to be a priest. The story draws upon trips home in those low years and cruising the ghost estates of Dundalk’s hinterland. Eileen Battersby interviews Conor O’Callaghan at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin’s Parnell Square on Wednesday, April 26th, at 7.30pm. Less obvious is …

Gael García Bernal: ‘You can’t separate art from politics’

But what I love about Pablo is that there is always something new about the angle he takes. Those are the type of films I like to watch as well.” He ought, one feels, to be self-righteous or overly-earnest. Because he’s a dangerous point of view. Gael Garcia Bernal with fellow actor and best friend Diego Luna. “Art doesn’t happen in isolation. Family, work, the interesting discussions; everything happens in Mexico. At least for me.” Neruda opens April 7th Instead he’s fantastically good fun and a gifted comic. These days, his London stopovers are a little more comfortable. It feel that people have less time to wonder than when I was a student. It’s one of the craziest experiences acting has given me. With Neruda, it would have been impossible to make a biography, because he lived many lives not one. In 2005, he and fellow-actor Diego Luna founded the Cine Ambulante project, which screens award-winning documentaries from around the world at public parks and on streets, for free. The 38-year-old has played Che twice; once in TV miniseries Fidel, and then in The Motorcycle Diaries.   Donald Clarke’s Movie Quiz: From Annie Hall to Ronnie Reagan Six of the best films to see at the cinema this weekend Neruda review: Gael García Bernal’s latest almost disappears up its own dactyl The show has been an amazing journey, he says. Diego also brought a lot of truth to the world they build. “It was great. “It was quite daunting to shake the baton for the first time.   By now, they have developed a kind of telepathy, says the actor. In 2014, he starred as the Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari in Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater, and also played a shaman who takes on deforesters in the resistance drama The Burning. If there is such thing as truth in Star Wars.” Released later this year, Pixar’s Coco marks Bernal’s first proper Hollywood foray since the 2010 rom-dram Letters to Juliet. At least for me “He’s very straightforward,” says Bernal. The pair, who co-founded the production company Canana Films in 2005, have remained best pals ever since. “And when it doesn’t take a political stance, that’s a political stance, too.” Remember the Oscars? Family, work, the interesting discussions; everything happens in Mexico. “Actually, London has changed more than just my experience of living there. Every movie or piece of art takes …

Father John Misty: Microdosing on acid and melancholy

What is that? He has written songs for Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, and toured with Lana Del Ray. Then I got into the real world. The way I see myself is just as distorted as the perception. It’s humiliating.” Among women In a societal sense – given he’s still happily married to photographer Emma Elizabeth, the muse of I Love You Honeybear – Tillman seems to have a special interest in women. Pure Comedy is out on April 7th Musically, he name-checks Taylor Swift on the new album (though critiquing our culture with the lyrics “bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift” isn’t the most sensitive of moves). That’s the story of the 20th century: ingrained forms of control.” He offers eloquent, well-considered opinions about control until the “it” crowd at the bar invade. We’ll say it again: Josh Tillman is not a man you could talk to hungover. “What really rubs me the wrong way is the moment a woman enters the music industry, they’re told they can’t write their own songs. Women should not have to be thinking about whether they’re even having control over their own bodies when they’re making this decision. Tillman’s patient, but the level at which he operates means he’s not someone you could talk to hungover. From what little I’ve seen of it, I cannot believe the soft control that is evidenced.” For his own part, Tillman is well aware of the privilege afforded to him. actually, that’s not a soundbite I want,” he says, with a journalist’s radar. It’s one of those issues that really confronts the neuroses of a culture, and their ability to hold two ideas in their head at the same time: abortion can be sad but essential. “All of the nuance aside, I can only imagine how demeaning it is to have the decision made by a group of old white men. I’m more of a fan of music journalism than I am of the music that’s covered. I don’t want to talk about the way I’m perceived. And the beard is gone, replaced by a GQ moustache. “These differences we view as being so fundamental are largely semantic outside of a few major issues, which largely affect women. “But they’re told other people will write songs, and what’s the tacit message there? I have a soft spot for Interpol. Women are where the crux of …