‘Composing the Island shifted perceptions about our musical heritage’

Incredible as it may seem, opera provision in Dublin is actually lower now than it was before 1951, when the Arts Council itself was set up. 2016 in three words: hot and cold. The game of musical chairs in the management of RTÉ’s performing groups. There was also the huge embrace of culture and the arts by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in fronting the announcement of Creative Ireland, a venture he promises will “make every local authority a dynamic hub of cultural activity” and “enable every child to access tuition in music, drama, art and coding”. Executive director John O’Kane was moved sideways into a new role and Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, head of RTÉ lyric fm, was given O’Kane’s old brief of managing the orchestras, quartet and choirs on top of his existing full-time responsibilities. The Arts Council’s ongoing shilly-shallying about funding opera is greatly worrying. What will be your cultural resolution for 2016? I gave up resolutions a long time ago, but I’m dying to find out how Creative Ireland is going to be resourced. As I’ve said before, Enda, show us the money. What were your cultural highlights for the year gone by? It has already shifted perceptions about our musical heritage. Who does RTÉ think it is kidding at a time when neither orchestra has a principal conductor? The venture showed what can happen when major institutions (RTÉ, the National Concert Hall, Ireland 2016, with Bord na Móna as sponsor) work in harmony. What let you down? Composing the Island, September’s survey of the last century and more of music by (mostly) Irish composers. Our miserable infrastructure of opera is a legacy of decades of underfunding and neglect that became significantly worse when the 21st-century recession was added to the mix.

Lena Dunham apologises for abortion comment

You mean everything to me.” During the podcast, Dunham – who describes herself an an “abortion rights activist” – told listeners she realised she was carrying her own “stigma” about the issue when she quickly corrected the woman who believed she had had an abortion. “Now I can say I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.” ‘Unhelpful’ John Gerardi, executive director of anti-abortion charity Right To Life of Central California, branded Dunham’s comments “inflammatory and unhelpful”. My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. “I feel so proud of them for their bravery, for their self-knowledge, and it was a really important moment for me then, that I had internalised some of what society was throwing at us and I had to put it in the garbage. PA I realised then that even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue. He told the Press Association: “Even if you accept the argument that women have a right to obtain access to abortions, we’re still talking about another living human being. Actor Lena Dunham has apologised after she was criticised for declaring she had never had an abortion but wishes she had. She said: “I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion. “It seems Lena Dunham wants to treat abortions like getting your appendix removed.” Dunham won two Golden Globes in 2013 for her series Girls, which airs on Sky Atlantic. She told listeners that she had never gone through the procedure, before adding: “But I wish I had.” Her remarks prompted a wave of criticism online, with one anti-abortion charity saying Dunham was treating abortions “like getting your appendix removed”. Dunham (30) had recalled an incident at a Planned Parenthood meeting in Texas, where she was asked to share a story about her own abortion. ADVERTISEMENT “So many people I love – my mother, my best friends – have had to have abortions for all kinds of reasons. The creator and star of the TV series Girls has said she did not intend to “trivialise” terminating a pregnancy, following comments she made during her Women Of The Hour podcast. “I would never, ever intentionally trivialise the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy. In a post on Instagram alongside a …

French actor Michèle Morgan dies at the age of 96

Early life Hollywood comic actor Gene Wilder dies aged 83 ‘Game of Thrones’ actor Peter Vaughan dies aged 93 ‘Fawlty Towers’ actor Andrew Sachs dies aged 86 Born on February 29th, 1920, as Simone Roussel, she took Michèle Morgan as her stage name. Michèle Morgan, a French actor who starred in films alongside Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra and was the first winner of the Cannes film festival’s best actress award, has died aged 96. Living in Hollywood during the second World War, she starred in movies including Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol, and married American director William Marshall. Her family said she died on Tuesday, without giving a cause of death, according to French media reports. AP Morgan starred alongside Humphrey Bogart in Passage To Marseille in 1944 – having been considered for the role of Ilsa in Casablanca, which went to Ingrid Bergman. She was awarded Cannes’ first best actress award for her portrayal of a blind woman in Pastoral Symphony in 1946. She starred with Sinatra in Higher And Higher in 1943. French president François Hollande said Morgan, whose sea-blue eyes captivated French audiences, was “a legend who marked numerous generations”.

Brendan Gleeson: ‘It never crossed my mind I could be a movie star’

That seems wise. I remember those B-movies well. He has been married to the same woman for nearly 35 years. “They were on telly then,” he laughs. There is a general suspicion: if I was laughing it can’t be that important. Millions now revere him as the Irish bloke out of Harry Potter. “He understood that. ADVERTISEMENT “It never crossed my mind I could be a movie star,” he says. You have a different amount of input in each film. You’re part of the family. “You do feel that you’re all the time being watched. “But I ain’t going to talk about that,” he says firmly, but politely. He still has the open, engaged manner of the teacher you remember with affection. Throughout the 1980s, Gleeson appeared in a series of energetic, furious theatre pieces that caught the zeitgeist with uncanny accuracy: Brownbread, Home, Wasters. I remember going into a shop and the eyes burning into the back of my head. He joined his son, the now ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson, as part of the Harry Potter team in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The film is a welcome throwback to the post-war noir that he and I grew up watching. Everyone half-assumes he must have a shed-load of Oscar nominations. He understood the importance of not talking to an empty seat.” Gleeson manages a rare blend of seriousness and self-deprecation. And that’s the price.” I never worked towards that though. As everybody knows (or should know) the burly, warmly voiced Dubliner spent many years working as a teacher before becoming a professional actor. I remembering wondering if I could ever get to the stage where I’d say ‘20 years ago’. I just liked the work.” Literary references A careful reader who drops literary references into his conversation, Gleeson did study acting as a young man, but, sensible as well as gifted, he made sure he had a decent career to fall back on. Martin Scorsese used him Gangs of New York. He was 34 when he took the plunge. If it hadn’t been for Paul Mercier, that is probably what would have happened. That seemed like such a long time when you were young.” Twenty years ago, Gleeson was just edging into a new, exciting phase of his life. In a parallel universe, I imagine a famous writer, interviewed in his prime, praising “Mr Gleeson” for turning him …

Irish satire thriving in competitive world of fake news

When was the truth? It’s like Chinese whispers, in that there’s an element of truth in there but it’s all got jumbled up. It’s ridiculous. Waterford Whispers News Takes Over the World: all the news that’s fit to mock Happy Brexmas from Kevin McAleer Meet the son of two behind Waterford Whispers News “We get emails from people all the time saying, ‘I only get my news from Waterford Whispers News’, which is kind of scary. “Everyone was getting on their high horse about a gorilla and I was thinking, are you all bonkers?” Occasionally, life even imitates art. In the brave new post-truth world of fake news, the New York Times offers a degree of reassurance. With over 500,000 fans on Facebook and three million page views on its website every month, WWN has become Ireland’s leading satirical news site. “All the news that’s fit to print”, it proclaims from the top left-hand corner of its front page – as it has done for the last 120 years. ADVERTISEMENT It’s also made a successful jump into print – the third book from Waterford Whispers News was published last month, as was a collection from its Northern counterpart, The Ulster Fry. “There are only a handful of newspapers that actually do proper reporting. The rest, and particularly the online ones, just copy and paste,” says founder Colm Williamson. “I’m just a junkie for news and truth, and for trying to show that.” As a formula, it works. “So what we try to do is look at the news every day and see what’s trending online, and then look at what the news didn’t do about that story, and what we can highlight in an article. That’s where the idea of Waterford Whispers came from. In my eyes there never was a truth to post, or a truth to come after. “We interviewed the gay cake at one point,” says Ivan Minnis, who under the pseudonym Billy McWilliams is one half of the Ulster Fry spoof news website. They’re not trying to rewrite stories – they’re just basically passing them on. Post truth – I don’t get that. Lambasted for his “modest proposal” to alleviate the effects of poverty by selling and eating the children of the poor, the man who willingly admitted he “had too much satire in his vein” would surely have found our current times irresistible. One imagines …

Paul O’Connell wins The Battle to be Ireland’s Christmas No 1

The Irish Christmas top 10 bestselling titles were: 1. Guinness World Records:2017 6. The Irish rugby international’s autobiography, which recently won the Irish Sports Book of the Year Award, narrowly pipped The Midnight Gang by David Walliams, which is the No 1 title in Britain. The Battle by Paul O’Connell 2. O’Connell and Walliams pulled away in the pre-Christmas week, with The Battle leading the charge with 7,789 copies to Walliams’ 6,903. Ireland’s number one title this Christmas is The Battle by Paul O’Connell, which has sold 10,465 copies in the Christmas week (the seven days to 17th December) through Nielsen BookScan’s Irish Consumer Market. Holding has been this year’s big Irish fiction success story, proving signnificantly more popular in Ireland than Britain despite Norton’s huge media profile there. Double Down: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney 7. Pippa by Pippa O’Connor 9. This year, the race was much fiercer, with Walliams, O’Connell and Holding by Graham Norton all contesting the number one spot; with only 600 book sales separating the three in the week ending December 3rd. The book sold more than 35,000 copies in its first week, which alone would have placed it fifth overall for the year. Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern ADVERTISEMENT 10.What Do You Think of That? Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling was the top-selling title of the year, with 67,409 copies in total to date. by Kieran Donaghy Last year’s Irish Christmas number one was Walliams’s Grandpa’s Great Escape, which sold 7,030 copies in the corresponding week in 2015, more than 2,000 copies ahead of its closest rival. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen 5. Last year, Paula Hawkins’ psychological thriller The Girl on the Train topped the charts, selling 60,476 copies. Holding by Graham Norton 4. Bolloxology by Colm O’Regan 8. The Midnight Gang by David Walliams 3.

A crowdfunded history of Irish cooking

In my (typical) case, a short video was made and put up on the Unbound website. Crowdfunding is no stroll in the park. On the joyous day when the special edition of Ireland’s Green Larder is delivered, you’ll rip open the package and find your name printed at the back of the book you helped create. Alive and lepping! Once that target is reached, the profits are split evenly. I wrote it for the general public and laced it with accounts of miracles, poems, extracts from diaries, letters and much more. Pledgers get access to the writer via regular “Shed” musings, plus the glow of knowing they’ve helped turn a dream into a reality. Details of the ultra-strict diet of the Culdee monastic communities contrast strikingly with an account of the lavish dinner given by a Mrs Delany in the 18th century, the first course alone consisting of a large joint of beef “tremblante”, garnished with small patés, two soups, pigeon pie, stuffed veal with parsley and cream, and casserole with vin de Bourgogne. and how Brendan Behan, as a young lad, cooked a pig’s head for the granny and what happened next… The Ireland I studied most closely was rural, but I also look at how the urban poor kept body and soul together, telling how Dean Swift roared at the duplicity of fishwives shouting Salmon! It’ll feel good. (She wished to pique her guests’ appetite before the following two courses were brought on.) That foray into the dealings of the Big House is a rarity in the book, though. If you want to know more, it would do you no harm to visit my author’s page, watch my video and then swoop to the side of the page and pledge. Before production begins, the writer needs to reach a financial target by urging people to select one of a range of pledges. My kind farming neighbour Tommy gave me a carton of beestings to cook with, and I learned the economy of simple ingredients and minimal tools. In it I talk about Ireland’s Green Larder – a history, not a cookbook, although recipes are dotted here and there. You must work at it, but it’s so satisfying to see your needle swinging upwards and especially exciting when a stranger pledges, because it’s the merit of the book that has drawn them, and I know they’ll be rewarded with …

Classical music review: Choir of King’s College short on Christmas spirit

The singing was always finely sculpted, but something in the reserve of the style kept the music at a distance.  The concert, of course, was working up – through Fauré, Duruflé and three carol-anthems by Herbert Howells – to a sequence of much more traditional Christmas material. Cousin Samuel Beckett’s childhood in Greystones had involved playing piano duets with his cousin Samuel, whose pedalling skills apparently left something to be desired, and his music master at St Columba’s was Joe Groocock, whose obsessive adoration of Bach clearly rubbed off on his student. Multifaceted man Charles Gannon’s biography of the late John Beckett (John S Beckett – The Man and the Music, Lilliput Press) is the story of a multifaceted man who rarely seemed to be shy of a definite view on anything to do with music. It attracted the BBC to Dublin for specially commissioned recordings, and brought Bach cantatas from Dublin to the Proms in London and to the early music festival in Bruges. Every strand was revealed as if the whole were somehow miraculously lit from within. He played the harpsichord in a 1950 Dublin performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor, though considerably more energy was devoted to plying Radio Éireann with ideas for music programmes to record and writing scripts for music broadcasts.  But Dublin could not hold him – the RTÉ scriptwriting dried up – and he moved to London, where he lived from 1954 to 1971, teaching, performing, recording (these were the Musica Reservata years) and making programmes for the BBC.  When he returned to Dublin he taught at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where his chamber music classes initiated a generation of musicians into the delights of baroque music and viol consorts, and he started an annual series of Bach cantatas at St Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, which has long since achieved legendary status. The gentleness of the music-making did not work quite as well in the backward-looking 1947 Requiem by Maurice Duruflé, which sounded at times rather too plain, even under-nourished. He had his vision and his only need was to bend everyone he was working with to his will, whether it was to create the earthy raucousness that became a calling-card for Musica Reservata, or persuade students and professional colleagues in 1970s Dublin that Bach and earlier music was best played without vibrato. On the day of his 80th birthday, …

Scenes from an Empty Attic, by Rosemary Jenkinson

She found it beautiful, this small white flaw. The late nights this winter were telling on her skin. ADVERTISEMENT ‘Sure us Irish blew up all the buildings,’ one man was saying, ‘but then we got all the jobs building them back up. Maria pulled over two stools and gestured for the men to join them. She noticed an old injection mark on his arm, white against the tan of his skin. ‘Horrible, isn’t it?’ laughed Maria. Every morning she turned up at work exhausted. After coming, he brushed the side of her cheek gently with his knuckles, suddenly aware that tenderness had been missing, and they both smiled, looking at each other with the same unsated hunger as before. She kept glancing at the door. The bar was full and the air buzzed with Belfast accents, honed into harshness through generations of roaring at peelers and Protestants. There were pins and needles in her nose. Cosme was chatting to his friend. They quickly took off their clothes, shaky-fingered, interrupting the rush only for a clumsy yet needy kiss, and they laughed a little at their own recklessness and hunger, then fell on to the bed. Used teabags were lumped greenly in an old pint glass; another was full of cigarette stubs. Sometimes in the bank she put the foreign banknotes to her nose, just to breathe in the palms of hands, the earth, the food, the sun; all she did all day was imagine. They began to fuck hard out of panic and need. ‘Are you two coming?’ Angelina asked Cosme. There’s a pink carpet and walls.’ Angelina could see inside through the frosted glass of the front door. He pulled his door to as soon as he heard her on the stairs, and sidled out to the landing, immediately resuming his monologue on the need to purchase heating oil. Not only did he call her Annie, but he persisted in calling the landlord Coleman. Back at her own house, she could hear the isk-isk-isk of the brush as Stuart swept out his room. It was Stuart, the boy who rented the box room. Angelina put on her coat and presented both profiles to the mirror, deciding that the left one was best. It had reminded her of the locker room in a train station. She looked at him in his tight-fitting coat and wanted him. ‘I’ve been speaking to …

‘It’s good to be able to sing about where we’d like to go, other than to hell in a handcart’

ADVERTISEMENT 2016 in three words? It’s over. Late-capitalist democracy. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? Oh, and Chris Packham’s poodles “singing” along with Pure by The Lightning Seeds in the Animal Symphony on Sky Arts, ending what has been an intermittently farcical, tragicomic 12 months on a note of pure joy. How did our centenary celebrations strike you? The Night of Wenceslas and The Rose of Tibet, here I come. And what will be your cultural resolution for 2016? Having discovered – by accident – Lionel Davidson’s undeservedly forgotten cult thriller Kolyimsky Heights, I intend to investigate his back catalogue. The BBC drama series The Missing, a thriller which – for once – actually deserved the name. Phew. Mike McCormack’s beautiful, brilliant novel Solar Bones. Was it for that? And what let you down? A Heritage Week walk around the JFK Arboretum in New Ross, Co Wexford, meeting some remarkable trees in the company of the peerless Thomas Pakenham. What were your cultural highlights for the year gone by? We could do with another few verses around drinkable water (yes please), fracking (no thanks) and the enforcement of the Bird and Habitats Directives – but it’s good to be able to sing about where we’d like to go, other than to hell in a handcart. Dignified, moving and family-friendly, the State commemoration on Easter Sunday offered “a new song of compassion, inclusion and engagement, a song of listening, social justice and respect for all”. Hong Ling’s monumental Huangshan paintings at the Chester Beatty Library. In an age when we’re being told that people read mostly formula fiction, post-truth memoir and celebrity cookbooks, it was gratifying to see Solar Bones finding an audience, winning both the Goldsmiths Prize for experimental fiction and the Eason’s Book Club Book of the Year. If it was an arts organisation it would have had its funding slashed for its performance this year.

‘This was the year when obituary writing became a central part of the pop beat’

Well, sure, lookit… What were your 2016 highlights? If we have to spend our summers in fields to see bands, how about a different or more engaging experience?   It promises much, though the lack of due diligence when it came to the name (an Irish design community has been operating as Creative Ireland since 1999) does not bode well.  2016 in three words? Deaths, sadly. Georgia O’Keeffe’s retrospective at London’s Tate Modern was eye-catching, while Jesse Jones’s No More Fun and Games at the Hugh Lane gallery and her In the Shadow of the State collaboration with Sarah Browne prompted questions about uneasy political realities. The year was but a pup when David Bowie died, which set the tone for a year when obituary writing became an essential part of the pop beat. I’ll be interested to see how Creative Ireland comes out in the wash. It’s high time for a reinvention. Hip-hop and r’n’b had a riot, with compelling albums from Anderson .Paak, Beyoncé, Solange, A Tribe Called Quest, Blood Orange, Chance the Rapper, Xenia Rubinos and Kadhja Bonet. And the lowlights? Aideen Barry’s Brittlefield at Dublin’s RHA Gallery was a visual-arts highlight, a review of her work to date which did what all great art should do, making you pause for thought. I made a rare trip to the theatre and hit the jackpot with Michael Keegan-Dolan’s outlandishly colourful and majestic Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. ADVERTISEMENT Summer music festivals. What was 2016’s most common plot twist?   In books, nothing surpassed the quiet candour and drama of Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun, with honourable mentions due for Conor O’Callaghan’s Nothing on Earth, Dan Lyons’s Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, James McBride’s Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and Patrick Deeley’s The Hurley Maker’s Son. A late-year release from Tony MacMahon, in the shape of Farewell to Music, deserves not to be lost in the seasonal blur.  In the cinema, Paterson, Room, Arrival and American Honey stood tall, while Weiner showed that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. From Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, George Martin and Phife Dawg to Irish artists Conor Walsh, Fergus O’Farrell, Bap Kennedy and Rainy Boy Sleep, the Grim Reaper was at large with unnecessary gusto.  What’s your cultural resolution for 2016? The pop star of …

Angry and articulate, dance made big, bold statements in 2016

Created by nine female choreographers, it highlighted continued gender inequality. What were your cultural highlights of 2016? Coiscéim Dance Theatre had successful collaborations with Fishamble and Crash Ensemble (Invitation to a Journey, an affectionate portrayal of Eileen Grey), and Anu (the unsettling These Rooms), while Irish Modern Dance Theatre celebrated its silver anniversary with Precious Metal. Stranger Things: the kids were charming, but playing spot-the-’80s references is no substitute for plot. won awards at film festivals in Brooklyn and California Ballet highlights were Alonzo King Lines Ballet’s Shostakovich and Rasa, as well as the continuing success of Irish choreographer Marguerite Donlon. Political nihilism had me wallowing in Anohi’s Hopelessness but finding solace in recordings of Henze’s Being Beauteous by NDR Sinfonieorchester and David Lang’s the national anthems. And what let you down? Elsewhere, Ingrid Nachstern’s dance film Freedom to Go! Her Strokes Through the Tail was performed at the Bolshoi Theatre by Svetlana Zakharova. A growing awareness of the history of Irish contemporary dance has spawned publications, but Live Archive physically recreated 30-year-old works by Dublin Contemporary Dance Theatre. Music listening meant regular reconnections with old albums as one legend after another died. In the late-to-the-game category, Mary Norris’ book Confessions of a Comma Queen satisfied grammar nerdiness, while hidden design was revealed in the podcast 99% Invisible. A first step in rediscovering classic works and establishing a dance repertory. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? Betroffenheit, by choreographer Crystal Pite at Dublin Dance Festival, was a dark sprawling masterpiece that lingered in your head long after curtain-down. Most notable were These Rooms, Embodied and Feargus Ó Conchúir’s The Casement Project. ADVERTISEMENT And 2016 in three words? Angry and articulate, Embodied at the GPO Visitors Centre made a timely statement about women and dance. Dancers instead valued the individual and diversity, and highlighted how State and society have repressed and prejudiced the body. So many died. Was it for that? How did our centenary celebrations strike you? Many were wowed by the State-sanctioned choreography of military rectangles marching down O’Connell Street: anonymous bodies expressing homogeneity.

A Christmas children’s & YA book quiz

ADVERTISEMENT 29) What was the 2016 Dublin Unesco Citywide Reading For Children book? 10) In which book would you find Denizen Hardwick? 13) What series would you find Peeta and Rue in? 2) Which YA novel by an Irish author features twins Tippi and Grace? 30) Which Irish illustrator has illustrated books about runaway crayons and imaginary friends? Answers 1) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 2) One (by Sarah Crossan) 3) Malory Towers 4) David Walliams 5) The rabbit 6) Hufflepuff (Harry Potter) 7) Eoin Colfer 8) The President of Ireland 9) The Lie Tree (by Frances Hardinge) 10) Knights of the Borrowed Dark (by Dave Rudden) 11) Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator) 12) Four 13) The Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins) 14) Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (A Very Good Chance) 15) 42 16) Only Ever Yours (by Louise O’Neill) 17) Divergent (by Veronica Roth) 18) 16 19) The Ministry of SUITS (by Paul Gamble) 20) Eilis Barrett (Oasis) 21) A hamster (Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford) 22) Deepdean School for Girls (Robin Stevens’s series) 23) Dangerologist (Danger Is Everywhere series) 24) Jacqueline Wilson 25) The Claude series (by Alex T Smith) 26) Deirdre Sullivan 27) Wimpy Kid 28) Tony Ross 29) The Book of Learning (by ER Murray) 30) Oliver Jeffers 1) In which Harry Potter book is Sirius Black first mentioned? 16) In what book would you find freida, megan and isabel? 23) What is Docter Noel Zone’s job? 27) What name is Greg Heffley better known as? 6) Which group of students are “true and unafraid of toil”? 11) Which author wrote about Verncious Knids? 4) Which bestselling author’s latest book is set in Lord Funt Hospital? 3) Which school did Darrell Rivers and Gwendoline Mary Lacey attend? 7) Which Irish author wrote his first book about the superhero Iron Man this year? 24) Which British children’s writer recently wrote a retelling of What Katy Did? 28) Who illustrates the Horrid Henry books? 25) Which series features Sir Bobblysock? 9) Which YA novel won this year’s Costa Book of the Year? 15) According to The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, what is the meaning of life? 14) Which Irish author’s third novel features an important horse race? 12) How many Laureate na nÓgs have we had? 18) How many books has the Zoella Book Club included this year? 8) What important …

Watch: Tom Cruise drops one of the funniest trailers of the year

Due to be released in mid-2017, The Mummy is Universal Studios’ latest attempt at a franchise reboot, but judging by the recently released Imax trailer, there’s still a lot of sound editing to be done before the film is ready. While Imax has since deleted the trailer from its official platforms, thanks to eagle-eyed fans, it will live on forever on the unforgiving internet. From the isolated screams, inadvertent grunts and mis-synced explosions to the occasional “oohs” and “aahs” this trailer ranks as one of the funniest released this year – or any.

Caimh O’Donnell: too funny and too Irish

Is that like self-publishing? An exec told us some golden rules, including “never set a sitcom in an office, offices are boring”. Imagine a GAA tournament clashed with a young farmer’s convention and the AGM of the Association of People Called Sean. Usually it takes someone longer to figure that out but I’d unknowingly broken a golden rule. I was getting the sling-yer-hook point a long time before I made it to the door. The publishers in this metaphor are the lovely ladies and the authors are the likely lads. Our little book has briefly hit the top of a couple of charts and I’m now being approached by agents keen for a dance. OK, sure – the 800 years of oppression and the thing with the spuds sucked, but being Irish in the modern world? The ladies hired some bouncers to do their rejecting for them – literary agents. Combining comedy with crime in a novel is like turning up in jeans and trainers. We get a yearly parade just for existing. I don’t mean that the ladies stand bored on one side of the hall while the lads are on the other skulling pints. An exec stood up and said “never ever set a sitcom in an office, because it’ll get compared to The Office and that’s the greatest sitcom ever”. In other words, nobody actually read my book before rejecting it. That’s like being too delicious. I work with an award-winning cover designer from Sarajevo, a formatter from Sydney, one of the most prestigious editors in Britain as well as professional copy-editors and proof-readers. Publishing used be a lot like a bad country disco. A Man with one of those Faces by Caimh O’Donnell is published byMcFori Ink As a lonely author looking for love, you’ve now got to convince one of them to dance with you long before any of the girls will consider it. Even when I tried to hide the comedy, agents could smell it off me. People who haven’t even met you, like you. To be fair, my CV fairly reeks of the stuff. The ladies are so out-numbered, it’s like the film 300 remade as a romcom. Too funny? Being Irish rocks! No, this is another kind of bad. I was at another BBC talk last year. It’s nothing but gravy baby! ADVERTISEMENT The breaking point was when I got a call …

Aladdin review: a panto that puts parents through the wringer

We don’t know if it’s part of Sean Gilligan’s tight direction when there’s a line-fluff and Sammy asks for a script – musical director Ross O’Connor (“a thick from Tallaght”) barely interrupts his hard work to produce one on cue, with a broad grin– but it cracks us up. Tivoli Theatre, Dublin **** Amid a blaze of jewel-coloured costumes, a burst of dancing whirls and a blast of Jai Ho, Aladdin appears – “I’m just Aladdin, like Madonna, Britney or Moses,” Donal Brennan clarifies – and is soon joined by his principal people: unattainable, sweet-voiced Princess Jasmine (Nadia Forde); loyal, acerbic Sammy Sausages (Alan Hughes); and Buffy Twanky (Rob Murphy), queen of dames, with a big welcome for the boys and girls, the mammies and “especially the daddieeez”, and a big promotion for her laundry, Buffy’s Posh Wonder Wash. He grows into his badness as the story progresses, even threatening to build a wall for which the peasants will have to pay. And, Daddy Vinny, we’re sure you were wearing clean trousers. Karl Broderick’s story is threaded with topical titbits, such as when evil Abbanazar (Carl Stallwood) wanders on to the stage having a row with Siri and the sat nav, which bring him to his destiny (rather than his destination). And we marvel at the cast (including some very talented children and the show’s tireless choreographer, Paul Ryder) singing so well while dancing so impeccably, from full-on disco through tap and rap all the way to the perfectly timed mayhem of the lamp-retrieval. “Oh, I’d say you’d like Bold, all right,” she bellows, at which point she has the packed, intimate Tivoli in the palm of her rubber glove. “What’s your favourite powder?” she asks an unfortunate daddy, Vinny, before shaming his filthy trousers. When the daddies are invited on stage, Buffy (in what could be her 10th costume of the night) laments that they don’t have to be dragged up to dance. Brian Dowling sparkles as the Genie, and the chemistry between the lead characters incites hilarious, whip-snappy exchanges about people getting their own catchphrase (“I swurrr on my fur”) and whether you’re allowed to talk through your nose on the telly. ADVERTISEMENT Until January 22nd

Big the Musical review: the harsh side of growing up

The rest of the story is dedicated to stripping away all the illusions of adulthood as being anything worth aspiring to. Unfortunately McGuinness, who amply showcases his acting and dancing talent, doesn’t have a solo number of note. Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin *** What is the appeal of Big for a family audience? In the original film, which starred a young Tom Hanks, the story’s success seemed to hinge on one memorable scene, where the protagonist – a 12-year-old trapped in the body of a man – plays a duet with the owner of the toy emporium FAO Schwarz on an enormous touch-toe piano. As the love-interest Susan, Vickers embraces the challenge of turning cynicism into something special in her solo numbers Here We Go Again and Dancing All the Time, while her duet with Jay McGuinness’s Josh, Stars Stars Stars, is probably the most memorable song in a lacklustre score made even limper by literal lyrics. This stage adaptation of the film, with a book by John Wiedman, is facilitated by designer Simon Higglet, who pitches a revolving set against a HD 3D digital backdrop that evokes the celluloid original and gives spectacular momentum to scene changes. Adults may find a lesson in Josh’s ill-fated journey, but the kids would be better served by staying at home and playing with their toys. ADVERTISEMENT Ends January 7th Big is a cautionary tale for adults watching, perhaps, but a harsh way to initiate children into depressing reality. It says a lot about the limited potential of this story that the company of actors and dancers have most fun in the enormous encore. The songs by David Shire and Richard Maltby offer a hodge-podge of 1980s hedonism that is mirrored in Young’s choreography: soft rock riffs give way to beat-box street styles, while the occasional ballad gives female performers such as Diana Vickers the opportunity to showcase their tremolos. The fundamental message – and the problem for this production from director/choreographer Morgan Young – is that there just isn’t enough fun in the serious business of being a grown up.

Writers need time: here’s how to beg, borrow or steal it

Then you need more time to recover so you can start the process afresh. But writing the next, and the next, and the next? Will I make any work in the time I’ve just bought? Being rejected for any patronage award is awful; it can feel personal and demoralising. In contrast, with university writing residencies, doing your own work is a built-in part of the contract. “It came with an office which was a brilliant workspace. [When] I arrived in Paris, there were signs of commemoration of the liberation of Paris in 1944 everywhere. Great writing doesn’t come out of a vacuum. But I’ve also learnt that the point of any artistic practice is to keep going. As for the money – it was such a relief to be able to look three years into the future and know that I would have an income. Paid €20,000 a year (almost a Normal Person’s salary), his NUIG residency came with four hours’ teaching a week. In 2016, the total figure for English language literature bursaries was €218,350; Irish language writers were awarded a further €44,470. My advances have been modest, and though I do public readings regularly, the fees range from €90-€300, so I’d need to be doing at least eight a month to make a salary. Mia Gallagher is the author of two acclaimed novels: HellFire (Penguin Ireland, 2006), awarded the Irish Tatler Literature Award 2007; and Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland (New Island, 2016), recently long-listed for the inaugural 2016 Republic of Consciousness Prize. I did a joint residency with IADT and dlr Arts Office in 2009-10, and arts officer Kenneth Redmond was invaluable in helping me define my workload. Here I conduct workshops and/or curate events; in return I’m paid a fee. An individual grant will rarely approach salary level – the maximum Arts Council bursary is €15,000. Do I deserve this award? It’s taken me over a decade to realise that doubt is a constant companion for most writers, that no matter how experienced I am, there will be still be times where I’m struggling creatively. Begging, borrowing and stealing time short-change us of these vital activities and drain our bodies of our precious creative energy – yet even writers of great skill and experience are told they need to do this, to an extent that would be ludicrous in any other profession. This allows me …

The view from a pagan place by Kevin Barry

I had decided to live beautifully, without fear or anxiety, and it seemed like the proper place for a ritual re-engagement with the world and its natural things. It was not just a place of entombment: there was a living settlement here also, one of the oldest ever dated in Europe, and you can see the practical sense of the site – you would have been able to see what was coming up the hill at you from just about any direction. Falcons soar often here; hares thump out their runs across paths that must have first been beaten down a millennium ago; that distant drone is the N4 but it is far enough away to be just a rumour of itself. Everywhere in the December of 2015 there is an odd grey shimmering, a kind of low throb of refraction on the air: it is the play of grey light on the vast new pools of sitting water. Kevin Barry’s latest novel is Beatlebone, which won the Goldsmiths Prize 2015. His first short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms, won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Listen for their cries in the breeze that moves through the reeds and you might almost convince yourself. Certainly, they have a wonderful aspect – turn a slow swivel on your heel and you can take in views of Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon, and on a clearer day you can see to the mountains of Donegal and Mayo. ADVERTISEMENT I’ve been coming to Carrowkeel, up the long, twisting road by the donkey sanctuary, for the past eight years now. There were beads of stone, bone implements made from Red Deer antlers, and many fragments of much decayed pottery. He opened the tombs in 1911 and was the first visitor in three or four thousand years. Most days it has been too warm to seem like a proper winter but when dusk falls, and what grey light there is starts to fade, a nice evil chill comes up with the evening dampness and there is such a long dark night ahead of us again. The view has never looked quite like this before. There are an incredible amount of swans around, and these are absolutely royal, at once clearly the regents of this watery new realm – a swan sailed across my garden last week and the only proper response was to curtly bow. …

A Funku or two by Kevin McAleer: write one and win!

No panic. (Editor’s note: I have checked with the author and the “n” is pronounced.)The classical form must be strictly adhered to: no titles, a total of 17 syllables in three lines of 5-7-5 formation. It is Christmas competition time again in The Irish Times Books Towers and our non-resident wit Kevin McAleer has come up with another ingenious wheeze. Off to see Peru. Entries should be emailed to bookclub@irishtimes.com by December 31st. A Machu Picchu haiku Waiting to happen. Normal Irish Times competition rules apply. (The television reception is notoriously poor in rural Tyrone and don’t even mention broadband.) The idea is the classical Haiku form seasoned with an ounce of wit, henceforth known as the Funku. Improve on Kevin McAleer’s WB Yeats meme: win two silk kimonos and gazelle* Kevin McAleer: Here’s my ID Happy Brexmas from Kevin McAleer Any extra syllables will be removed and used as Christmas decorations. The winner, as chosen by Kevin McAleer, will receive a signed copy of Little John Nee’s book of haikus, The Apocalypse Came on a Friday. Turbulence shakes the Jumbo. The winning Funku will be published right here as well as a few deserving runners-up. No room in the elephant. Little John Nee does the haiku Dilettante poets Belittling traditional Syllabics. What’s wrong with these people? Ali Bowie Prince Castro Wogan Cohen. Wear loose clothing. Woh, here comes the knight. Her final request: ‘Don’t make a poem of this.’ Another failure. Hi Cuchulainn, man of few words, you left us one Long bloody haiku. Ah those bedroom eyes. McAleer will be signing copies of his bestselling How to Turn your Negative Voices into Imaginary Friends, which has been translated into more than 37,000 languages worldwide. Poor old Van the Man He has taken to the chess. Full details at kevinmcaleer.com ADVERTISEMENT Universally acknowledged as Tyrone’s leading Zen Buddhist saint, he trained for 33 years under the legendary Deepjoy Chakra in Peru, before founding the Institute of Light™ in Strabane in 1972. But on closer inspection Two small single beds. Little John Nee’s book is published by Killaloonty Press, and available to buy from kennys.ie Kevin McAleer’s Saying Yes to Yes tour of the universe begins on January 6th with a sold-out gig at the Black Box, Belfast. J’accuse. No timewasters please. Players for Last-minute substitutions. Wanted. Join spiritual guru Kevin McAleer for a life-changing hour of living fully in …