Talking Movies

January 31, 2023

The Weir

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 7:23 pm

The Abbey revives Conor McPherson’s all-conquering 1997 play of ghost stories in an isolated Leitrim pub to a somewhat curious effect.

Jack (Brendan Coyle) arrives into a small pub to find the tap for his chosen tipple isn’t working. So it goes with laidback barman Brendan (Sean Fox), who gives Jack a bottle instead. They are soon joined by the quiet but sharp Jim (Marty Rea), and anxiously await the arrival of local tycoon Finbarr (Peter Coonan), who is bringing ‘Dublin’ blow-in Valerie (Jolly Abraham) to the bar. The men are concerned that Finbarr, a married man, is being unseemly in his attentions towards Valerie, and are equally concerned that he is turning them into dancing bears as a show of local colour for Valerie. But in the end the unseemliness comes from the concerned locals, as a number of local ghost stories pour forth, becoming progressively darker as the night draws in and the beers and short ones mount up.

Director Caitriona McLaughlin’s handling of The Weir is curious, not least her decision to drastically cut down the playing space of the Abbey by placing a car outside the pub, and shoving all action to one half of the stage. She also lightly amends the play to make Valerie, not a woman from Dublin, but a woman from Ohio relocated to Dublin relocating to Leitrim, which seems to be putting a bit more weight on the play that its structure can support. Not least as it sets up a problem with tone. This is the second time I’ve seen the play since Patrick Doyle parsed the script for me as a Mametian series of power-plays. Seen in that light the stories have suspicious similarities of theme, to say nothing of the escalation; Jack narrates a historic haunting, Finbarr narrates feeling a ghost behind him, Jim interacts directly with a paedophile’s ghost, and Valerie’s daughter returns via a ghostly phone call. The fact that Valerie unleashes her trumping story after a trip to the toilet supports the idea that she’s had enough of these strangers trying to unnerve her and has decided to beat them at their game. A certain histrionic quality to her telling of the tale only plays into that, alongside the fact that Abraham and Coonan seem to be giving performances in a different register to the other members of the cast. There is a certain cartoonish larger-than-life quality to Coonan and Abraham, which does not sit at all well with what Rea, in particular, is doing. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the individual turns, but as an ensemble it doesn’t make any sense – it’s like keeping Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future alongside Christopher Lloyd.


December 24, 2022

O Holy Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 3:19 pm

This is the way the year ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

The blog has been even more sporadic this year than in 2021. I don’t know if things will improve on the writing front next year, but I do hope that 2023 will be the most normal year of this benighted decade.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Talking Movies will return in 2023.

Any Other Business: Part LXXIV

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 2:27 pm

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Good, The Bad, of the Conspiratorial

As 2022 comes to an end and the current surge of Covid 19 is more or less ignored as yesterday’s news it’s worth reflecting on what Covid 19 and the vaccines that tamed it revealed about a subset of the population. I’m not sure it will be possible in 2023 to go back to normal as our first full year without handwringing about Covid since 2019. Because the people who refused the free, safe, and effective vaccine benefited from the pandemic being quieted by it, yet loudly insisted on prioritising their own overweening self-regard over the common good. David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories I would regard as something of a touchstone for understanding the attraction of conspiracism. And yet his major thesis – that conspiracies are espoused by people who are powerless, and once they regain power they quietly memory hole the embarassing absurdities they once insisted were true of their hated political opponents – I feel needs two corollaries after Covid 19. I’ve come to the definite conclusion that conspiracy theories in the age of social media are how stupid people make themselves feel smart. Sure, they may not have been smart enough to study medicine, or have the wherewithal to work in a lab, but because they did their own ‘research’ (i.e. watching YouTube videos on their smartphone) they have access to the real truth, the secret history behind the cover story, that all the smart people are too dumb to really understand or are complicit in creating. Like Flat Earthers. The only problem being that Flat Earthers aren’t in a position to hurt other people by their insanity. I’ve also begun to feel there are two types of conspiratorial thinking – good, and bad; as it were. Good conspiriatorial thinking, if there can be such a thing, is the final fallback of the mind when logic fails. Why is Elon Musk destroying Twitter? There really is no logical reasoning that explains the petulant oligarch’s temper tantrums. So people start mooching around conspiracies – perhaps he shorted the stock, maybe he’s the puppet of forces who want to destroy Twitter’s value for journalists – casting about for a hidden scenario that would make sense of the inexplicable observable reality. Bad conspiratorial thinking, doubtless a redundant term, instead sees the observable reality of the world, which is thoroughly explicable by logic, and insists there must be a hidden reality that explains what is there. In a way this eagerness to reject reality in service of some delusional agenda is a fast-track to gaslighting, which someone described to me recently as the defining word of our generation.

The Queen is Dead

And that should have been that. No more so than gun massacres never being the time to discuss gun control in America, the English media’s insistence that the death of the Queen was no time to discuss the continued existence of the monarchy is convenient for people who want nothing to change. But who did elect Charles III? And why is asking that question in public a criminal offence? I am damned if I can find any reason for the continued existence of monarchies, whose embarassing presence continues to blight Europe. The three most common arguments people have made to me are – the monarchy isn’t doing any harm – It’s good for tourism – It’s traditional. France gets an incredible amount of visitors every year; they stop at the Louvre and at Versailles; and the absence of an actual monarchy doesn’t impinge on people’s enjoyment of witnessing the works of the ancien regime. It is of no consequence to me visiting Apsley House or Walmer Castle whether or not there is a Duke of Wellington knocking about right now, it is of crucial importance that there was a Duke of Wellington riding a horse at Waterloo. As for the idea that England must keep the monarchy because it is traditional; a Tory PM in the last decaded introduced gay marriage and three parent DNA babies to England. And a monarchy does enormous harm – how can you believe in meritocracy when sitting atop a country is someone lording it over everyone because they were born to lord it over everyone. At the centenary commemoration of the Somme I was struck by the contrast between Prince Charles and Charles Dance. If you were to come upon the scene and ask which was the King-in-waiting you would’ve been astounded to be told it was Charles Windsor, not Charles Dance, and therein lies the problem. There is no merit involved in monarchy, no ability, no qualifications – nothing. It is a pure shot in the dark. It’s only by the order of birth that Prince Andrew is not King Andrew right now. And there can be no more irrefutable argument against monarchy than that. There is nothing to stop William Windsor running for a ten year term as President of Britain, he would probably win, and he might win a second ten year term, and then, having equalled the reign of George V, step down. The crucial thing would be that he was elected to the position, and he could be dismissed from the position, by the people.

November 22, 2022

Lykke Li @ Vega

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 9:23 pm

I’m always loath to post reviews of shows outside of Dublin, but I felt an exception had to be made for Lykke Li at Vega; the Vicar Street of Copenhagen.

This was my first gig since St Vincent at the Iveagh Gardens in 2015. And as I’ve been a fan of the Swedish songstress for even longer than of St Vincent, I was quite overwhelmed when Lykke Li took to the stage and started singing songs of heartbreak and unrequited love. She performed the entirety of her new album Eyeye in sequence, and it was phenomenal. This very physical lithe stage presence but with a cold mannered stare: Part Prince, part Bowie, part St Vincent – all commanding.

And her drummer pounded the rhythms into you – ‘Over’ became thunderous as well as emotional. Something akin to Led Zeppelin’s ‘When the Levee Breaks’ meeting St Vincent’s piano ballad version of ‘Los Ageless’. When Li moved into her back catalogue in the second half of the concert she showed she knew her audience, asking who was heartbroken, and who was the most heartbroken – before turning Never Gonna Love Again into the world’s most unlikeliest singalong, with the Copenhagen crowd giving she said the best rendition of the chorus on the Eyeye tour yet.


September 29, 2022


Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 4:26 pm

It’s impossible for me to review Translations without first confessing that I know the script inside out, having both studied it at college and then taught it…

1833 in Friel’s eternal Donegal setting of Baile Beag finds a hedge school run by drunken master Hugh (Denis Conway) and his lame son Manus (Aaron Monaghan), specialising in Latin and Greek, being menaced by the arrival of a new English speaking National School, specialising in English. This off-stage menace is accompanied by the on-stage arrival of English sappers conducting an ordnance survey of the area for military purposes. But, as their work proceeds with the aid of Hugh’s other son Owen (Barry Ward) returned from Dublin, one of the British soldiers Yolland (Tim Delap) begins to question the morality of his task, even as he falls in love with local girl Maire (Aoife McMahon). The conflict between high civilisation and base commerce, Irish and English, and the noble rhetoric of progress and its low activities of expropriation, are all layered around these emotional conflicts. Maire’s love triangle with Manus and Yolland is very obviously a choice between a maimed native culture and a confident foreign culture…

Naomi Wilkinson’s set design heavily emphasises the squalor of this hedge-school, while Joan O’Clery’s costumes fit in with this approach by clothing the students in tattered earth tones, with the rebellious Maire in bright yellow and Hugh sporting a burnt orange jacket, while Hugh’s successful son Owen returns dressed in a spiffy blue overcoat, closer to the English military’s colour-scheme. Director Conall Morrison, who I’m still wary of on account of his late 1990s adaptation of Tarry Flynn, predictably brings sauciness to Friel’s comedy in the opening act. In the second act, however, he changes gears as the blue sky above the barn-set darkens, so that the rain sound effect heightens a chillingly conveyed sense of doom that anticipates the impending Famine. Rory Nolan as Doalty and Janet Moran as Bridget carry the bulk of Morrison’s slapstick; Nolan does a glorious mime of the English sappers’ baffled reaction to their ‘malfunctioning’ equipment, a result of his mischief; but they also imbue the off-stage Donnelly twins, often interpreted as proto-IRA figures in their campaign against the British presence, with the appropriate menace by their subdued reaction to their names being mentioned.

The inevitable Aaron Monaghan is very sympathetic as the brother whose half-hearted resistance to the British breaks down under personal contact, even as Ward convincingly travels the opposite arc as Owen grasps the political implications of his linguistic ‘collaboration’ with Yolland. McMahon is surprisingly flirtatious as Maire rather than simply determined, and there is a level of anger by Hugh towards her dismissal of his classics that seems alien to the script, as is his appearance as utterly decrepit. It seems absurd to accuse someone with an Irish Times Best Actor Theatre Award of lacking the necessary stature for a role, but Denis Conway is no Ray MacAnally, and he fails to dominate the stage as Hugh should. As a result Hugh’s final speeches to a drenched Maire, which should be tragic, raised some laughs. Conway effectively mixes bombast with moments of self-awareness, but if Hugh’s paraphrasing of George Steiner’s linguistic theories do not grip as the central statement of the self-defeating cultural delusions that colonisation can foist on a materially defeated civilisation then the focus of the play becomes diffuse.

This is well worth seeing, but there are quibbles…


Translations continues its run at the Abbey until the 13th of August.

April 18, 2022

Portia Coughlan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 4:14 pm

The Abbey’s revisiting of Marina Carr’s 1990s coruscating work continued apace with a revival of Portia Coughlan starring Denise Gough.

Portia Coughlan is turning 30. But she has no intention of marking the day with any positivity, instead drinking alone as soon as the kids have gone to school, as her husband Raphael (Marty Rea) discovers to his horror. Despite the best attempts of her friends and family to cheer her up, and her own fumbled affairs with local likely lads, the day is hollowed out by the absence of her twin brother Gabriel who drowned himself years before. And the horror of that long past day will be lived all over again, and then explained, thanks to Carr’s curious structure.

The opening line of the play signals that extreme abrasiveness is about to follow. And the influence of Pulp Fiction is plain to see in the death of Portia, in what seems an incredibly bold stroke, only for the clock to rewind as we follow her up to that point, as Carr once again invests the Midlands with the depravity and ritual horror of Ancient Greek myths. Once again the lack of an interval seems less a means of sustaining tension and more an affectation as an obvious curtain is played through. Caroline Byrne, however, directs with a keen eye for pace and balance between black comedy and harrowing drama.


February 25, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 2:50 pm


Hopes: 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 2:50 pm

The Batman

Top Gun: Maverick

Killers of the Flower Moon

John Wick: Chapter 4


Jurassic World: Dominion

Don’t Worry Darling

Halloween Ends

The Flash

The Nightingale

Avatar 2

January 31, 2022

Top 10 Films of 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 9:22 pm


The Velvet Underground

I’m Your Man

Space Sweepers


The Nest

Meeting Point

The Suicide Squad

Blithe Spirit


December 24, 2021

O Holy Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 10:53 pm

I’m putting the blog on ice for a bit while I do not cook a turkey for Christmas dinner, and desperately try to get closer to meeting my Goodreads challenge for the year than my current abysmal standing.

Talking Movies proper will return in January with a Top 10 Films of 2021, and previews of 2022′s best and worst films.

The blog has been far more sporadic this year than previously, for various reasons, not least of which was the continuing nightmare for morale of COVID-19. I don’t make any promises that things will improve on the writing front next year, but I do have some hope that normality will ebb back into our lives, and for that reason let us revisit Sorkin Christmas: Part Two.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Roll on Omicron and endemicity.

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