Talking Movies

February 27, 2018

Sive

Druid return to John B Keane after 2011’s coruscating Big Maggie, and the result is another potent blend of riotous comedy and barbed social commentary.

Tommy Tiernan as Thomasheen Sean Rua. Image Ros Kavanagh

Before I saw this show I had wondered if Garry Hynes could tame Tommy Tiernan. But it turns out he was perfectly cast as Thomasheen Sean Rua. There was no need to tame him, merely to wind him up and point him in the right direction. The way Tiernan played the character was positively Dickensian, a creepy moment in which he moves his head closer to Sive akin to Uriah Heep and the vim he displayed the rest of the time two steps from Fagin.

5/5

September 7, 2014

Sky Road TV & Film Festival

The inaugural Sky Road TV & Film Festival drew to a close today, following a weekend of screenings of Irish TV and film-making talent across features, shorts, documentaries and new media in both English and Irish languages, at The Station House Theatre in Clifden Co. Galway. Highlights on Sunday included a screening of The Field, with special guest Jim Sheridan, 25 years after it was first filmed in the locality and the world premiere of Tommy: To Tell You The Truth with comedian Tommy Tiernan in attendance.

Sky-Road

The festival brought unexpected stories to audiences throughout the three days, both entertaining and thought-provoking from a broad range of emerging and established filmmakers, all of whom were in the running for the Festival awards which were announced following the closing film.

“It’s been an exhilarating and exciting first festival” said Eamonn O Cualain, Festival Chairman. “The quality and quantity of submissions for our first programme enabled us to deliver what we hope has been a unique festival experience. The support and positive feedback has been overwhelming from both the film industry and our audiences. The local goodwill and enthusiasm has been particularly reassuring and encouraging.”

There were nine awards in association with industry organisations TG4, RTE, BAI and the Irish Film Board. The judging panel included a range of figures from the Irish film Industry including Jim Sheridan, Bob Quinn, Ross Whitaker, Martha O’Neill, Paddy Hayes, Jill Beardsworth, Barbara McCann, Loretta Ni Ghabhain and film journalists Daniel Anderson, Tara Brady, Gavin Burke, Donald Clarke, Brogen Hayes and Nicola Timmins.

The winners were:

Best Short Film in association with The Irish Film Board 

Winner: The Abandoning

A film about the memory of a house where the past and present are not separate places

Director: Vanessa Gildea. Producer: Se Merry Doyle

 

Best Short Film, First Time Director in association with The Irish Film Board 

Winner: The Swing

A coming of age story about two young brothers who find themselves in a perilous situation that kicks up memories of their past

Director: Damien Dunne. Producer: Nora Windeck

 

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Best Feature Film

Winner: A Nightingale Falling

Set in Ireland during The war of Independence, two sisters’ lives are changed forever as they care for a wounded soldier in their home.

Director: Garret Daly/Martina McGlynn. Producer: Martina McGlynn, Gerry Burke, Garret Daly, PJ Curtis

 

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Best Feature Documentary in association with TG4

Winner: John Sheahan – A Dubliner

A revealing and beautifully made portrait of a man who was an integral part of the national institution that is The Dubliners.

Director: Maurice Sweeney. Producer: Liam McGrath/Ceoladh Sheahan

 

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Best Short Documentary in association with RTE

Winner: Seamus Heaney – Iarscribhinn – Imeall

This special edition of Imeall celebrates the life and poetry of Seamus Heaney as we visit the farmlands of Bellaghy, Co. Derry that inspired so many of his poems.

Director: Paschal Cassidy. Producer: Maggie Breathnach

 

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Best Documentary Series in association with BAI

Winner: Ceolchuairt Iamaice

Belfast troubadour Gearoid Mac Lochlainn embarks on a reggae pilgrimage to Jamaica to see if the message of one love that crossed sectarian boundaries in his teenage years in Belfast is still alive in 
Jamaica.

Director: Paddy Hayes. Producer: Laura Ni­ Cheallaigh

 

Best 3 minute short, New Media, filmed on a mobile or smart device

Winner: Turnaround for Little Terns

A news report for RTE which was filmed on an iphone 5S. Wicklow farmer Michael Keegan is hoping to restore the tractor which helped his grandfather win the 1964 World Ploughing Championship.

Director: Philip Bromwell

 

Best 1 minute short, New Media, filmed on a mobile or smart device

Winner: iday

One minute video concentrating on energy and power

Director/producer: Ivor Carroll

 

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The Spirit of the Festival Award was presented in recognition of a film, television programme or event that encapsulates the spirit of the Sky Road TV & Film Festival each year.

Winner: It Came From Connemara!!

This feature documentary tells the unique story behind Roger Corman’s film factory in Connemara.

Director/Producer: Brian Reddin

 

TG4 Pitch an idea to make a 25 minute documentary worth €25,000

In a unique and exciting opportunity TG4 offered aspiring filmmakers a chance to pitch their ideas to make a 25 minute documentary worth €25,000. Fifteen original pitches were shortlisted from a total of sixty one entries to pitch to commissioning editors on stage at the Festival in either the Irish or English language. Participants travelled from Dublin, Meath, Clare, Cork, Galway and Connemara.

The winner was Barry Ryan, a native of Clifden with ‘Beyond Reach Of Our Pity’. His idea for a short documentary, about a young boy who died in Letterfrack’s industrial school, was inspired by a line of poetry from Paula Meehan.  He will receive an initial €1,000 to develop a detailed written treatment from the synopsis, under the guidance of an experienced TV director. If TG4 considers this treatment of an acceptable standard for production the budget awarded will be €24,000.

 

“The standard was excellent, very clear pitches were delivered with great passion and belief. The range of ideas was truly amazing from highly personal stories to historical concepts to contemporary social commentary, across a broad geographical spread. While we chose ‘Beyond Reach Of Our Pity’ as the pitch winner we will also request a number of participants to submit their ideas for the next TG4 commissioning round on October 6th. All in all a very stimulating and exciting session.”  Proinsias Ni Ghrainne, Commissioning Editor, TG4

October 8, 2013

Desire Under the Elms

Corn Exchange performs Eugene O’Neill’s 1924 play in Northern Irish accents, placing the emphasis very much on the first part of its hyphenate identity Irish-American.

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Peter (Peter Coonan) and Simeon (Luke Griffin) are hardworking brothers on a stony farm in 1850s New England. Their resentful half-brother Eben (Fionn Walton) is convinced the farm is really his thru his mother, their father’s second wife. But when their father Ephraim Cabot (Lalor Roddy) unexpectedly remarries, they realise the farm is nobody’s but his new wife Abby’s (Janet Moran) as when he finally dies she’ll inherit. Peter and Simeon, disgusted at this, sign over to Eben their shares in ‘his farm’, and head off to California’s gold rush. But when Abby realises the brooding Eben’s staying, and a threat to her marriage for social status, she promises to give Ephraim a son; to ensure her place on the farm. But she might prefer to have a child with her virile step-son, rather than her wizened husband. And if her manipulations are unmasked, then all hell will break loose…

Corn Exchange oddly abandons its commedia dell’arte style for this mash-up of Greek tragedy and Irish-American land-hunger, when you’d imagine the heightened nature of retelling the tortured romantic triangle of Phaedra, Hippolytus and Theseus would be perfectly suited for that technique. Director Annie Ryan strips the play to its core, reducing a cast of 20 to just 5 actors who play out the tragedy on Maree Kearns’ bare stage with just a table, a bed, and some firewood and building timbers running up against an abstract backdrop. O’Neill doesn’t leaven his plays with much humour though, and this approach means that the rawness of Desire Under the Elms can be overwhelming. Luke Griffin sports the best worst hair I’ve seen in some time, and he and Coonan are fantastically dishevelled and avaricious as the animalistic brothers Simeon and Peter. It is a loss after the interval when they don’t reappear.

The monstrous patriarch is so hyped that Roddy takes some time in living up to his billing when he arrives. But this feels like a John B Keane play relocated to Maine. Ephraim is as monomaniacal as Bull McCabe on the subject of how he sweated blood to tame nature. He wants to give his farm to a son, so that even when he’s dead, in  a way the land will still belong to him. O’Neill’s script reaches its apex of vivid imagery when Ephraim describes how otherwise he’d rather set fire to the farm and free the livestock. But opposite him Moran and Walton disappoint. Her unsubtle seduction doesn’t convince as patent manipulation leading to sincere love, his melodramatic contradictory reactions don’t ring true with his character’s rigidity hitherto, and after the interval their falling-out feels rushed – there’s too much of a steep descent to the brutally Greek climax.

It’s sometimes hard to square O’Neill, the Nobel laureate and Broadway intellectual, with the brutal toiling characters that populate his plays. This production, in emphasising the Irish elements, casts an interesting light on O’Neill.

3/5

Desire Under the Elms continues its run at Smock Alley Theatre until October 13th.

December 3, 2011

Big Maggie

The Clinic star Aisling O’Sullivan stars as the titular monstrous matriarch in Druid’s production of John B Keane’s abrasive comedy-drama.

John B Keane’s 1969 play is remarkably explicit in its dissection of how ecclesiastical attitudes to sexuality were a rather useful enabler to the snuffing out of any romantic machinations that didn’t also satisfy cravings for social climbing thru land acquisition. Maggie opens the play smoking by an empty hearse rather than watch her husband be buried. A lengthy and tense scene in the family home sees her reveal that he had signed over to her all rights to money, house, shop and farm. She means to dominate now, and the children will get nothing unless they toe the line. Mick, the eldest son promised ½ the farm by his father, immediately leaves for England. Maurice is strung along with the promise that he might be allowed to marry and have the farm, if he waits. Maggie chillingly notes that he’s only 24, and his father (in this deranged society) was considered very young to be married at 35. Gert and Katie are to swap working in kitchen and shop as punishment for Katie being the father’s favourite.

Maggie’s determination to exercise absolute authority powers the resolution of this family struggle over four shocking scenes. Charlie Murphy is impressively haughty and saucy but also fragile as Katie, the eldest daughter who it’s implied might have had an incestuous relationship with the dead patriarch. The only member of the family who can land a verbal blow on Maggie, she is nevertheless forced into a loveless marriage by her mother for the sake of money and respectability. Sarah Greene is wonderfully jejune as Gert, the youngest daughter who is shocked by Katie’s early revelations but grows up quickly under the harsh tutelage of her mother’s cruelty in stifling her love life. John Olohan is again a terrifically funny presence as the monumental sculptor Byrne. He’s gifted the filthiest gags in the play as well as both delivering and receiving tremendously vicious putdowns in his flirtatious bantering with Maggie. Director Garry Hynes’s stunt-casting gamble pays off as Keith Duffy is surprisingly good as the playboy commercial traveller, trading on his boy-band looks and matinee idol romantic posturing to good comedic effect.

The bleak ending is both a quasi-reversal of Riders to the Sea, and, as Fiachra MacNamara pointed out to me, almost a nod towards Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children. Aisling O’Sullivan does a good Kerry accent and delivers biting lines with relish, but she has rarely made any of her characters particularly likeable, and it’s tempting to ask if Maggie’s motivations might have seemed more convincing with a different actress in the role. Would another actress have made Maggie’s marrying off of Katie, despite her complaints about the misery of her own marriage for the sake of financial security, seem tragic in its complicity with a hated socio-economic system rather than merely hypocritical? Despite the quality of the acting and sharpness of the writing this play becomes quite draining because of the sheer selfishness of Maggie, which appears in her final espousal of her ‘zero-sum world’ philosophy; a philosophy which she fails to note is contradicted by the continued support and affection her exiled children still afford each other, but will now justly deny to her…

Nevertheless this is a strong production of a play whose existence challenges the conventional wisdom about our recent past.

4/5

Big Maggie is on a nationwide tour, ending with its return to the Gaiety in February.

February 2, 2011

The Field

Tony-winning actor Bryan Dennehy trades in Eugene O’Neill and Broadway for John B Keane and the Olympia and the results are impressive.

Keane’s play was held to be the archetypal depiction of the historic Irish hunger for land. The housing bubble demonstrated that the hunger hadn’t disappeared, just morphed into a more genteel but equally insane form. Director Joe Dowling takes new meaning from the tragedy of the Bull McCabe, a man faced with disaster when the precious field he has been renting and carefully cultivating is put up for sale at a reserve price far above his means, but not that beyond that of an outsider. Dowling focuses as much on the conflict between legal rights and natural justice as on the hunger for land. The Bull is not a clear-cut villain. Both he and William Dee, who’s blown-in from Galway via England to bid on the field, have good justifications for their actions; but the Bull has raised his son Tadhg (Garrett Lombard on perma-scowl) in such a way as to make inevitable the excessive violence he uses against Dee in attempting to scare him off. Dennehy’s imposing physique is what makes this Bull McCabe intimidating; he can still physically bully people just by his mere presence. A wonderful tic by Dennehy is to have the Bull repeatedly remove his cap and massage his head when explaining his right to the land as cultivator rather than owner, in seeming despair that other people just don’t get it…

Dennehy’s accent hits American at times of stress in the first act, and occasionally makes inexplicable sorties to Belfast, but for the most part, and crucially during his lengthy scene with Tadhg in the second act, it’s securely stowed in Munster. The omerta which his action imposes on the village fails to be broken by the powerful condemnatory speech by the Bishop. This seems to find expression in the complicated set. A facade lowers down in front of the very solid interior of the pub, which rushes forth to fill the stage after an initial glimpse of the titular field. This shop-front then pulls up as we dive into the machinations occurring in this pub/auctioneers. More than once as characters walk past the shop-front and its unheard conversations it seems that primal familial secrets of the pub can never find expression in the outside world of church and law. Dennehy carries the tragedy while around him the supporting cast Fassbender for all their worth, almost as if the only sane response to the presence of such darkness in a small closed community is black humour.

The comedy of the work is more apparent than usual, witness the magnificent shrug given by publican/auctioneer Mick Flanagan (Bosco Hogan) at one point. Derbhle Crotty (so good in The Silver Tassie) in particular makes the long-suffering Mamie Flanagan more of a jester than normal, satirising the alpha-males around her. All this unexpected levity only counterpoints the Bull’s desperation, and the germ of truth in what he says. As he justifies himself by demagoguery against the priest and garda you can see what enticed Dowling and Dennehy here for this play. Irish people may not live on the land anymore, but many of them do feel that there is one law for the establishment and another for everyone else. In synching in with David McWilliams’ insider/outsider analysis of our current woes Keane’s 1965 play is made startlingly of our times….

4/5

The Field continues its run at the Olympia Theatre until February 13th.

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