Thursday, 5 December 2013

Strangers on a Train


Published in The Irish World newspaper

By Leah Quinn  27/11/2013

 

Modern entertainment tells us that everything must be computerized and popping from our screens in order to amuse us. Craig Warner’s new stage adaption of Strangers on a Train throws modern impressions on thrill- seeking out the window and brings the audience back to an era when sheer suspense and edge of your seat drama reigned supreme.

 

This latest production, based on Patricia Highsmiths novel, was a monochrome feast for the eyes and exuded the visual legacy of a Hitchcock thriller.

 

The story tells of two young men who meet on a train. They engage in conversation and agree to commit murders for each other by killing off the people in their lives who are stopping them from being fully content and successful. This agreement however is more sincere on the part of the Charlie Bruno, played by Jack Huston ( interviewed by The Irish World), who is a lunatic and fails to see that his companion, Guy Haines, played by Laurence Fox, has not shared his sentiments with mutual intention.
 
                                          Clip from Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train

 

It is from their first encounter that an intense nightmare unfolds laden with blackmail, torment and insanity as Guy Haines is slowly dragged into the twisted world of his tormenter.

 

The set changes were too numerous to count and each more impressive than the next. It baffled me how they managed to change the setting so quickly as we were brought from an elegant 1950’s train carriage to a the grand staircase of an old mansion in a matter of minutes.

 

This clever tale tells the audience of how even the briefest encounters can impact on our lives and affect events to come. It builds at the perfect pace allowing the audience to share some of Haine’s emotions as Bruno reappears all too often becoming more and more a monster and less of the gentlemen with whom both we and Haines were first acquainted.


 

This was a superb production which kept the audience wincing in their seats from beginning to end, the involvement of producers from the James Bond movies set the perfect scene for such a story and the lead actors brought it all to life. This was one of the best shows I have seen in a quite a while so if, like me, you get dizzy from 3D glasses and never quite notice when something is HD, take a trip to the Gielgud and relive authentic thrills.

 

Strangers on a Train plays at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftsbury Avenue

 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Lady's Guide to the Tinder App

By Leah Quinn
Published online for The Independent 28/11/2013

I’ve been on three dates this week”- not my words but that of a friend to which I responded with sheer bafflement. Not only was I astounded that someone living in London had the time for such extreme socialising but that she managed to co-ordinate meeting three date-worthy guys within one week, a feat only the very skilled and hyper-organised can master. This was my initial introduction to the Tinder application as she went on to explain the pick and mix of men she had been chatting to and all from just an effortless thumb swipe and a click. From there, Tinder seemed to pop up in too many conversations to ignore and so I had to experience it for myself, if only to once again have something in common with my friends and to rejoin the conversation.
Becoming part of the Tinder family takes literally a matter of seconds, as does your decision to like or reject the menu of men you are shown. This is very clever on the part of the creators who have obviously recognised the blatant and inescapable fact that us humans are generally shallow and tend to make our initial judgement based on aesthetics. While it might be nice that “Roberto” enjoys romcoms and long walks in the rain, realistically most of us girls just want to see what “Roberto” looks like, and the same, of course, can be said for men. Tinder taps into this less romantic side of us all by allowing you to get chatting to or arrange a date with a guy in less than the time it takes to order a pizza.

Doing away with Tom, Dick and Harry

As the least electronically minded person I know, I managed at first to even struggle with what is really quite a basic app. It took one too many times of swiping to the right before I realised I was liking men unintentionally. Before I knew it I was receiving a message congratulating me that I had now been matched with Peter. Peter being a man whose profile picture seemed to feature him with his cat, and also someone I had wished to swipe past. I received a message from Peter quite promptly enquiring as to what was my favourite dinosaur, a line which neither in a bar nor on Tinder would work any magic for me.
Before long I found myself swiping past dozens of men, some of which I realised I was not even looking at as it was all too easy to keep swiping. My thumb seemed to form some sort of swiping spasm and I was soon leaving Tom, Dick and Harry disappearing into Tinder oblivion.
Through my intrepid travels of men in a 20 mile radius of myself, I came across some real gems. Before I divulge, please bare in mind that, like most little girls, I grew up hearing stories about princes on horseback taking princesses off into the sunset, and watching Disney movies where men would either break into sporadic song or fight a giant octopus for your affections.
On my swiping travels I came across men on horseback,  men with their arms around various women (some of whom seemed to be wives or girlfriends),
 
men with children on their knee, men in cringe-worthy topless selfies, men drinking cocktails in a pool wearing speedos, a man dressed as a bat…not batman…but as a genuine bat, a man in a balaclava, hipster men looking thoughtful and creative, men wearing sunglasses indoors, men doing some topless cooking, gym photos, a few wedding photos, bathroom selfies with loo included, and a goat.
My favourite by far was the man who simply chose a plate of curry chips for his profile picture. As a fan of said dish, I immediately clicked like, as we instantly had something in common.
After a few days it was safe to derive that Tinder surely has something and someone to suit everyone’s taste.

Achieving Tinder matrimony

I then began to receive messages, most of which were complete nonsense which in the midst of my midweek exhaustion I was too tired and grumpy to engage with. I did however have a fairly normal conversation with one man who I agreed to meet for a drink. I am neither sorry nor shocked to report that this date will not result in what may be the first Tinder marriage as two sips in I was planning my escape. This man looked about 3 feet shorter than his picture, was missing more teeth than your average pirate and had screen grabbed a picture of me to look at in his phone gallery at his convenience. On top of a bad first impression, we had nothing in common. He had just overcome a drug addiction and was wearing a shirt which his mother had ironed. I iron my own clothes and can barely remember to take my multivitamins everyday.
Although this date was not the stuff stars are made of I do not believe that can be said for all Tinder induced dates. The huge amount of users mean odds are at the very least you will make some new friends. Naturally, like all social situations, you will come across people who are only interested in booty calls, but for every one of those there are people genuinely looking to find a partner. Tinder is also extremely location dependent as it works perfectly in London where we are all too busy and important to make any huge sort of effort. It would however be a very different story in a small rural area where you are likely to be swiping past most of your cousins.
Dating sites seem to have had a dramatic change of image in the last few years, and have become much more socially acceptable. Tinder in particular has somehow bypassed social snobbery and seems to have taken the place of cool kid in the school of online dating forums.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The London Irish Comedy Festival

Published in The Irish World newspaper 16th October 2013


It is no secret that the Irish are nearly always up for having the laugh and no more so was this evident last weekend than at Camden’s London Irish Centre. Leah Quinn went along to see was there much craic afoot at their London Irish comedy festival.

 

The comedy festival ran through the weekend and showcased many of Ireland’s best loved comedians such as PJ, Gallagher, Maeve Higgins, Andrew Maxwell, Neil Delamere and many more.

 

This, the second only year for the festival, attracted a hefty response with many London Irish attending to hear some of their favourites from TV back home.

 

PJ Gallgher headlined Friday’s gig along with Aisling Bea, Neil Delamere and John Colleary on MC duty. PJ Gallagher had the audience in tears for most of his act with the usual energetic and endearing childlike performance for which he is well known. PJ’s opening joke about the lack of romance in modern day rap music opened the room to another level of laughter which echoed on two jokes later.

 

Speaking to PJ, from RTE’s Naked Camera show, he told me why he thinks the Irish are so famed for their comedy skills “It’s our thing really. We were always huge story tellers and writers and we haven’t had much going for us for hundreds of years except for music and culture and story telling and that’s what we are known for, which is good, it’s certainly better than being known for large cars and squeezy cheese.”
 
 
 

 

The festival featured another three shows on Saturday, one of which was Captain Gingerbeard by David Burke – a comedy show targeted at kids. Later in the day Jarlath Regan recorded a live interview for his podcast Irishman Abroad with actor and comedian Brendan Dempsey. Although this held more of a relaxed conversational quality than that of the gig the night before, it was still enjoyable and a nice prelude to Saturday nights comedy gig.

 

The festival began last year as the brainchild of Maria Schweppe, now the London Irish comedy festival director. She told me that preparation started nine months previous to the festival but is expected to start straight after this years event as the festival continues to grow.

 

“I think last year was very much about building a relationship with the agents and the comedians so as that is in place this year the festival has a very good reputation and the quality of the line up is obviously quite high. People came along last year and had such a good time they are coming back this year and bringing their pals so we are extremely pleased with this year’s response to the festival”.

 

Maria also added that there are many more exciting things to come for the future of the festival, some of which will be the return of the comedy tent in Trafalgar Square for London’s St.Patricks day celebrations, and a quarterly comedy club that will be hosted by a different comedian. Each act will have free reign of what they want to do within their slot, be it music, comedy theatre or the spoken word.

 

All in all the centre put on a thoroughly enjoyable and welcoming weekend filled with many the hearty laugh. Judging by the reaction from those who attended, I expect it only to get bigger and better in the coming years so if you didn’t manage to get tickets this time, mark it on your calendar for next year.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Forty Years of Clannad

By Leah Quinn

Published in The Irish World on 02/10/2013


Thursday night saw many of the London Irish gather together in celebration of 40 years of Clannad at the Irish Embassy in Victoria. The Irish band, from Donegal’s Gweedore, first formed in the 1970’s and have continued to produce their own unique blend of Celtic music since then. This year sees the launch of their first album of new material since their 1998 release of the Grammy award winning Landmarks.

 

Nadur, meaning nature in Irish, is the first album since 1989 with the original line up of siblings Moya, Ciaran and Pol Brennan and their twin uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan.

 

The evening was hosted by the Ambassador of Ireland, Mr. Daniel Mulhall and his wife Mrs. Greta Mulhall who took the opportunity to formally introduce himself in his new role and to remind his guests to regard the embassy as the focal point for the Irish community in Britain.

 

Clannad then joined the stage and kicked off with their melodic Scotch Gaelic song Turas Dhomhsa chon a Galldachd from the new album. This was followed by Citi na gCumann which had been given to them by Moya’s grandmother.
 

 

Speaking at the event, Moya Brennan told The Irish World she believed staying true to what they stand for as a band has lead to them to reach the forty year mark and taking short breaks which enabled them to return with enthusiasm for their music.

 

Moya also spoke of the nerves she experiences as a young girl before one of their first performances at a music competition in Letterkenny and how holding her mothers hand gave her comfort when she wasn’t sure they had what it took.

 

Forty years later, Moya describes how fans can expect the same distinctive Clannad sound from this their 18th album along with some fresh new influences.

 

Originating in their family pub in Donegal, the bands trademark sound and unique  take on Celtic musical tradition has built them a strong global fan base with over 15 millions albums sold worldwide.

 

During their time, Clannad have produced music such as the theme for Harry’s Game, and the soundtrack to Robin of Sherwood the TV series. Moya, Ciaran and Pol are also siblings to the well-known singer Enya, who originally played keyboard in the band.

 

Their album, Nadur, is due out this month and Clannad will be touring globally with Mary Black to coincide with its release. The tour will have 15 UK dates including London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire theatre in March 2014.
 
 


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Night Alive review

Published in The Irish World newspaper 26/06/13


Conor McPherson’s play The Night Alive at the Donmar Warehouse sheds a brutal but honest light on the world of male solitude and questions the limits of human dependency on others.

 

The play opened with the main character, Tommy (Ciaran Hinds) returning home to his haphazard house which he shares with his uncle Maurice (Jim Norton) . He is accompanied by an injured woman named Aimee (Caoilfhionn Dunne) who has just received a savage blow in the face from her boyfriend. As the pair engage in conversation we begin to understand why it is that Tommy is living in a house filled with empty food packets and dirty trainers. The arrival of his no-hoper friend and workmate “Doc” played by Michael McElhatton also highlights the tragic existence they both share and how they are very much only stumbling through their single lives. It is the arrival of a woman that truly shakes things up and rockets their mundane and lonely lives into something of a living nightmare.
 

 

 This unusual play began with a heavy helping of some typical Dubliner quick wit and sarcastic humour which at times was genuinely hilarious. Tommy’s attempt at making Aimee feel at home by removing dinner dishes from the toilet and offering her of dog biscuit had the audience roaring in their seats. However further on the play turns sharply on a very dark corner and becomes at times both frightening and philosophical. The arrival of Brian Gleeson’s character, played by Brendan Gleeson’s son, casts a shadow over the playful humour at the beginning and livens up Tommy’s life for all the wrong reasons.

 

As the play continues we see that even though Tommy seems unable to help himself, ironically, all the other characters seem to rely heavily on him. It was a touching moment when his uncle reaches out for his company by recalling the days they used to hold hands and go for walks when Tommy was a small child, to which Tommy responds “I’m a moocher, I’ve always been a moocher.”

 

McPherson’s newest play is sharp and intelligent but the combination of humour and philosophical questioning do not marry quite as successfully as he might have hoped. Nearing the end there were too many questions left unanswered and a little too many sub plots whose meanings were left up to the audiences own interpretation. The contrast between the light and carefree beginning and elusive ending left me feeling a little confused and slightly frustrated. Having said that, the superb acting and lively script nearly manage to brush over the disappointing ending and all in all McPherson provides the audience with much enjoyment and a generous helping of genuine laughs.

Relatively Speaking review

Published in The Irish World newspaper 19/06/13

Alan Ayckbourn’s 1967 play “Relatively Speaking” made him a household name in theatrical circles after its initial success in the Westend. As it swings back into action again in London’s Wyndham theatre, Leah Quinn went along to see if it could work its magic on a modern audience as well.

 

As quintessentially English as crumpets and cricket, this outandish 60’s comedy embodies all that is sustaining a stiff upper lip in the face of scandal and deceit. However, eventhough the play deals with the issue of doubt in relationships, it is very much a comedy at heart.

 

The play centres around a young couple Jinny, played by Kara Tointon an actress with Irish roots who many might know from Eastenders, and Greg played by Max Bennett. It opens with the two young lovebirds waking up in Jinny’s London bedsit. Their conversation quickly turns to marriage and Greg expresses his enthusiasm for accompanying Jinny to visit her parents at the weekend. When Jinny shoots down the idea Greg decides to follow her anyway and when he mistakes the wrong couple for her mother and father hilarity and mistaken identity mayhem erupt. The play and characters seem to be holding so many secrets from each other and the audience that for a large part of the production there is no telling who is lying and who is the victim of those lies.
 
 

 

Kara Tointon played Jinny with an endearing quality which seemed to work well on stage, however Max Bennett slightly outshined her with his Frank Spencer approach to his character. But it was Felicity Kendall who was the star of the whole production. She played Sheila, the wife in the older couple and her brilliant one liners and comedic timing had the audience in tears of laughter more than once. Kendall is best known for her part as Barbara in the popular 1970’s sitcom The Good Life.

 

It has been 46 years since this play was first staged and it would be very easy for it to fall flat in today’s more critical and demanding world of theatre, however for the most part many of the jokes still worked and did not seem to have worn weak with time. It does however take a while to find its feet as the first couple of scenes all feel a bit like a soap opera with less gags and more general chitchat. All in all it makes for a very safe bet if you fancy some light theatrical comedy and will most likely tickle the funny bones of anyone who enjoys traditional slapstick British comedy such as Some Mother Do ave’ em and Faulty Towers.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Life of Stuff

Published in The Irish World newspaper on 15/052013


The Life of Stuff won Best New Play on its debut at the Donmar Warehouse in 1993. It has been revived recently by director Paul Robinson in Battersea’s Theatre503.

 
The intimate setting of The Latchmere’s Theatre503 leaves no prisoners in terms of the measure of a good performance. With it’s limited seating and basement style layout you are close enough to the stage to be almost part of all that is happening, which is great for any avid theatre goer who wants to feel the full throttle of a good play but daunting and nerve wracking, I imagine, for any actor playing a part.

 
The layout of this snug theatre therefore allows an audience member to quite quickly gauge whether the performances are in any way convincing and so, in my opinion, it takes real talent and a great script to make it a success.

 

In the case of The Life of Stuff, this tricky task was accomplished incredibly well as once the stage first lit up we were immediately transported back to a 90’s Edinburgh nightclub in which leopard print surroundings, tacky strobe lighting, glitter and ghetto blasters reigned supreme.
 
 
Simon Donald’s play doesn’t waste any time in getting to the true grit of this story, as within the first 10 minutes we were presented with acid driven delinquents raving furiously on podiums to club music, a vomiting patron who has remained on the dance floor from the night before, and a threatening character alluding to the mayhem that will ensue through his conversation with his real life boa constrictor.



 
It was all this and more that made the audience aware that they had indeed come to a hard hitting play set in Edinburgh’s drug-fuelled 90’s underbelly and that there would be no mention of bag pipes, castles, or any of the splendour for which the city is often known.



 
We are briskly introduced to an array of hopeless lost souls, Willie Dobie, played by Gregory Finnegan, an actor with Irish roots, played the nightclub owner who, at first, seems to run the whole show.

 
Holly and Evelyn - two young girls whose love for drugs and partying have led them to work for Dobie, played by Paula Masterson and Pamela Dwyer

 
Leonard (Rhys Owen) a mentally unhinged DJ who suffers from a severe case of nervous eczema, and Arboghast (Cameron Jack) a foreboding gangster-type who keeps them all on their feet with his aggressive approach to communication. All of whom are brought together through their mutual lack of ambition and love for hard drugs.

 

As the play continues we get to know the characters and understand why they have ended up in such a hopeless situation. We begin to almost feel sorry for them as we see that their relationships are heavily punctuated by deceit and insecurity.

 

The play takes many twists and turns, most of which are backed by clubbing tunes which help to lighten the mood as the main body of the story is a quite dark and tragic one.

 

The play does offer some intelligent humour which can be enjoyed on various levels. However this whirlwind of hard drugs and even harder characters is not for the faint hearted as nudity, live snakes, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and vomiting are characters in themselves. Having said that, its setting leaves it no choice but to show that era for what it was and the near to flawless performances from each actor made this play unforgettable for a variety of reasons- most of which were positive.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

You know you’re living in London when…


Over the past two years I have noticed some significant differences in my life since moving to the big city and experiencing all its everyday eccentricities.

 
You travel to work under the armpit of a stranger.

This is London’s most common mode of transport. Many mornings you may be forced to nuzzle uncomfortably under Joe Bloggs armpit as you rattle through the city’s tube tunnels. You can only hope whichever individual’s personal space you are sharing is that of one who looks after themselves and holds personal hygiene as a basic human requirement.
 
 

 

You abide by escalator etiquette at all times or willingly succumb to abuse.

I found this out the hard way.

There are no flashing signs of warning about this unwritten rule but breaking it can often result in torrents of aggression and chaos. It seemed to all travelling on an escalator up from London’s tube one day, that a lady was well within her rights to scream profanities into my ear, as I had made the immortal mistake of travelling on the left side.

This mistake can not only cost you and your ear drums dearly but it seems you could even perhaps be responsible for slowing down London itself. By standing on the incorrect side you are stopping the free flow path on the escalator, therefore halving the amount of people getting to where they want to go, therefore causing a massive dent in the productivity of a days work in London for all those people whose commute you added an extra 2minutes. Do you want that? Take it from me and my throbbing ear drum…the answer is no.
 

 

You relish all things artisan.

The word artisan is one which is battered around quite often in London. “Artisan cupcakes, artisan clothing, artisan dogs”. Eg. “Oh my god I found thee most amazing Artisan bistrot just off Brick Lane the other day”. A lot of people in London don’t seem to fully understand or know what artisan means but it conjures all sorts of excitement and immediately creates an air of superiority. Everywhere you go something will be advertised as artisan and the rule usually is that you must never question how or why it deserved such a specific title but rather immediately rush and buy, wear, or pet it affectionately.
 

 

You feel the need to grow a beard.

“The London Look”- not just a Rimmel catchphrase but a genuine state of being. There is a London look in fact and it in no way resembles that of Kate Moss. The London look can usually be spotted around East London near Brick Lane and Shoreditch, where the trendier of city folk tend to dwell. This look predominantly involves vintage clothing, meaning anything your granny or grandfather now use to line the dog basket. An over-sized moth-eaten woolly jumper, a scarf that trails two miles behind you, a pair of Deirdre Barlow inspired thick-lensed glasses, and a t-shirt that says something endearingly silly or ironic. However every great look needs accessories and the ones that usually accompany it are a long scruffy beard and an old well-used bicycle. If you manage to pull all the above off you are officially cool in London. However trying this at home in Ireland may lead people to assume that you are some sort of fisherman who has been forced to borrow his granny’s old High Nelly after receiving his quota of penalty points.


 

There is a lack of normal sandwiches.

Gone are the days of ham, cheese or tuna fillings in your sandwich of choice, you are much more likely to find yourself munching on something with humus, halloumi or grilled goats cheese nestled between two artisan slices. In fact finding what might be classed as a “normal” sandwich in London can prove to be far beyond difficult and asking for it conjures feeling of sympathy in the vendor. Avoid awkward situations, order that exotic sandwich and try your best to enjoy it.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Top Ten Most Exciting Student Summer Jobs
Published: 7th March 2013 on StudentCom Website
Author: Leah Quinn

Spring has sprung and so its not long until summer bounces into action as well. Leave washing your Dads car or walking the neighbours dog to summers gone by, and plan one that you will never forget with our Top Ten Most Exciting Summer Jobs.

1. Become a Disney Land character: All those years of being bullied for having ears like Pluto or a face like Shrek will finally pay off ten fold when you are getting paid to become part of the Disney family. Spend your summer prancing about in a costume posing for photographs or dancing to Hakuna Matata in parades.

2. Become a water park life guard: This is the perfect way to work on your tan and get paid at the same time. Many water parks in the U.S and Europe pay generously if you have the ability to swim a few lengths and save obese kids from getting stuck down the slides.


3. Work at Glastonbury: Well someone has to serve the drinks and hand out the wet gear! Instead of selling one of your less vital organs to afford a ticket, get a job at the event and enjoy the music and all that goes with it, with a few extra pounds in your muddy back pocket.

4. Nanny to the stars in the Hamptons: Many of the worlds most famous celebs holiday in the Hamptons and when they are out on location filming or breaking some moves at a P. Diddy party, they always need someone to look after their offspring in their offensively huge mansion with a pool.

5. Busboy at the Plaza Hotel, New York: The role of busboy may not seem appealing in hotels this side of the Atlantic but across the pond people pay big bucks in tips if you save them the hassle of pressing that penthouse button on the hotel lift. With previous guests such as The Beatles and Groucho Marx, who knows whose bags you might end up carrying?

6. Ben and Jerrys ice-cream attendant: This one isnt rocket science so if you are partial to the odd tub of Fish Food or Chocolate Fudge Brownie then this is the place for you. Not only are the wages themselves pretty sweet but workers are required to try and rate each new flavour.

7. Holiday Rep: So you were already planning on going on a sun holiday anyway and waking up floating on an inflatable crocodile in nothing but your sunglasses in the middle of a pool so why not get paid for it instead this year? This job is not for the faint hearted however, and being an insomniac may be a bonus, but if you like to party until you turn blue then this is the job you want.

8. TV Runner: You have tried The X-Factor, Britains Got Talent, and any other Simon Cowell spawned wannabe TV show going, but to no avail. Get your face known behind the TV cameras first, with a job as a runner in one of Britains major TV channels. Make a few teas, grab a few lunches and who knows, maybe it will be you sitting in Simons seat next year.

9. Fringe Festival worker: If previous summers have been a bit of joke, turn this one into a real side splitter. Each year Edinburghs Comedy festival looks for individuals to work promoting the shows or showing people to their seats. Along with a job working in the hub of it all, many of the organisers also offer free accommodation.

10. Become a movie extra: There are various agencies available that cater only for movie extras and they dont require their clients be botoxed size zeros. In fact they take all shapes and sizes and all you have to do is sign up, pay a small fee, upload a photo and next thing you know you are stuffing your face with cucumber sandwiches on the lawn of Downton Abbey while Lady Mary is throwing a fit.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

OUT OF THE FRAMES
Published in the Irish World newspaper 06/02/2013
 
Glen Hansard recently played The Barbican in London. Leah Quinn went along to see if she might start falling slowly for the performer’s live music as well as his recorded material.

 

You may be familiar with Glen Hansard for a variety of reasons. Maybe you first noticed him as the long haired guitar playing ginger in The Commitments, the scruffy looking fella who received that Oscar for the song Falling Slowly a few years back, or perhaps the voice of that Irish busking character in The Simpsons.

 

However you might know him, tt can’t be denied that Glen Hansard is a man of many tricks and for me he has always been this raspy-rocky voice that features on a few select tracks on my Ipod, which were initially added by my friend when I was 16, as that was what all the cools kids were listening to ten years ago.

 

After all these years it seemed only natural to watch the singer/songwriter in person and for the most part he did not disappoint as I have yet to see a performer that puts so much energy and emotion into his music. Hansard told the story of each heartfelt song not only by his intense facial expressions but also through the raw and powerful range of his voice.

 

The gig kicked off with The Lost Brothers doing support. This duo, from Navan and Omagh, arrived in vintage style clothing and delivered a melodic quite Cajun sounding set of songs which influences no doubt came in some part from their time spent writing and recording in America.

 

Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland delivered a soft and gentle sounding melodic set to the audience while joking in between that this week it was London’s Barbican theatre and next week would be hoovering their mother’s staircases. I managed to catch up with the twosome afterwards who had recently played the famous Bugaloo bar in North London, a spot often frequented by Shane McGowan and Pete Doherty.

 

Although the pair did not make an appearance on the night The Lost Brothers often play with the Baby Shambles bass guitarist Drew McConnell. Oisin, the lead vocalist, told me that the gig itself was a great success. The band were also delighted to be playing the Barbican and said that they were looking forward to their coming tours.

 

The Lost Brother’s sound had echoes of Buddy Holly and Elvis at times with a real soothing Southern essence. Their take on Andy William’s Moon River lulled the audience nicely into their seats.

 

Then came Glen Hansard, who’s first impression on stage was not what you might expect as he was  followed on stage by what looked like a slightly bewildered and uncomfortable teenager girl who did not quite know where to stand or what to do.

 

In fact I am sure the audience shared her confusion until the first song You Will Become when she started to share the mic with Glen. Unfortunately this left-field performance approach only came across as odd and uncomfortable, as any closer and the two would have been locking lips. In this instance perhaps Glen should have invested in another mic as his timid companion could be barely heard.
 
It was his I Confess song later that the full range of his vocal ability could be felt as the emotional performer nearly seemed to turn blue in the face in order to reach the real hard gravel-y notes, a style which is now Hansard’s trademark and demands respect from his fans and audience.

 

Throughout each song Hansard became more physical, and at times it seemed like some guitar strings might soon hit against the back wall such was the intensity of the performance. In between his songs he kept the mood light and comfortable reminding the audience to unfold their arms and open up to the music.

 

The gig ended with his most famous Oscar winning song Falling Slowly, for which his timid companion once again appeared. The song brought everyone to their feet despite both Hansard and his female singer forgetting quite a lot of the words- surprising as surely this would be one to remember, no?

 

His last song was a Leonord Cohen cover called “Passing Through” for which the band aptly descended into the audience with their instruments until they arrived back on the stage for the final standing ovation.

 

Glen Hansard is a rare breed of performer who evidently not only puts his heart and soul into his music but also his mind and body. Although many of his songs can become indistinguishable from eachother he is a talented and enjoyable performer to watch, and if you are lucky enough to catch a gig where he remembers all the words, then going for the sole reason of hearing Falling Slowly played live will be enough in itself.
 

 

 

 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Message is Not Getting Across

Published in The Irish World newspaper  19/01/13

The stroke of midnight in Dublin on December 31st not only heralded the start of a new year but also the beginning of the government backed initiative “The Gathering 2013.”

 
Nearly a month in and The Gathering is still somewhat clouded in confusion for many of the diaspora in London.

 
Irish tourism organization (ITIC) say 6.5 million visitors visited Ireland last year but Ireland’s tourism market of England, Scotland and Wales were down 4 per cent.

 
The Gathering is a Government-backed, year-long festival in which members of the Irish diaspora and anyone with an interest in Ireland are encouraged to visit the country during 2013.

As well as holding new events the Gathering will sponsor hundreds of pre-existing festivals and events throughout the year. Already more than 2,500 “gatherings” have been pledged on the events website.

The initial core budget from the government was €5 million but they now hope to attract an extra 325,000 visitors and generate €200 million in tourism revenue.

 

People living in Britain are key to Ireland’s hope of any economic improvement this year as Britain remains Ireland’s prime source for tourism.

 

However many Irish citizens living in London who had travelled home for Christmas are unsure as to what it is all about.

 

The Irish World asked some of London’s Irish community how they felt and the results seems to suggest that promotion for the Gathering is leaving a bit to be desired.

 

David Hanly,27, From Athlone living in West London- “I only heard about the Gathering when I was home for Christmas and even then I didn't hear much, there should be more done to advertise it outside of Ireland. Paddy's day would be a prime opportunity.”

 

Fiona Hedderman ,25, Dublin - "A lot of the stuff that’s on seems like rubbish you wouldn't go to if you lived here so expecting people to come from other countries is mental.";)

 

Marcus Culloty, 29, From Cork Living in West London,: I think for the Irish we don't really need an excuse to go home. We go home as often as we can. I obviously know that it's a year long 'come home' campaign but I couldn't tell you one event that's happening.

“I don't know who they are targeting exactly. Surely the richest new untapped market is the second and third generation Irish. So TV ads should be running in the UK showing those people where their grandparents and great grandparents enjoyed their childhood with a slogan about 'The Gathering. There's never been a better time to discover your Irish roots'.

 

Brian Meggs, 26, From Dublin living in North London:” I literally only heard about "the Gathering" from my Mum at Christmas, and when she told me about it, I thought she was trying to get me to join a cult. I love going home every time I do, and I will of course be going home during 2013. But I always want to come back to London - this is my new life now and no cheesy anti-brain drain campaign that seems to be only broadcast back home is going to make me change my mind.”
 
 

 

From the outset The Gathering was met with scepticism, with even well-known figures such as Gabriel Byrne slamming the year-long event by claiming it was a “scam.”

 

However criticism such as this has been strongly defended by Damon Blake  of The Gathering, who said, ”It’s a tourism initiative to have those who are or love the Irish return here in 2013, an initiative that is not being dictated by a governing body, merely enabled and supported by it. Like any group exercise, the outcome and results of it will be determined by the desire and input of the people involved.”

 

Speaking to assistant manager of the Irish Cultural centre in Hammersmith, Kelly O’Conner, it appeared that many who visit the centre are excited and eager to get involved in the event.

 

“It is being discussed somewhat. I think every Irish person is aware of it. Whether they understand the full workings of it I wouldn’t like to comment on that but they are certainly aware of it which is the first step.”

 

“They understand it to varying degrees. We have a huge diversity of people who are very interested and people are definitely trying to find out more about it.”

 

When asked about their promotion of the initiative Ms. O’Conner said “We have bunting up with the gathering details as well as flyers and leaflets. We certainly try to do our best here to make it as clear as possible but it has been a bit of challenge to communicate the clarity of it for people to understand.”

 

We have a lot of people here who are recent graduates who have just moved to London and are really excited that they can bring their new friends back to Ireland for a gathering- they get that it’s a good opportunity.”

 

“We also get our fair share of people who will say that is just a waste of money but I think with a bit more open mindedness people are a bit more positive about it.”

 

For those who do understand the concept of The Gathering it does seem that they are feeling positive about what it means for them and their native country.

 

 

Lorna,25, From Clare living in South London: “Despite the negative publicity the Gathering has been getting, I think it is a great excuse to meet up with friends and family and there seems to be some good events planned. They have done something similar in Scotland for the past few years and it has been really successful.”

 

Tess McGuane, 26, from Clare living in North London: “I have heard a bit too much about it , the family are planning a Gathering of a life time with even a few same family weddings if all goes to plan :).We heard about it late last year. It seems such an American idea but we are really looking forward to it. It does seem that the family members outside of Ireland are a little more excited then the ones at home but that is natural.”

 

 

The Gathering has the potential to provide Ireland with that much needed boost it has been calling out for these past few years but if promotion of the festival itself does not improve and reach those it is most targeted towards then the event will unfortunately fall victim to the sceptic’s predictions.
 
 

 


You're In Bandit Country

Published in The Irish World 26/01/13
Before 2010 Limerick city was known mostly for The Cranberries, Terry Wogan, Angela’s Ashes, and unfortunately some gang related violence.

 

When The Rubberbandits appeared on RTE’s Republic of Telly they soon put the city on the map for a whole new reason.

 

Describing themselves sarcastically as “hardcore gangster rappers”, the mischievous duo first began dabbling in the artistry of funny bone tickling when they made a CD of their prank phone calls for friends in Secondary school. Word soon spread, along with the CD and their prank calls, and later music, soon became available to the world on Youtube and their website.
 

 

Blindboy Boatclub and Mr.Chrome like to keep their identities hidden behind shopping bags, which only adds to their originality as comics and in their words- their appeal to women- as we can’t but be drawn to anything that might resemble shopping.

 

Although the boys often rap, joke and sing about drugs, sex and Limerick city style rock and roll, it is obvious that their intent is satirical and that there is real artistic intelligence behind what they are saying or singing.

 

Their gig in London’s Soho Theatre last week delivered what any loyal fan would have expected- Jack the lad playfulness, tongue and cheek gags and some very catchy and often hilarious tunes.

 

Arriving on stage in “Sawhaw”, as they called it, they made the audience aware that we were in for a rollercoaster of a night as their show would contain not one but three jokes- proving that these guys can even laugh at themselves.

 

Accompanied by Willie O’DJ- a masked character based on another of their fans back home (Minister Willie O’Dea), the cheeky chappies kept the atmosphere upbeat with their string of hilarious songs such as Horse Outside, I Wanna to Fight your Father, Black Man, Spoiling Ivan and their latest release Danny Dyer.

 

For each song the video, some of which directed by Fr. Ted’s Declan Lowney, played on a screen in the background accompanied by occasional lyrics which were presumably for those not acquainted with the strongest of Limerick accents.

 

The Rubberbandits proved once again that they don’t attempt to hold back as at one point, Mr. Chrome, naked from the waist up, encouraged the audience to join in in a verse of Devalera double dropping yokes- a reference to the recreational drug use of Ireland’s historical figure.

 

This followed an appearance from Willie O’DJ dressed in a black balaclava draped in the tri- colours. Something which could cause huge offence to a certain type of audience in London, but as it was delivered to us Rubberbandits-style it was obvious too all that such serious issues can be laughed at, even if uncomfortably.

 

 
This is certainly not a comedy show of which to bring your granny, but it is something very different and riskier than your average one man and a mic gig.

 

The Rubberbandits play Soho’s Theatre until February 2nd so if you feel like being slightly offended, bemused and yet hugely entertained this is one comedy gig which certainly deserves your attendance.