Archive for August, 2009

Interview with Grainne Millar, Founder of Culture Night

August 24, 2009

Culture Night 4

Culture Night has become a new tradition in Dublin, a night where all the galleries, museums and exhibits open their doors to the public and culture leaks out onto the streets. Although it has become a European phenomenon, it is still relatively novel in Dublin, where this will be its third year. Promising to expend tenfold on it’s previous assaults, this September Culture Night promises to be bigger than ever. We spoke with founder Grainne Millar on how she launched the night in Dublin, and what this year has to offer.



Culture Night 1What is your history with Culture Night?


I’m the head of cultural development, I organised the first culture night back in 2006 and we started on a very small scale.  We wanted to connect the cultural organisations in Temple Bar to a wider cultural community in the city. Mainly with an aim for the public to get a better appreciation of the cities culture, but also to get a sense of cultural democracy and entitlement.  It started of with 40 organisations and it wasn’t really a culture “night”, as everywhere closed at 8 o’clock. It was however enormously successful, with 40, 000 people attending.



So who are these organisations that are taking part?


Well some of the main ones include The National Gallery, The National Museum, Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, and all of the cultural organisations in Temple Bar. Lots of smaller artist galleries and studios throughout the city are also taking part. We were all quite shocked just how successful the night was, although in saying that we had seen how successful culture nights had been in other cities throughout Europe. Copenhagen and Paris have both had over a million people attend their culture nights in the past so I knew the model would work. All it needed was the support of the culture community plus public interest.

Based on the first year we’ve continued to grow the event. Last year we had the first national initiative where we extended outside Dublin. We had 80 organisations in Dublin, and they stayed open until 11 o’clock in some instances. The diversity really spread out as well. We had the Botanical Gardens, The Science Gallery, and Stephen’s Green stayed open late. It was a very all-encompassing event for the public.




So last year it was a national Event?Culture Night 2


Yes, we launched it last year in Galway, Cork and Limerick, and on the strength of that we’re expanding it to a total of 11 towns and cities around the country. We have 120 organisations taking part in Dublin, this year focusing on public spaces-bring the arts out to the streets. 




Culture Night 3And will the organisations be opening late into the night this year?


Yes, in Dublin we have a number of venues opening until Midnight, but it varies across the country because some venues, particularly museums, have restrictions and have to be closed by a certain time




So what types of events will we expect to see in these various Galleries and Museums?Culture Night 5


There is a huge diversity and it’s up to every city or town to organise different events. Dancehouse for example, organise various dance workshops, playing with different types of dance- reggae/Hip-Hop etc. The Gaiety School Of Acting are providing 3 different acting workshops for kids, while Filmbase in Temple bar are organising animation workshops for kids where they can write, direct and even star in their own film.




What have been highlights in previous Culture Nights?


I think, apart from the workshops, families loved participating in the culture, rather than just looking at it. Culture Night gave the opportunity for people to meet artists and interact with them, which is something one might take for granted working with artists on an everyday basis. Many artists opened up their studio doors and allowed people to see how they worked and get a glimpse at how their art is created. Last year The Book Of Kells broke it’s record for the most amount of people seeing it in one day-over 5 000 people.




Have you seen a ripple effect in previous years? Where after Culture Night awareness and attendance for galleries and other festivals was raised? 


We don’t have that information yet, though we have been carrying out surveys in the last two years and we’ve found out that a huge number of people that come into Culture Night are visiting places for the first time. Some of them are of course “culture vultures” but they’re trying different things which is great.




And what about yourself? What event will you be attending on the night itself?


Well the last few years I’ve just enjoyed walking around the streets to capture the atmosphere, but one of the things I’d like to do this year is go to the zoological building in Trinity College where they are opening up their building and exhibiting a number of skeletons and other animal exhibits.   If I was in Tralee however I would love to take part in their record-breaking attempt for the longest ever line dance in the world. That sounds very exciting.

Culture Night 6



Culture Night takes place all over Ireland on September 25th


Interview with Niall Buggy, Star of Brian Friel’s Afterplay

August 20, 2009

Niall Buggy

Arguably Ireland’s greatest living playwright, last January Brian Friel turned 80, and to celebrate his milestone birthday, the Gate Theatre are presenting three of his greatest works in succession, Faith Healer, Afterplay and The Yalta Game. Best known for the classic Philadelphia Here I Come, or Dancing at Lunasa (which was made into a Hollywood film staring none other than Meryl Streep) he has also translated a number of Chekhov’s plays into English, giving them a new lease of life. Totally Dublin spoke to esteemed actor Niall Buggy about his role in Afterplay, and his history with Friel’s works.




Can you tell us a bit of the background of the play?


Well the play has borrowed two characters taken from two different Chekhov plays. I play Andrey from Two Sisters, and the other character is Sonya from Uncle Vanya. Friel has brought these characters together twenty years after their original setting and they meet for the first time in a café in Moscow where they discuss each other’s lives.




These plays are not related though are they? They aren’t sequels?


No, they are both completely different characters from completely different plays. The only link is that they both share an author and a location. The play stands on it’s own feet however, so audiences wouldn’t necessarily have to be familiar with Chekhov to enjoy the play.







Niall also starred as Henry Sellers in Father Ted, and the Priest in Mama Mia

Niall also starred as Henry Sellers in Father Ted, and the Priest in Mama Mia

Have you worked with Brian Friel’s plays in the past?





Yes, my first Brian Friel play was in 1966, as a kid in the Abby-The Loves of Cass McGuire. However one of the greatest acting experiences I have ever had was playing Casimir in another Friel play called Aristocrats. We took that play to London and then New York, which earned it all sorts of awards. This isn’t my first time playing Andrey however, we took Afterplay to Australia early this year with Francesca Annis and now I’m doing it with Frances Barber.




And how different is it doing the same part with two different actors?


It’s great because it keeps one fresh. They’re both wonderful actors and both of them are friends, it’s very important to get on with your co-stars because naturally you have to spend a lot of time together.




Afterplay was written in 2002, why do you think the Gate choose such a modern Friel play to celebrate his life’s work?


Writers always like to have their most recent work to be interpreted. Afterplay is a bit of a gem, and although it has been preformed a few times in Ireland, many Friel fans will still not be overly familiar with it.




Have fans of Chekhov warmed to the play or discredited it? 



Well I have only ever done it in Australia where there was a very warm response to it. Friel has translated a number of Chekhov’s plays so he knows the material and characters inside out and knew how to respect them.




Do you think Afterplay would work in Russia? Would you be interested in taking it there yourself?


Well my Russian isn’t quite up to scratch at the moment, but if you insist perhaps I’ll give it a go.

No, it’s an interesting thought actually for the Russian’s to hear a Russian translation of an English play based on an English translation of a Russian play.






Afterplay is playing alongside Faith Healer and Yalta Game in The Gate Theatre, from the 9th-19th September


Bubble: Don’t Burst It

August 19, 2009


Bounding along on a wistful Saturday morning, perhaps it was Naive to assume I would have the Bubble Exhibition in the Science Gallery to myself. The term gallery is conceivably misleading as it conjures up thoughts of an open space with little sound and even less people. The Science Gallery was lacking in neither sound nor people however, with flocks of families with their 2.5 children enamoured by the presentation. Misleading though “gallery” may be, inaccurate it is not, as the various sections, exhibits and games on hand did not so much explain the science behind the bubble, so much as show off it’s glory. We could step in a bubble, put our hand through a bubble, and of course blow a bubble, but there was little explanation as to what exactly was a bubble. You know, in scientific terms. As Fairy liquids shares rose dramatically, there was plenty here to entertain the kids for a few hours and was a dream for cheap (free) family fun. Upstairs you could relax on a beanbag while lasers shot through a gaggle of bubbles, which in turn (like a prism) beamed rainbow-esque colours on the walls resembling peacock feathers. It was all very beautiful naturally, but unfortunately the staff weren’t able to inform us as to what exactly was happening…“emmm, something to do with physics??” The highlight for me, which had nothing to do with bubbles mind, was a brain game involving two people. Both parties put on a bandana that apparently measured brain waves. Between the two opponents was a rectangular table with a rubber marble in the middle. The aim of the game; to get the ball onto the other side of the table using the power of your brain. Sounds all very X-Men right?  Allegedly the more you relaxed your brain and didn’t think about winning, the stronger your brain waves were and therefore, moved the marble. I’m not sure how accurate it was, but as I beat my opponent (Mwhahaha) I choose to believe.

Altogether a fun day if a bit childish to be there without a child, still it was free with an expected donation of five euro so we really can’t complain now can we?


See Bubble: Don’t Burst it in the Science Gallery Until September 25th



Paul Cleary

Interview with Wayne Jordan, Director of The Seagull

August 14, 2009



Written over one hundred years ago, Chekhov’s The Seagull is a story about hopes and dreams, youth and love-all themes that are still as alive today in Dublin than they were in turn of the century Russia. With Brian Friel’s Afterplay resurfacing two popular Chekhov characters in The Gate, we are perhaps seeing a renaissance of Russia’s paramount playwright. We spoke to director Wayne Jordan, who chose The Seagull as the annual play for the National Youth Theatre, about what the play means to him, and about working with the future talent of Irish theatre.




From reading the synopsis it seems like quite a dark story, would that be correct?


Well none of the character’s hopes or dreams are fulfilled and they are all very sorely disappointed, also Konstantin famously kills himself at the end, so yes it is a very dark play. The National Youth Theatre mainly put on classics such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream so when I was asked to do the play I decided to pick The Seagull. It’s about wanting to be famous and wanting to make art and your parents not acknowledging you. I also noticed when I read the play that, bar one particular scene, almost all scenes have people on stage who are in relationships with young people. Be it their mother, father uncles etc. This meant there was always a scene showing a young person getting involved with the world around them. These dark themes apparent in the play are connected to the frustrations of youth.




But Chekhov referred to it as a comedy correct?


Yes, it is very funny and eccentric; the best comedy usually refers to very dark things in a light that makes them uncanny. In saying that most productions of The Seagull are very dark, and it’s not that we’re looking to shy away from that, more so that we’re hoping to present a production that is very whole. The young actors in it are very much alive rather than tense and angry. The world does however crush down on them in the end. 




 It’s over 100 years old, so would you say it is still as fresh today as ever?


The version we’re doing was done a few years ago, in the national theatre by a playwright called Martin Crimp. I directed a play of his in project a few years ago and it’s a very concise sharp and vastly shorter translation. He has gotten rid of all the Russian Context-They still have Russian names and they still talk about being from Russia, but it’s been shaved slightly. It is about people wanting to make it and being jealous of their peers who are more successful. Unrequited love also plays a role. I think those themes are completely timeless. How hard it is to make your way, and how hard it is to be passionate. 



This is your first time working with Chekhov?


It is, due to the large cast it can be quite expensive to put on and it’s a play I’ve wanted to do for years. When I was asked to work with the Youth Theatre I thought the cast would be able to relate with the text. I was also interested to see how the play would withstand being filtered through their eyes.




How are you finding working with a younger cast then you’re perhaps used to?


I really like it, we met a huge amount of young people which we cast down to sixteen. It’s very exciting and different, they are all very bright smart and energetic people from all over the country, from a far more diverse Ireland than I was from.




The Seagull is playing in on the Peacock stage in The Abbey Theatre


24th-29th August

Theatre Review, The Hostage 7/10

August 12, 2009

the hostage

A theatre debut for the Pearse Centre, Brendan Behan’s The Hostage is a bizarre experience where the audience aren’t so much watching the play so much as sitting slap bang in the middle of the action, surrounded by the bohemian antics of Behan’s characters.

Set in a notorious house of ill repute in 1960’s Dublin, The Hostage blends Irish nationalism and identity with wry humor as an English solider is kidnapped from Armagh and held captive in the house. Used as a bargaining chip for an 18-year-old IRA member awaiting execution, the innocent cockney Leslie forms a bond with many of his captors and even a romance with the equally naïve Teresa.

It’s a point of confusion whether or not to tag The Hostage as a musical. The owner of the house, Pat, frequently honky tonks on the piano while the rest of the cast sing various numbers about patriotism and freedom. However, unlike Chicago or Cats, the songs all fit into the context of the play and the music doesn’t magically spring from thin air.

Other aspects of surrealism defined the show. Instead of a tweed gentleman informing us of the interval, the IRA soldiers bawled us to “leave for fifteen minutes”, and while outside the said IRA soldier bartered with Colette the prostitute – “how much for five minutes?”. My only gripe with The Hostage – and perhaps this is unfair-is it’s seating plan. Un-tiered seating is a pet hate of mine, as I always seem to be positioned behind a Shrek-type figure with Macy Gray’s hair. The Hostage was no exception and I spent the entire two and a half hours with my neck craned trying to catch the action. This may be the price however, for hosting it in such a magic venue and if that be the case then I will just make sure I am sitting in front of Shrek next time, rather than behind.

Epilogue/Shafted – Interview with Jane McCarthy and Arnold Thomas Fanning

August 5, 2009



There was once a time in cinema when you would get not one but two films for the price of a single ticket. Such films were called Grindhouse and consisted mainly of severed limbs and illicit orgies. Apart from that one blip with Tarantino such multiple viewing is mostly unheard of in these modern and soulless times. Imagine however that you could get two shows for the price of one? Imagine that, instead of watching the characters on a screen they were right there in front of you, and instead of badly written massacres, they were haunting and profound tales written by the crème de la crème of the future playwrights of the country. The New Theatre’s new writing programme is attempting it’s first venture in exploring new writers in Dublin and will consist of two plays staged back to back hopefully paving the way for new talent. I met with Jane McCarthy and Arnold Thomas Fanning to talk about this opportunity and what it means to them.



So how did you both get involved with staging your plays?


Jane: I started working in The New Theatre last year and I let it be known to everyone that I was a writer, or at least an aspiring writer. I wrote Epilogue and passed it around to a group of actors that I knew and asked would they mind putting on a reading. On the back of that we were given an opportunity to put it on stage professionally. Anthony who is the joint artistic director had the idea of putting on a new writing festival featuring new Irish talent.


Arnold: My play Shafted is actually my second piece to go on stage. Last year my play Those Powerful Machines was in the Fringe Festival. Anthony liked it and asked me to stage another one in the New Theatre.



Is there any connection between Epilogue and Shafted? Themes, cast etc?Jane epilogue 2


Arnold: No they’re both completely different, the only link is that we’re both new writers.



And did you flip a coin to see who went first?


Arnold: Well Epilogue is longer so we thought it would be better if it was first..


Jane: Shafted would be the funnier, or lighter of the two plays, so we also thought it would be a nicer note to leave the audience with.



So can you tell us a little of what to expect with both your plays?


Jane: Epilogue is quite a surreal story, it is about a character who has led a very ambitious life-a great career and generally quite successful. But when we meet him, he has died and he has to deal with different people from his past, and some of his regrets.



 In Purgatory?


Jane: Well I hate saying it’s purgatory, I prefer to leave that to the audience’s perception but it’s a waiting room where he must face his history before moving on. The play is not completely dark however there are humorous moments in it. I was very aware of the stage and it’s restrictions. I had never written a play before, it’s not like a book where you have unlimited access, so I began thinking what I could do with a desk, and a chair. I also had this idea of waking up dead. I thought I’d like to turn the expression “you can’t wake up dead” on it’s head.



And what about Shafted Arnold, what should we expect from it?

jane epilogue 3 

Arnold: It’s set in New York outside a theatre, where we meet Jack. He’s struggled for years trying to make it with Broadway and finally he has a play that is running previews. During the interval he steps out to have a cigarette where he meets Henry, whom initially he doesn’t recognize but it turns out they knew each other in the past. Henry accuses Jack of stealing his play, as the story develops we go back to their old friendship and how Jack shed Henry to pursue his new life.



So like Epilogue then, it contains themes of past relationships?


Arnold: Yes, it’s about nostalgia and friendship but also about how in relationships, sometimes as soon as one person gains what they want from you, they shed you.



 After staging a play in the Fringe Festival, do you feel less pressure?


Arnold: No not at all, when you put a play on its very personal and you expose your innermost thoughts and demons. You feel very naked so there is still a lot of pressure.



 And are both of you directing your plays as well?


Arnold: I’m not but Jane is…


Jane: I was assistant director for Stags And Hens a few months ago but this is my first venture at full on directing. It’s a bit nerve wracking but I’m very excited at the same time. It will be quite difficult to separate the writer from the director but I’m determined to be vicious and cut out any line that I feel doesn’t work.



So what comes next for you both?


Jane: I’m not too sure, keep on writing and trying to put it out there.


Arnold: I haven’t looked beyond it yet, but I’m very excited about this.







See Epilogue and Shafted in The New Theatre

24th Aug – 29th August @ 8pm
Tickets: €15 (€10 conc.)

Nafftastic-Rolf Harris

August 4, 2009


When insomnia set in on a winter’s night a few years ago, I rummaged my house for a book I had yet to conquer.  Twas on this eve that I came across Rolf Harris’ autobiography, plastered in dust since it was unwrapped Christmas 2001.  If memory serves me correctly it was a gift to my father from my maternal grandfather and reeked of desperate Christmas eve panic.  My expectation of the book was not high and it was intended to fill the fifteen minute void I take between bed and sleep that habit has made me seal with reading.  Not for one second did I expect to finish the book as up to this point Rolf Harris was something of a joke in my eyes.  Not a particularly funny joke either, more an embarrassment to the Australian community before Steve Irwin took over.  However after reading the book I was struck with respect for this hugely talented and genuinely decent man.


I reckon most people’s first thought when it comes to Rolf is Two Little Boys, or Jake The Peg.  It’s true his musical career was perhaps one of his most successful ventures, and I bet as a kid your mother sung the first to you whilst your father sung the latter…but in reality they were (as was nearly everything else he recorded) not to be taken seriously. Nor was his attempt to cover Stairway to Heaven anything other then a bit of fun.  I doubt Led Zeplin ever regarded it as bastardisation.  I suppose in a way his lack of seriousness in his music led him to be regarded as comic in all his endeavors. Take one look at his art however and try not to be awed.  An impressionist with varied themes from portraits (The Queen’s in fact) to wildlife, he is arguably the most famous living artist in the world, though ironically not necessarily for his art.


When he wasn’t creating aesthetic or audio art, there was nothing Rolf preferred than presenting a good old TV show that every member of the family could enjoy, from the dribbling toddler to the dribbling pensioner.  Is there anyone on the planet who didn’t love Animal Hospital?  And who didn’t shed a tear when Rex the dog had to be put down (The poor little Blighter)?  Or when Sammy the tortoise swallowed a button and needed surgery?   While the cute and lovable animals were the true stars of this show it was Rolf that gently harnessed it and made it so successful.  He was like your grandfather, teaching but never boring you, always with that kindly manner so that we felt we knew him. Whilst Bruce Forsyth and Noel Edmonds had egos of gargantuan proportions, sweet Rolf always kept his modesty intact and endured himself to his public for over four decades.

One Of His Amazing Paintings

One Of His Amazing Paintings

He has mostly retired now though he still does the odd Glastonbury gig -even being voted best act ever one year. His talents and achievements are numerous and often surprising, did you know he was an Olympic level swimmer in his day?  Did you also know he invented two musical instruments that are now common(ish) in modern music. Working with both The Beatles and Kate Bush over the years and presenting numerous prime time TV shows, although Rolf Harris is as naff as they come he is also legendary and is to be respected.  I hope one day he will be revered with David Hasselhoff style appreciation where students throughout the world will scream “Can you tell what it is yet” to their pregnant friends.