Monday, October 29, 2007

Colbert in '08

Stephen Colbert is the man on everyone's lips this week. Huh? Not yours? I see...well, this might fill in any gaps...Mary Wilson and I discuss the candidate least likely to succeed in next year's US presidential primaries, never mind get elected president.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Wiki Wikedness & the gPhone

This week we work out if the CIA are interfering with Steve Staunton's Wikipedia entry. Not really. It's John Delaney's that we're really talking about. No it's not. In other news, we join in the global game of gPhone hide 'n seek...

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If you want to hear what the people making it have finally said about the gPhone, here is a little promo from Andy 'Sidekick' Rubin's Android, which is the Google company that will produce the google software for mobile phones.

A look at some gPhone applications in the wild


Monday, October 15, 2007


This week on Drivetime with Mary Wilson, we're talking about reaction in the US to the issue of what exactly it is, and should be, that Barack Obama wears on his lapel. And we also revisit Larry Lessig's "email bankruptcy" meme, and all those other folks with sure fire ways to free up your inbox.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

And we're not little children...anymore

Just back from The Road to Nowhere, the Young@Heart show, in the O'Reilly theatre. Which was jammed. Seems like every show at this year's festival was jammed -- and that is not because i went to openings, cause largely i didnt.

In any case, Road to Nowhere was a pretty good end to the Festival; not everything i had hoped, but still quite an emotional occasion. I went with my father, who is, according to himself, in training to join some such choir. But not right now.

I am not sure, right now, what the show really meant. I was happy to see these people singing, a gang of individuals, rather than a sample of a demographic. But the show seemed to add up to pretty much the sum of its parts. Songs old and new (though with a lot more Lennon and McCartney, and a lot less Radiohead, than you might have imagined from the pre-publicity) sung by (mostly) over 70s.

I was expecting -- well, director Roy Faudree had told me to expect -- something overpowering, something that couldn't quite be put into words. Well, im waiting for that bit. Maybe it'll take another 30 years to get it. I'll wait. All the same, i definitely have a new favourite version of Talking Heads' Road to Nowhere. (But a bit disappointing to notice that it wasn't on the CD we bought on the way out...)

Anyway, that's the end of the road for this year's theatre festival. Which is, y'know, a good and a bad thing.

Roy Faudree's Road to Nowhere

"The performers are not armoured with professional skills," says Roy Faudree, director of Young@Heart, the touring musical featuring senior citizens who first came together at a social club in Northampton, Massachusetts. "But I'm kind of a hick, I like that down home quality."

Faudree, whose other theatre work includes time with New York avant garde company, The Wooster Group, first got involved with the choir back in 1982, when he was invited to create a show with the local senior choir. The experience changed the way he looked at amateur performers.

"The problem with professionals is that they are all about thinking where what they are doing will lead," says Faudree. "At least part of why they want it to look good is to help them get their next piece of work. But you can just get so tired of that."

The members of the Young@Heart choir, who range in age from 71-88, have a completely different attitude, according to Faudree.

"What we have here is people who are enjoying doing the show for what it is, they are enjoying that moment on stage, that experience. They are not thinking about what they will do next, they are thinking about that performance."

That kind of attitude towards putting on a show has a knock-on effect for audience, who, the director suggests: "are not there to judge how it is being done…they are there are just enjoying the experience."

Of course, the group's success, which has seen them touring all over the world for nearly two decades, has been based on more than just a nice attitude. Their selection of music is also unique, bending backwards songs by everyone from Talking Heads, to Sonic Youth, and more recently Outcast's Hey Ya!, to give familiar songs startling new meanings.

It is will be familiar for anyone who knows with The Zimmers' My Generation, or indeed, the Langley School Choir's interpretation of 70s pop music. As it happens, Young@Heart predated the Zimmers by a couple of decades. But Faudree is not particularly interested in 'who
was first'.

"It is something that's in the zeitgeist anyway, isn't it? Years ago lots of people could be doing the same thing in different places and nobody would know about it. Now with YouTube you can immediately see things that are popping up all over…"

While Young@Heart is clearly a celebration of defying stereotypes, the choir's latest show, The Road to Nowhere, as the title might suggest contains a little bit more of the realities than previous outings.

"The previous show, Road to Heaven was just an unbelievable affirming of the human spirit. And we wanted to get a little darker this time. t's good to be optimistic. But there are some things about the final decades that are harsh too"

Monday, October 08, 2007

REVIEW: The Playboy of The Western World (The Abbey, Dublin)

On the surface, John Millington Synge's 1905 proto-Western has a great deal in common with your average cowboy movie. But when it comes to subtlety and equivocation, The Playboy of The Western World has few gun-slinging competitors.

Synge's stranger, of course, is not even an anti-hero. He is just good, sometimes, at making stuff up. Every power he possesses has been awarded him by the credulous and the desperate townsfolk. This, of course, shows their weakness and not his. But what society really wants to learn about its weaknesses from a visitor? It'll end in tears.

You might imagine, then, that Bisi Adigun and Roddy Doyle's new version, which turns 'the playboy' into Christopher (Giles Terera), a Nigerian asylum seeker, explores the attitudes of attitudes to "the newcomers". In practice, the play hardly seems to be concerned with race at all. This playboy hardly meets any prejudice at all. 'Cause round here, people are judged purely by their character and their actions. Surely, this Dublin is a fine place.

Adigin/Doyle's updating is sometimes very smart, but sometimes very dumb: as is traditional with Doyle's theatre, it doesn't feel obliged to write a great gag when a well-placed expletive will get the laugh. The new text, for example, quite literally replaces the line "I've lost him, the only playboy of the western world" with "Fuck off!"

Jimmy Fay's production has some pace problems, particularly towards the end of the first half, but comes up trumps after the interval, when, in a beautiful piece of slapstick, Joe Hanley's Jimmy 'creates' two pints of Guinness and Red Bull and the show finally discovers its correct comic pitch. Best of all -- as seems to be the rule these days -- is Eileen Walsh as Pegeen, a compass by which everyone can steer when it comes to bouncing agilely between comedy and passion.

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THE CHATTER: Digging for Gold on Craigslist

This week on RTE Radio 1's Drivetime with Mary Wilson, we got to talking about a a certain -- rather incredible -- small ad that started life

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For extra fun, check out the Cajun Boy In The City blog. He (if it is a he, in the end) is a very funny writer who has developed his own literary genre, the "hipster baiting" fake small ad on Craigslist. A growing category, obviously.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bisi Adigun's (and Roddy Doyle's) Playboy

It started with a joke. Or, maybe it was a joke. Bisi Adigun, who has co-written a brand new version of The Playboy of the Western World with Roddy Doyle for The Abbey, wasn't sure when he first saw Synge's classic play that there was even anything to laugh about.

"I think to understand the comedy of a country, you have to understand the culture of that country. Tragedy might be universal, but comedy isn't. So when I first came Ireland I realised that I would have a lot of work to do before I could get the jokes."

Adigun, who came to Ireland in 1998 from Nigeria, has since made substantial progress in that respect, and is now equipped to deal with the sly asides of Irish life: "At least now, when I see somebody hand someone a brown envelope, I know why that's funny…at least six out of ten times I will get the joke"

There were, all the same, still some obstacles for the writer and director to overcome before he could bust a gut at the antics of Christy Mahon, Peegen Mike and the rest of Synge's sheebeen crew. "When I saw the play first I thought it was very chaotic and very violent and not really very funny at all."

When it came to re-imagining the humour of The Playboy for a twenty-first century Ireland, colleagues advised him there was only one man to see: Roddy Doyle. "Roddy Doyle has a special gift for writing funny lines, so I think we were able to write together something that lived up to the standards of the original."

Together the pair have created an entirely new version of the play, but one which is still quite clearly based on Synge's original -- "as Roddy Doyle says 'you can still see the tail of the shark," says Adigun.

The new version is centred on a Nigeria asylum-seeker (played by Giles Terera) who finds himself in a Northside pub run by Pegeen Mike (played by Eileen Walsh). "When Christy arrives in the Playboy, he has a story to tell. And it seemed to me that is what an asylum seeker always needs wherever they go – a story to tell."

Christy's tale in Synge's original -- that he killed his father with a loy -- has been given a Nigerian twist for this new version.

"We weighed up every word very carefully…I was looking around for the right word to replace "loy" and one day I saw a story in a Nigerian newspaper about a murder where somebody had been killed with a pestle, one that's used for pounding yams. And I thought 'that's it!" It was like God's gift to us…"

[And for all those Loy completest out there (oh, yeah, that's just me) the word for that yam-pounding implement in Adigun’s own language is omo-ori-odo, which he explain literally means "the top of the mortar”]

Another gift to the production, Nollywood star, Olu Jacobs, takes the role of the father Christy claims to have pounded to death. “It is amazing to have him in the show. He is such a massive star in Nigeria I keep explaining to people he is like our Sean Connery."

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REVIEW: Long Day's Journey Into Night (The Gaiety, Dublin)

Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night is an epic of unrelenting misery, all but devoid of any but the dimmest light, stripped of any emotion that isn't so mixed that it is hard, really, to give it a name at all. And every shred of that pain and meanness, every degree of recrimination, is in place in Garry Hynes' latest stern Druid production.

A former Shakespearean actor-turned-skinflint hack, James Tyrone (James Cromwell) and his deliriously dysfunctional family are about to enter four of their darkest hours. Mother Mary (Marie Mullen) is back on the morphine. For a while there, things were looking good; she seemed to have kicked for real this time. But now she's sneaking off again for a shot.

It's Dad's fault say the boys-who-might-be-men, Jamie (Aidan Kelly) and Edmund (Michael Esper), for being so mean. It's your fault for being such wastrels, counters the old man. No, it's yours -- for being born at all, honks mom from deep within the chemical, literal and metaphorical fog.

But that, of course, is the heart of the problem here: the Tyrones are addicted to blame. They will blame themselves if really forced, but, in general, they'd far rather lay the grief at each other's door. And what a lot of grief there is. Over the hours, scraps of injustice, rationalisation, hurbis and savage hurt pile up, until there is a monumental bonfire of human suffering filling the stage.

Hynes' approach on all this is, remarkably, to play it down, to take the epic bitterness and make it, somehow, everyday. It is a tack that makes sense, since allowing this play the full tilt emotional meltdown could easily leave contemporary audiences feeling rather detached. The alternative, however, which seems to happen here, is that the performances can seem a little small for the characters, so that even though there nothing here is short on quality, it sill feels as though everyone is trying on a suit that is simply a size too big.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

THE CHATTER: Military service recruitment

This week in The Chatter on Drivetime with Mary Wilson, on RTE Radio 1, Dublin, Ireland, (yes, that's a lotta brands!) we were talking about the uncovering of a US Navy recruitment PowerPoint that seemed to offer some interesting insights into how the services views younger people, or millenials as they call 'em.

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REVIEW: Laurie Anderson (The Olympia, Dublin)

Where's Laurie at? The woman who parleyed an art world career into a impressive, but undeniably weird kind of pop stardom by singing about the military industrial complex is back in town with a new show. But what exactly is a Laurie Anderson show these days?

The time is over when when gig-goers could expect a mammoth multimedia experience controlled by the lone figure of Anderson, dispensing witty/portentous aper çus on the arrival of the cybernetic technocracy.

Nowadays there are absolutely no projections and the very simplest of stage settings, with artfully hung bare bulbs and a floor carpeted with ropes of tiny lights. The look (and indeed the sound) of it all is of an arty rock band, with mature and serious instrumentalists sitting at their stations diligently unpacking their licks around the lead singer, while abdicating responsibility for quality control.

Some newer songs, such as The Lark, which opens the show, have the gliding and indelible images of the best of Anderson's work. But for the most part, Anderson's current setlist is long on noodling and over-extended workouts, which when attached to some pointlessly square drum programming, and worse still (in the case of Only An Expert) some entirely blunt satire, teeter very close to embarrassing.