Sally Rooney Conversation’s With Friends

conversation's with friends

Short Review

Sally Rooney’s first novel focuses on Frances as she comes into herself as a woman and a writer. A performance poet, student, and ‘not quite writer’ who is drawn into a world of art and culture by an older photographer and essayist Melissa. Alongside her former lover and second half Bobbi, Frances’ life is disturbed by the entrance of Nick, Melissa’s husband and Frances’ future paramour. A summer spent in the continental sun and in Dublin’s culture hotspots Conversation’s With Friends interrogates class, culture and conversation with wit, intelligence and precision. Rarely captured in literature Rooney depicts a post – crash Dublin that has dispensed with religion and is aware of its fragile roots. This was the book that broke me out of a reading drought. Absorbing, thought provoking and enjoyable Conversation’s With Friends is worthy of the praise lavished on it and demonstrates Rooney’s precocious writing talent.

Honest

First Written for The Reviews Hub

honest_bewleyscafetheatre

Honest – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, Dublin

Writer: DC Moore
Director: David Horan
Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Is honesty always the best policy?

Meet Dave. A frustrated civil servant surrounded by bureaucratic incompetence and hypocrisy. We step into Dave’s life as he seems to be entering some sort of existential crisis. Lying, he argues, is a part of life and it is only the less pleasant or caring who are always honest. After all, who really wants to be given the brutal truth all of the time? However, on this night Dave finds he no longer has it in him to keep telling the lies that are needed to not rock the boat. This new found inability to lie causes havoc on a work night out as he looks around him with bewilderment at the events around him. After a conversation with his boss in which he is more truthful than is advisable he embarks on a quest through the dark corners of inner London before finding himself in a suburban garden.

The one-man play is carried excellently by performer Kevin Murphy. His strong Welsh accent rises and falls as he takes you through one emotional night. The audience starts laughing early on in the play and continues right until the surprisingly deep ending that punches through the barrier between performer and audience member. Dave’s working life in the civil services provides a rich vein of humour. This move towards complete honesty means that he is not always the most attractive of characters; however, Murphy softens him, making him fully rounded and recognisable. Murphy fits this part perfectly and he carries the audience with him on this late night expedition. The theatre is cosy and brings audience members into the eye line of the actor. It feels intimate. It is very easy to get lost in the action as the time whizzes by before landing on a surprisingly powerful and touching final note.

Honest is a 45-minute lunchtime show but is probably one of the best stage productions to hit Dublin this year.

Runs until 26 November 2016 | Image: Contributed

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Top Ten Things To Do If You’re a Postgrad In Dublin

First written for postgrad.com 2016

Recently I have written a few pieces about being a postgraduate student for postgrad.com. Here is my second offering: a top 10 of things to do in Dublin. Hopefully there are a few things that you haven’t previously thought of and there are many ideas for tourists and residents in search of something new!

So you’re going to be a postgraduate student in Dublin. The Irish capital is thriving and has a unique take between new and old. Explore Ireland’s world famous arts and heritage and enjoy the sights and sounds of this ideal postgraduate city.

1. Stroll Around Phoenix Park

This beautiful urban park is one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. It is so big it includes a zoo, Aras an Uachtaráin (the official residence of the President of Ireland), a visitor centre and Ashtown Castle. It’s particularly lovely in springtime when you can lie among the bluebells and wait to spot some of the wild deer that live there.

2. Visit Kilmainham Gaol

First built in 1796, this former prison hosted some of the most infamous and momentous events of twentieth century Irish history. Visit this museum to see where revolutionaries such as Patrick Pearse and James Connolly were held after their attempt to overthrow the British administration in Ireland with the 1916 Easter Rising. The site where they were summarily tried and executed will send shivers down your spine.

3. Eat Murphy’s Ice Cream

Now is your chance to indulge in the legendary caramelised brown bread ice cream that Murphy’s parlour is famous for. Often voted the best in Ireland, no stay in Dublin is complete without a trip to this Donegal import. Sample every flavour under the sun when relaxing between seminars.

4. Catch A Game At Croke Park

Although rugby is the nation’s game, at Croke Park you can also see the very best of Gaelic football and hurling. For the uninitiated hurling looks like a cross between football and quidditch, but is unfailingly exhilarating and entertaining. One weekend take to the stands and cheer on the Dubs!

5. Enjoy Seafood In Howth

Howth is a picturesque fishing village on the North side of Dublin. Work up an appetite walking along the cliffs before taking your pick of the dozens of fish restaurants. Where else can you look out over the harbour while eating Dublin bay prawns fresh from the sea?

6. Trawl Temple Bar

Usually the first stop for tourists Temple Bar is still well worth a visit. If possible go in spring or autumn when you can enjoy the live music, daytime book markets and food markets. Take the time to explore the record shops selling vinyl classics at bargain prices. Visit one of the many theatre or galleries that pepper the area and enjoy a pint of the black stuff as the sun goes down.

7. Indulge In Historical Drinking

An alternative to Temple Bar, visit the oldest pub in the city. Established in 1198 the Brazen Head is a chance to step back in time. Each night there is something different from Irish storytellers, live music and extensive food and drink menus. When you have settled in this is the perfect place to bring visitors and impress them with your local knowledge.

8. Check Out Trinity College Dublin

The official guided tour of the Elizabethan college includes entry to the Books of Kells and Old Library – which is also home to the first printing of the Irish Proclamation. Starting at the front gate, which took pride of place in the Oscar winning film Educating Rita, take a trip through the interesting, bizarre and unique world of Ireland’s oldest university.

9. Spend Christmas Eve On Grafton Street

The main shopping throughway in Dublin attracts people from all over the country to do their Christmas shopping. The Christmas lights are beautiful with a large tree lit up before the entrance of Stephens Green Park. Grafton Street is also famous for its buskers. Wandering along you can hear Irish chart toppers, classical choirs and acoustic love songs. On December 24th each year a celebrity busking session for charity frequently includes Bono, Hozier, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard.

10. Enjoy Festivals

One of the lesser known facts about Dublin is that there is a festival for everything. At almost any time of the year you can attend a festival. One of the highlights of the calendar is the annual Drac Fest which pays homage to Dracula, written by one of the cities famous sons: Bram Stoker. October Fest is always great fun, as are the Christmas markets found on the Docklands and in theatre and Cathedral crypts.

 

TDFF: RISK

First Written for The Reviews Hub

risk_thenewtheatre_cjassfoley

TIGER DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Risk – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Diane Crotty

“Risk is risk and consequences are consequences …”

RISK is a two handed drama thriller set in 1966 London. A crime family from Dublin have been forced to move and are making their new home in London. Join them as they prepare to set out their stall and take over.

However their plans are thrown into disarray when shortly after they arrive in London the father dies leaving his two daughters unprotected. Frances and Agnes are unwilling to be pushed aside or taken advantage of. It is time to come out fighting and the organised and powerful Frances will be the one taking control. However Agnes’ innocent look and soft words are misleading. She is a puzzler; she sees patterns and understands people in a way that both her father and now her sister rely on.

At first they take turns speaking before breaking into conversation. The language and action are fast paced in this enjoyable journey into the city’s underworld. It is perhaps unusual to see two women leading a crime empire however they pull it off with aplomb. With words alone and few props they succeed in creating a vivid picture of the life they are living and their personalities burst through. The use of two sisters as the main characters keeps things fresh and surprising. It is a well written and tight play from writer and director Diane Crotty who has managed to tap into an underused narrative vein.

Particular attention has been paid to the costumes. Agnes, the younger sister played by Susan Barrett, is dressed in a soft pink dress with plain silver heels. Her hair loose around her face. The effect is almost girlish and innocent. In comparison France, her older sister played by Lisa Tyrell, is far more pulled together. In sparkly silver heels, a fitted dress and her hair pinned up she looks professional and in control. Further although the set design is simple it is effective. One silver chair with black and pink upholstery next to one wooden stool. The pink and silver matching the actresses outfits. Their personalities and actions are reflected in their clothes.

This is a strong festival debut from Dublin based Whisky Tango Foxtrot theatre company and hopefully marks the beginning of a long relationship between the company and the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival.

Runs until 24 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Jass Foley

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Thriller

TDFF: To Hell in a Handbag

First Written for The Reviews Hub

ToHellinaHandbag_Bewleys_TDFF

Writers: Helen Norton and Jonathan White

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from lack of imagination.” – Oscar Wilde

To Hell in a Handbag explores the, until now, secret lives of Canon Chasuble (Jonathan White) and Miss Prism (Helen Norton), two fringe characters from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Miss Prism is best known as the woman who accidentally left a baby behind in a railway cloakroom and left with a handwritten manuscript in a handbag. On the face of it Miss Prism is the image of a perfect governess and Canon Chasuble a respectable middle aged rector. Behind the image though they are living tempestuous lives full of negotiation, deception, false identity and black mail. And most importantly money. Both characters have fascinating and surprising back stories. The play is deeply funny. The one liners are excellent and well played; both Norton and White having a knack for timing and comedy.

The stage is small but well utilised. A desk covered with correspondence, a seat and small table hiding something medicinal! To Hell in a Handbag is set during and around the events of The Importance of Being Earnest. Lines from the play are heard over loudspeaker from time to time to move the action on and introduce the less well known characters to the audience. Both Norton and White are experienced actors having undertaken a wide variety of celebrated work on both stage and screen. This can be seen throughout as both actors show skill and nuance, playing each line to full effect.

The play does a good job of going behind the public face to the confusion and absurdity of the private life of this seemingly staid, proper Victorian pair. This is To Hell in a Handbag’s premiere so it will be interesting to see if it goes on to develop a life of its own as many previous shows developed in association with the popular ‘Show in a Bag’ initiative have. This year’s Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival has brought many new plays to the Dublin stage, giving both theatre makers and audiences the chance to experience something new and fresh. Good humoured and more than a little farcical To Hell in a Handbag follows in Wilde’s footsteps and creating an entertaining and comedic spectacle for all to enjoy.

Runs until 24 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: contributed.

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Key Word: Funny

TDFF: Eggsistentialism – Smock Alley, Dublin

First Written For The Reviews Hub September 2016

Eggsistentialism_SmockAlley_(c)KenColeman

Writer: Joanne Ryan

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Meet Joanne. It is the morning after her 35th birthday and she is hungover. Deflecting calls from her mother she has started to question the life she is living. Spurred on by her fathers’ recent death and her milestone birthday she realises that her fertility has an expiry date that is fast approaching but so far she doesn’t even know if she wants children, let alone when and with whom.

As she tries to decide what she wants she is helped by her mother, a fertility clinic, online quizzes, radio counsellors, fortune tellers and her unwitting side kick, her new boyfriend Rob. This is a one woman show performed by writer Joanne Ryan. The show strikes a particular resonance, as this reviewer observed that this generation of Irish women have more control over when they become pregnant than previous generations. Her mothers’ story also features heavily, having also shaped both of their lives. After becoming pregnant with Joanne, aged 32, she was single and unsure what to do. Ireland in the 1970s was not such a friendly place for a single mother so she found herself moving to bedsits and hostels in London so that she could have control of her own body and raise her daughter as her own. Although the subject matter is quite serious it is told in a very funny way and her mothers’ ‘Irish Mammy’ one liners make the audience laugh out loud.

Using a two seater sofa and movable table as props there is also a large screen set behind her which she occasionally interacts with. When rattling though the history of the women in her family and the way in which they were shaped by the Irish state’s interventions into their lives, the screen comes alive with facts, images and humorous ideas.

This is a well written and honest performance that will make you stop and think, as well as laugh with joy. Ryan gives a strong, powerful, comedic performance that lasts in one’s memory and opens the audience’s mind with her honesty. Interrupted with poignancy and delicacy Eggsistentialism is a surprising watch. This is one woman’s deeply funny and brave journey to decide if making a life for herself should involve making another. One of the Fringe Festival’s must see performances.

Runs until 17 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Ken Coleman.

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4.5*

Eggscellent!

TDFF: Age of Transition

First Written for The Reviews Hub September 2016

AgeofTransition_Peacock_CáitFahy

TIGER DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Age of Transition – The Peacock Stage, Dublin

Creator: Aoife McAtamney

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Age of Transition is a dance concert featuring Aoife McAtamney as star and singer, three dancers, and three musicians. The production hopes to explore different phases of love through the means of sound and movement. McAtamney sings seven self-penned songs that take the audience into a story of love and wondering. One highlight is a particularly beautiful song about wanting to be married and waiting for that moment to occur, waiting for the diamond to be offered. McAtamney has an endearing voice and these compositions allow her to show this. She is accompanied by three dancers who use slow gentle movements that change and accelerate with the feeling of the music. The dancers work well together and their movements flow with a natural feel. In a semi-circle around McAtamney are three musicians, a cellist, pianist and electronic musician who work in sync with the other performers while never overpowering the vocals. Each musician is particularly talented however the cellist Mary Barnecutt deserves particular praise.

McAtamney, stands out from the seven person production, wearing a gentle pink dress, with the others dressed in more muted, earthy tones. This productions and others like it help to show what can be done with such a simple staging. Having previously performed in sell out show at the festival this is a welcome and successful return for McAtamney. However Age of Transition is also a collaborative performance including work by composer Michael Gallen, Berlin dance troupe Sweetie Sit Down, and design by visual artist Kelly Tivnan.

For those familiar with this interdisciplinary form – the joining of music, dance and visual arts –will find much to delight in with Age of Transition. Those less familiar will still be entertained, however the musical interludes appeal most, with some of the dance breaks feeling slower and perhaps less meaningful. Running at an hour long Age of Transition holds the audience’s attention throughout and shows off McAtamney’s beautiful voice and song writing skills. Overall Age of Transition is an enchanting exploration of love and self – actualisation.

Runs until 16 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Cáit Fahy.

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 3.5*

Enchanting

 

Saint Valentine: How Love’s Martyr Came to Dublin

Originally Written for Headstuff.ie July 2016

Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Church is home to one of the most popular modern Saint’s: Saint Valentine. A shrine dedicated to the Saint has pride of place in the church and his remains are put on display every February 14th, but how though did this Roman Saint make his way to Dublin?

Religious relics have long been an important part of the Christian tradition. The word “relic” is derived from the Latin word “Reliquus” which means “left behind”. A relic is a physical or personal memorial of a Saint or religious figure. In Catholic doctrine first class relics are those which are directly associated with Jesus’ life and the physical remains of a saint, with a body part being particularly highly prized. A second class relic is an item that was worn or frequently used by the saint and a third class relic is any object that has been touched by a first or second class relic. Therefore in these terms the relic of Saint Valentine held in Whitefriar Street Church is a prized first class relic as Dublin is home to some of the saints’ blood.

Source

During the Middle Ages there was a boom in the popularity of religious relics as churches and religious institutions vied to be associated with the most holy items they could find. Relics were thought to act not just as a reminder of the life of the martyred but also to help guide worshippers to God. As a result of this competition, churches began to create their own relics. At one point the ardent traveller on pilgrimage could seek out the head of John the Baptist, Jesus’ foreskin and doubting Thomas’ finger. Even though the sale of relics was forbidden under Canon Law the industry continued to thrive until the effects of the Reformation rippled across Europe. A side effect of this is that it became harder to authenticate relics. When there are seven different churches claiming to have the head of John the Baptist it becomes increasingly difficult to decide which was genuine.

The origin of Saint Valentine is still debated as few facts have survived the centuries. In the third century AD a priest called Valentine was executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14th 269. Other sources suggest the date could have been 270, 273 or 280. He was then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome. Valentine was martyred for his Christian faith. The Emperor had decreed that his soldiers would be better warriors if they remained single and unmarried. However Valentine courted danger by secretly marrying couples in Christian ceremonies. At one point the ardent traveller on pilgrimage could seek out the head of John the Baptist, Jesus’ foreskin and doubting Thomas’ finger. The Catholic Church also argue that at the same time Valentine developed a relationship with the Emperor in order to encourage an interest in Christianity. It is also important to note that polyamory was relatively common in Rome at this time and Valentine’s actions were going against the norm. Claudius eventually became enraged at the flouting of his rules and gave Valentine a choice: renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded. He refused to renounce his faith and was executed. Like most saints he is venerated for his dedication to his Christian beliefs, even though it resulted in his death.

Source

Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine which some argue proves his existence as an early pioneer of Christianity. In recognition of his martyrdom in 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a day to celebrate the now Saint Valentine. This came at a time when Rome was still trying to establish itself as the centre of Christianity and it is likely that part of the reason for this was to overpower the pagan, and decidedly non – Christian, celebration of Lupercalia which had been celebrated on the 13th – 15th of February.

Over the centuries his bones have been scattered across Europe. While the flower – crowned skull has long been a resident of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, his relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina. They were identified as belonging to Saint Valentine. Originally the Saint’s relics were housed in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome before being transferred to the church of Santa Prassede.

In 1835-6 Father John Spratt, a renowned preacher and Irish Carmelite visited Rome where he was well received by the Roman elite. He was gifted a small vessel tinged with Saint Valentine’s blood, presented to him by Pope Gregory XVI. The vial was transported for a special Mass dedicated to those young and in love, eventually arriving in Dublin on November 10th 1836. The reliquary (shrine) was received by Archbishop Murray of Dublin. It was decided they would remain in Whitefriar Street Church; a popular church in the centre of Dublin. After the death of Father Spratt in 1871 interest in the relics diminished and they were placed into storage.

 

Saint Valentine, the body of Christ and four weary souls. Source

Major renovation works to the church in the 1950 – 60s led to the rediscovery of the relics. They were then placed in a specially built altar and shrine. The Catholic Church was still in its zenith in Ireland at the time and it is likely that the relics would have been considered a bonus attraction for the popular city centre church. Due to the limited information available about the life of Valentine the Roman Catholic Church removed him from the General Roman Calendar in 1969. However he is still recognised as a Saint and remains very popular. At present the remains are kept under lock and key but lovebirds can pay them a visit each year on February 14th when they are placed before the church’s high altar and venerated at the Masses. This is one of the few religious connections to Saint Valentine that remains.

However Dublin doesn’t have the only claim to Valentine. In 2003 other alleged relics were found in Prague at the Church of Saint Peter and Paul at Vysehrad. Fragments of his skull are to be found in a silver reliquary in the parish church of Saint Mary’s Assumption in Chelmno, Poland. Alleged relics of Saint Valentine also lie at the reliquary of Roquemaure, Gard, France; in the Stephansdom Cathedral, Vienna, in Balzan in Malta, in Blessed John Duns Scotus’ church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland and also in Saint Anton’s Church in Madrid. They (allegedly) arrived in Madrid as a present to King Carlos IV from Pope Pious VI. The relics have been on display since 1984.

Many of the remains have been placed on more prominent display in the twentieth century. Arguably this has little to do with their religious connections and more to do with attracting tourists. However it is possible that in this increasingly secular age people value the physical manifestation of their faith more and more. And of course the fact that there is an interesting story behind it cannot hurt. As Valentine’s Day becomes both increasingly commercial and derided it is possible that many seek a more ‘authentic’, physical experience of devotion and love. For some these remains symbolise the importance of marriage and of sanctifying your relationship in front of God.

consumerism

In an interesting twist at the same time that visiting the remains of Valentine has grown in popularity, so has the desire to rebel against the view of love and profit that has come to define February 14th. This is perhaps best typified by the fact that divorce filings arise by around 40% this time each year with The Webb Law Centre in Charleston, USA, offering one lucky (or unlucky depending on your point of view) couple a free Valentine’s Day divorce. Running for eight consecutive years the person who presents “the most compelling story” and has the fewest complications wins.

The spread of the remains across Europe highlights the continuing popularity of the Saint but also the desire individual churches have to be associated with something so holy, a direct physical link to the early years of the church. Further it shows a continuing appetite among the public to be able to see and visit the dead saints that over time have become a part of their cultural and religious narrative. In some cases there are also more nefarious attractions to the relics. One of the reasons that the Valentine reliquary is kept under lock and key is because of the fear of theft. Several religious items have been stolen in Ireland over the past few years. In October 2011 decorative crosses, made from bronze, silver and gold were stolen from Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary. They were said to contain fragments of the cross on which Jesus was sacrificed. In March 2012 the preserved heart of Saint Laurence O’Toole, the patron Saint of Dublin, was stolen at night from Christ Church Cathedral Dublin. It seems that for one reason or another relics have, and are likely to, retain their popularity and importance in modern Ireland.

1916 and Cultural Separation

This is my ‘soap box’ talk from The Souvenir Shop 1916 art exhibition in May 1016

Recently I have been involved in a wonderful art exhibition called The Souvenir Shop, situated on North Great Georges Street, Dublin 1. The Souvenir Shop is a part of the 1916 commemorations and took a unique view on the Rising and the way in which it is remembered. As a part of my work there my colleagues and I each presented a one off ‘soap box’ talk loosely inspired by the exhibition. Here is mine:

 

For anyone living in or even visiting Dublin this year it would be virtually impossible to not notice the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Uprising. It was incredible to watch the silence that fell on O’Connell Street during the main commemorations as the proclamation was read out. How often is today’s society will you see up to half a million people gathered together in silence, without mobile phones photographing every moment, as so many people connect with their history. But whose history is it?

 

The 50th anniversary of the rising in 1966 came as Taoiseach Sean Lemass was hoping to both secure Ireland’s place and future within the European Economic Community, whilst also improving relations with Britain and Northern Ireland. At one point he wrote that “the Rising of 1916 belongs to nobody if it does not belong to the people of Ireland. Some of them are proud of the Rising, others would disown it if they could, and there are quite a number . . . who are so indifferent that talk about it bores them. Nevertheless the 1916 Rising is theirs”. Aware of the need to clarify the meaning and relevance of the Rising to an Ireland of the 1960s whilst also honouring the men and women of 1916, was a difficult task.

 

Even when the government gathered in 1965 to discuss the direction for the golden jubilee they faced criticisms that they had not fully embraced a cross party opinion. Who owned the Rising? Who had the right to decide how it should be remembered and what it should mean when they could never escape the fact that since the momentous events of that Easter week, the six northern provinces had not been included in the new Irish Republic? A form of partition existed on the island of Ireland.

 

In the event images of a ‘modern’ Ireland that looked forward just as much as back dominated the commemorations. Lemass pushed for peace and harmony to be the defining ideas of the commemorations. However this was easier said than done. Being only 50 years after the event it lived on in memory and family history for many. Remember that it was only a few months before that Nelson’s column had been blown up by the IRA. Republicans were frequently vocal about their feelings of betrayal. This came most from the female relatives of the signatories. The Souvenir Shop is inspired in part by Thomas Clarke, the first of the signatories, newsagents and tobacconist. In 1966 his widow, angered by the description of Pearse as “the first President of the Provisional Government” argued that “surely Pearse should have been satisfied with the honour of commander-in-chief when he knew as much about commanding as my dog”. This feeling was felt by others. On the day of the official commemorations an alternative parade, coordinated by the National Graves Association, was held. It included a much larger crowd which included the sisters of signatory Sean MacDiarmada. As we can see the idea of who is a hero, a martyr, worthy of remembrance is an issue that remains to this day and is perhaps best shown by the candles that are a part of this exhibition, that place Patrick Pearse, De Valera and Bobby Sands, among others on the same shelf. In contrast to this no state sponsored events took place in Northern Ireland. In the end only the nationalist community celebrated the anniversary, who largely saw it in terms of (re)unification.

 

Although many of the issues that plagued the run up to the 50th anniversary are still present today there were many similarities between the commemorations of 1966 and 2016. In both cases a military parade marched along O’Connell Street, being sure to pass by the centrepiece of the rising, the GPO. Pageants, religious services and art exhibitions were held. Also RTE dedicated much of its schedule to programmes related to, however tenuously, the Rising. Art has always been one of the ways in which people remember, celebrate, interpret and understand their history and its place in their current society. Rita Duffy has approached the Rising from a northern nationalist perspective. Whereas most of the documentaries, books, articles in the Republic have been cautiously celebratory – careful not to upset the delicate peace that currently exists. This exhibition, with its Big Boot of Empire Black and Tan boot polish, Carson’s Marmalade and pink balaclavas takes a different approach.

 

2016 did see some change of emphasis, most notably in its treatment of women. This year has seen the reintegration of women into the history of the Rising and its aftermath. There is a very famous photograph which shows Pearse officially surrendering to the British. He is viewed from the side, tall in his military uniform and coat. In the original image one can just about make out the legs and feet of a woman stood by his side at this momentous moment. By the time the photograph made it into the papers, the little that could be seen of the nameless woman had been airbrushed out. Almost as though from the start there was a conscious effort to airbrush women out of the story and memory of the Rising. This is something that also marks this art exhibition. In the same year that a woman in Northern Ireland has been prosecuted for illegally purchasing and taking abortion pills the Republic is trying to actively return women to the Rising narrative; though books, documentaries and of course their soap opera drama Rebellion. Here we have another take. The large images of the nurse, barefoot with her hands covered in blood, Kathleen Ni Hooligan bath products and of course Widow Walsh’s sugar coated chocolate pills. This helps to show one thing. That even if you airbrush history, do not teach it in schools or are simply very selective in the information and ideas you use when trying to control and influence the narrative history doesn’t disappear. Ultimately it cannot be avoided. It will always reassert itself.

 

I came to this with a different perspective again. As you have probably noticed by my accent and ignorance of Catholic saints I am British, or more precisely English. I have studied history throughout school, A Levels and then at degree level. Throughout all of these years of study and research I don’t think the word Ireland was ever mentioned. This is especially strange when you consider the number of times I have had to study Elizabeth I, but at all times the national curriculum was careful to avoid any mention of Ireland, empire or colonialism. Having looked into the subject more closely over recent years history teaching in English and Welsh schools seems to remain as politically correct and almost celebratory as possible. The dark, dangerous and dirty side to the creation of modern Britain is studiously avoided.

 

When I tell people at home that I am involved in this exhibition I have to explain what it is and why, for example, there is something called “Laundered Diesel” in an art exhibition. Before I came to Ireland I do not think I had ever heard of the Rising, of Patrick Pearse or knew anything of the 16 Men executed at Kilmainham. It was through art first, films in particular, that I started to learn about this history and it is one of the reasons that I believe exhibitions are so important.

 

Just as the women involved did not simply disappear when they were relegated to the footnotes or history, and the issues surrounding partition did not disappear after the 1921-1922 Treaty was signed. Art is one vital way in which people access and delve into their history. Re-evaluating the things they thought they knew, or perhaps knew nothing of, and reinterpreting their own take on the events that have formed their own society. In general more people are likely to attend and be influenced by an art exhibition than an academic text book and as we continue here in The Souvenir Shop we will continue to see visitors be entertained, challenged and take something away with them.

 

The Souvenir Shop was created by artist Rita Duffy and Curator Helen Carey.

Pink Milk

First Written for The Reviews Hub June 2016

PinkMilk_TheNewTheatre

Pink Milk – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Lauren Shannon Jones

Director: Nora Kelly-Lester
Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Pink Milk was created by Dublin’s The New Theatre artists in residence Lauren Shannon Jones and Nora Kelly-Lester. This writer and director duo have offered up an interesting one hour show in the form of Pink Milk. This is a dystopian fantasy, considerably different to their previously celebrated works Crow and The Assassination of Brian Boru. The New Theatre Residency Programme has given many artists the chance to develop their craft and this show suggests that Jones and Kelly-Lester are moving in the right direction.

Anna Matthews, played by Megan O’Flynn, lives alone on the top floor of a high-rise apartment. As she points out she is so high up even the clouds are below her. She never leaves her home and her only visitor is the delivery man. He waits outside her door with her parcels wearing a mask and tentatively trying to ask her out. There are some laughs and tender moments as he shows his interest in Anna and the audience seemed to be able to relate to the awkwardness of a relationship at its very beginning.

Both characters are trapped in their isolation. It is not just physical. The high-rise apartment keeps them apart from the rest of mankind, however they have both adopted different versions of themselves in alternate reality. Online Anna is a media goddess. The stage darkens. O’Flynn stands in the centre. White squares and futuristic music play out in the background as she dons her headphones and preaches the religion of entertainment to her followers. In this life she is a media goddess, so very different to the wary person who lives alone, receiving boxes of white clothes in the post. Her life is always ordered and controlled until she begins a relationship with the delivery man Auster, played by Shane Robinson.

It is slightly scary to see how the seeds of digital control and isolation are sown and could easily turn into the twisted world view that Pink Milk presents. The way in which our online lives impact upon our day to day life and relationships is interesting and current. As Auster spends his spare time playing video games with strangers online we see that he is just as alone as Anna. No longer investing in anything outside of their virtual lives; they seem to have separated themselves from their work and their pasts in order to be able to cope with the reality they find themselves in. This dystopian love story is flooded with loneliness as the characters create and hide behind their masks to avoid facing the bad things that they have done.

Unfortunately, Pink Milk tells but doesn’t show. It seems that the characters have to tell the audience what they should think and feel because the plot and characters are not showing us this. Innovative ideas are let down by lack of narrative drive, with little for the audience to sink their teeth into. The poignant, somewhat sad ending is the highlight as our protagonists are finally drawn together; offering a peek into their lives before they invested themselves online. Pink Milk shows the seeds of a unique idea that with further development could turn into something special.

Runs until 9 July 2016 | Image: New Theatre

The Reviews Hub Score 2.5*

Futuristic