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Arts Lives RTÉ One, Tuesday, 10.15pm

Hugh Leonard: Odd Man In

Tuesday 3rd March, 2009

Hugh Leonard died recently at the age of 82.

Charlie McCarthy's timely film is a profile of the celebrated writer, which is as entertaining and thought-provoking as the man was himself. Threaded through with Leonard's remembrances of things past, the film details his struggle to become a playwright in 1950's Ireland, the mixed blessing of being a successful television writer in England, his Tony Award for Da, the curse of being considered a talent rather than a genius (like all other Irish dramatists!), and his acknowledgement of his adoption.

Leonard looks back at his mother's disapproval of his marriage to a foreign woman; and his wife's sudden death, while also discussing his new relationship with a much younger woman, and his final illness. The comic and poignant conversation between past and present haunts all of Leonard's best work: the bereaved son who is tormented and finally consoled by the warm and irritating ghost of his father in Da; the two elderly couples mirrored by their younger selves in A Life; the lyrical and moving evocation of his past in Home Before Night and Out After Dark; his experimental take on the 1916 rebellion in his RTE drama Insurrection with the startling conceit of a television crew covering the Easter Rising.

Even his adaptations for stage and screen (Stephen D., Strumpet City) have dealt brilliantly with Ireland in times past. As well as Leonard's reflections, the programme will feature contributions from his partner, his daughter, his many friends, sometime enemies, colleagues and critics.

Having played the final act of his life, this film puts Leonard and his work under a new and searching spotlight.

Hugh Leonard
Hugh Leonard talks to Charlie McCarthy for RTÉ's Odd Man In
Hugh Leonard