7 October 2008
The Guests

Writer and social activist Eamon McCann, theatre director Rachel O'Riordan and arts journalist Peter Crawley.

The Play: The Year of Magical Thinking

We begin with a production which comes to us from the National Theatre in London. 'The Year of Magical Thinking' - a hit in London and on Broadway - is adapted from the best-selling memoir by Joan Didion. It's a piece which chronicles the aftermath of the sudden death of Didion's husband, the screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, and the long illness and eventual death of her daughter. The stage version is directed by David Hare, and the only cast member is Vanessa Redgrave. She portrays Didion in all her shocked, stubborn, smart and often very funny reactions to death and to loss. As she describes it: "you sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

The Play: Black Watch

Also at the Dublin Theatre Festival is 'Black Watch'. Written by Gregory Burke and directed by John Tiffany, this is a National Theatre of Scotland production and in many ways the big show of the festival. Based on interviews with former soldiers who served in Iraq, it examines not only what it means to be part of the Black Watch Regiment but also what happens when soldiers return from a war nobody seems to particularly understand - not least those who are in the thick of it. It's a very physical piece - full of pipe, bombs, testosterone, very strong language and, in this clip, strobe lighting.

The Dublin Theatre Festival

Although 'Black Watch' and 'The Year of Magical Thinking' are finished their runs, there is still plenty on offer for the last week of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

The Film: Anton

Directed by Graham Cantwell, 'Anton' is a new Irish thriller which begins in Co Cavan in the early 1970s and then takes us to Belfast, Paris and back again. It stars Gerard McSorley as a local lawman and, in the role of Anton, Anthony Fox, who also wrote the screenplay. Anton returns to Cavan, after being at sea and he couldn't have picked a worse time to come back. Bloody Sunday has just happened and feelings are running high along the Border. 'Anton' goes on nationwide release on Friday 10 October.

The Film: Alexandra

'Alexandra' tells the story of an ageing widow who makes a trip to a Russian military outpost in Chechnya to visit her grandson, a young army captain. Although Chechnya is never mentioned, the film was shot there by the Russian director Alexander Sokurov. Although the camp is not on the front line, we see the scars of war in the damaged buildings of the local village. Unlike 'Black Watch', not a single shot is fired and the film approaches military conflict indirectly, through the eyes of a grandmother who seems out of place as she scrambles into armoured vehicles, tries to handle a Kalashnikov and traipses about the hot, dusty base wheeling her suitcase. 'Alexandra' is at the IFI until 15 October.

The Performance: Damien Dempsey

Damien Dempsey's most recent album 'The Rocky Road' is a collection of some of the Irish songs which led him towards songwriting. He's about to start a national tour, which will last from now to December, and you can check his website for dates of that. Tonight he's joined by Pauline Scanlon and Eilis Ní Chinnéide on vocals to perform 'The West's Awake'.

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