Comedian and actor Nuala McKeever's one-woman show In The Window is at Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Friday 29 November at 8pm. We asked Nuala for her choice cultural picks...
My two all-time favourites are Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis and When Harry Met Sally, with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, written by Billy Wilder and Norah Ephron respectively. (Dinner with those two would be a dream!) They share a love of language and in both films the actors offer a masterclass in comedy acting – playing it straight, never asking for the laugh. Just magic. James Gandolfini's last film, Enough Said, is another gem. He plays opposite Julia Louis Dreyfus in a quietly hilarious take on mature (and not so mature) love. Away from comedy, the best film I’ve seen this year is The Camino Voyage – the story of five men rowing to Santiago de la Compostela, from Ireland, in an old style boat. Slow, repetitive, slow, repetitive, with moments of wonder and joy, it is enchanting from start to finish.
Love, love, love Paul Brady’s most recent album, Unfinished Business. Several of the songs are co-writes with the Armagh poet, Paul Muldoon. Again, wonderfully creative use of language bears repeated listening, never mind Paul B’s genius at putting words to music. I saw him on stage twice recently and he almost literally bounced on stage for two hours. He’s something special. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows. I found this book in my local library (hooray for libraries!!!) It’s set in Depression-era West Virginia in the fictional village of Macedonia. It’s told through the eyes of a young girl on the verge of adulthood who’s determined to pay attention and find out what the adults in her world are doing. It has a wonderfully captured cast of characters and a mystery to boot. The tone of voice is reminiscent of Scout’s in To Kill A Mockingbird. The writing is so beautiful I re-read many paragraphs over and over simply to savour her way with words. Aaaaaahhhhh.
Mikel Murfi's The Man in the Woman’s Shoes and the sequel, I Hear You And Rejoice are the best things I’ve seen in theatre recently. To stand on a bare stage and create through voice and physicality a range of characters that every audience member can picture clearly and to tell profound stories of such beguiling simplicity, with such humour and compassion, well, it’s breath-taking. Absolute perfection. Kitsy’s constant bra-adjusting is worth the price of admission alone!
Unbelievable on Netflix. This is one of the best series of recent years and that’s saying something, given the high standard of television writing nowadays. Toni Colette and Merritt Weaver play two detectives from different locations, joining forces to investigate a series of rapes. It’s based on a real case, the acting is flawless and the story is dealt with in such a way as to keep the viewer just on the right side of incredulous and incensed without tipping over into sensationalism or voyeurism. It celebrates the dogged determination of the detectives in a refreshing departure from the normal "female as victim" narrative. Powerful and ultimately uplifting.
I saw the wonder that is Horslips at the Pavilion Theatre Dun Laoighaire on Friday 1st November. Well, three of the original line-up anyway – Barry Devlin, Johnny Fean and Jim Lockhart, with Johnny’s brother Ray Fean on drums. I’ve seen them five times in the past year and am delighted to have been co-opted into the unofficial Horslips "family". The songs stand up after all these years, the playing is electrifying, Barry’s subversive banter between tunes is hilarious and the guys are so clearly having a ball, the gigs are like a happy family party only with really high-quality music!
The annual Royal Ulster Academy Exhibition is currently on at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Each year the exhibition showcases a huge range of work in all media. It’s a lovely way to spend an hour or two and as the late Gay Byrne would’ve said, there’s something for everyone in the audience. New artists sit alongside established names and it’s always a bit of fun to see which pieces attract the most red dots!
I’ll have to say my own show! I’ve just started presenting a show on BBC Radio Ulster. Monday to Thursday, 3-4 pm, it’s a mix of music and conversation. I’m sitting in for Lynette Fay, who’s off on maternity leave. It’s slightly surreal being back in the BBC where I worked for ten years, years ago. Lots of familiar faces, just aged slightly! I sat in on other shows years ago, but now I feel completely at home behind the mic. One of the benefits of getting older – more confidence, more relaxed! Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live and podcast is also a great listen.
It’s not cultural, but the map thing on the phone where the woman tells you how to get somewhere – that’s been a lifesaver for me this year. I did my play In The Window in Dublin for two weeks in the summer at the Viking and one week in September in the Dolmen. Each time, that woman got me through the city no bother. She has finally laid to rest the ghost of childhood memories of family holidays to Bray always entailing an argument between the parents, somewhere in Dublin, about how she couldn’t read the map and he couldn’t listen properly.
THE NEXT BIG THING...
Tenx9 (Pronounced Ten by Nine) - this is a storytelling evening. Nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a story. The only rule is it has to be a real story, not fiction. The evening was started by two guys in Belfast - poet Padraig O’Tuama and his partner, BBC producer Paul Doran. It takes place once a month in the Black Box. From there the idea has spread around the world and there are now Tenx9 evenings in loads of cities including Nashville, Dublin, London, Chicago, Rijjsen and Glasgow. It’s hugely popular, people are turned away every time. It’s a simple concept which is profoundly connecting.
In The Window is at Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Friday 29 November at 8pm. - more details here.