Pursued by a Bear »

  • The spy writer who stays out in the cold

    August 29, 2011 @ 11:04 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    They don’t make spy films like they used to, and nobody writes a better spy novel than John le Carré. Which is why I got extraordinarily excited when I saw this trailer.

    This is a forthcoming version of Le Carré’s peerless Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, directed by Tomas Alfredson (the man responsible for Let the Right One In). The book was first adapted by the BBC in 1979. If it’s not part of your DVD collection than you have a dishonourable hole on your shelf that needs immediate filling. It’s a masterful piece of television that perfectly captures the quietly cunning air of menace that makes le Carré’s books tick with such desperately seething energy.

    Of course, one of the strengths of the BBC production is the inspired casting of Alec Guinness in the title role (though how good does Gary Oldman seem in that clip?). In fact, Guinness so completely inhabited the role of George Smiley (who le Carré had already fleshed out fairly definitively in his books) that his creator had to eventually give up on him – le Carré admitted that he felt he wasn’t so much writing Smiley as writing Smiley as played by Alec Guinness. Well this is almost true – le Carré says he was planning on winding the character up anyway, but after he met and worked with Alec Guinness, he realised that the actor had essentially appropriated his greatest creation.

    This is just one of the little nuggets that le Carré revealed in his last ever interview with Jon Snow back in September of last year. You can still see it on Channel 4’s website over here. This is a terrific interview and its only major flaw is that it is painfully short. Admittedly I’m biased when it comes to le Carré (though Jon Snow appears to be a little in awe of him here too) but this is worth watching for anyone interested in the craft, skill and mechanics of writing.

    Le Carré decided this would be his final interview ever, and so he gives some very candid and direct answers to Snow’s questions. What’s more, there is some revealing footage of le Carré at work, and the laborious process he goes through, writing everything in longhand and then editing it down in a process of cutting, stapling and scribbling, before his wife, who has been his editor for decades, casts a cold eye.

    This is a world away from how many writers work, and its lovingly portrayed here, from the thud of the heavy pen on the paper to the definitive clunk click of the stapler at work, and the cold slice of the scissors on card. It’s obvious that Le Carré is not one to court media attention – he has previously asked the Booker jury to leave him of its list for the International prize.

    It’s a shame that we won’t get any further insight into his work from the man himself, so in the meantime we’ll just have to look forward to his next book – and, of course, to see Gary Oldman doing his best not to be Alec Guinness.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … put on your red shoes

    August 25, 2011 @ 12:42 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Sing: The stage is set for a very special night at Imma in Dublin this weekend (though when exactly it will be, none can say). An open-air screening of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz will be top of a bill also featuring a short, silent version of the film with a live soundtrack by Chequerboard (weather permitting). The night is in memory of Anne Copeland, whose son Aaron was a co-founder of the Upstart organisation. Anne died in recent weeks and was a huge fan of the film – at her funeral, she wore ruby slippers and was played out of the church to Somewhere Over the Rainbow. All proceeds from the event will go towards a hospice that cared for Anne in her final days. The event begins at 8pm but as we write, the Open Air Cinema crew were still staring into the skies and casting runes to figure out which night will be the most favourable weather wise. It could be Friday (unlikely), Saturday (favourable) or Sunday (outside chance). Click here for the event’s Facebook page and check it for updates.

    Go: It’s a glittering little literary line-up and make no mistake: on Monday night, the Young Hearts Run Free collective will be storming the gates of the Unitarian Church on Dublin’s Stephen’s Green to set up a night of praise for the greatest love a man or woman can have: football. Among those performing on the night will be Michael D Higgins, Belinda McKeon, Paul Muldoon and Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, and there will be musical performances from Margie Lewis, Barry McCormack and rising star Cian Nugent. It all kicks of at 8.30pm, admission is €10 (all of which goes into the pockets of the Simon Community) and there will be tea and cake. That’s tea and cake, people – it’s the little things that matter.

    Listen: Fiddling about with Beckett is like playing with theatrical fire – the merest change to his directions and text will have the faithful howling in protest. Pan Pan, though, has no fear, and when the results are as strong as its current production, you can see why. All that Fall is getting fairly astonished reactions (you can read Peter Crawley’s review over here, although be warned, as he says at the top of the review, it might detract a little from the show’s surprising magic). But back to that tinkering – the text remains untouched, but this is a radio play that has been ripped from the box and thrown into a theatrical space. And if that isn’t intriguing enough to get you out of your armchair, you can click here for a few exclusive audio extracts from the production. Yes we know, with these Beckettian riches we are really spoiling you.

    Look: Lismore Castle Arts has created a small but essential art event with its annual show. Last year, the atmospheric space was host to some fantastic work by Gerard Byrne, an artist that seems to get an awful lot more attention outside of Ireland than on the home front. (Have a look here at some of his works.) This year’s show, Still Life,  is a more expansive affair and is curated by Polly Staple, and features work by Sherrie Levine, Anne Collier, Gillian Carnegie, Mark Leckey, Richard Wright and Seth Price. At its off-site space in St Carthage Hall you will find Herbei ein Licht!, the work of 18 German artists addressing the theme of Faust. In a suitably creepy show, only one viewer at a time is allowed into a completely dark room, with just a single candle and their own inclinations to guide them. The curators accept no responsibility if you accidentally sell your soul to the devil. For more, click here.

    Bloody artists. I tell them I want paint, I get wallpaper

    Perform: Busking is all very well and good, but it’s hard to get the crowd to seriously consider your latest novel, which you’ve modestly described as a 21st-century successor to Ulysses, when you are competing with sand sculptures of dogs and painted people who don’t actually do anything. So put a roof over your head and tune into a more discerning and demanding audience at the Irish Writers Centre this Sunday at 8pm, and take advantage of The Floor Show, an open mic night for poets, writers and singers. Allow the atmosphere of the centre’s Georgian building to let loose your inner creative free spirit, or just pop along to here some box fresh prose.

    Lastly, for those of you thinking of popping along to the Unitarian Church to see Cian Nugent, here is a little taster of what to expect. His new album has been getting plenty of red hot word of mouth, and listening to this it’s easy to hear why. Enjoy the weekend. It starts …….. now.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend: get a touch of Stendhal syndrome

    August 18, 2011 @ 3:39 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Argue: I haven’t quite figured out what My Bloody Sunday Valentine is all about but it sounds intriguing. The event is coordinated by SHE-D, an experimental group and archive centre, and comes across like an open-mic night for ideas, performances or well-argued point-of-views. The meetings take place on the third Sunday of each month, so assemble at 7pm at 43 Gardiner Lane in Dublin 1, and at this edition expect to be arguing into the small hours over the life and work of German poet, novelist and painter Herman Hesse. The plan is to record and archive each event, and participation is key to the whole fandango. For more information click here. (more…)

  • Guest post: Cutting edge Cavan town

    August 16, 2011 @ 5:42 pm | by Laurence Mackin


    Pop quiz: Where is the most vibrant and multifaceted arts event taking place this week? More than likely, the answer is Cavan town, this week hosting its second Fleadh. For far too many people, the words Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann conjure images of duelling fiddlers, marching bands and moppet-haired dancers, but anyone who experienced last year’s extraordinary festival in Cavan will testify that the Fleadh is about a lot more than mere dancing competitions and ubiquitous trad sessions – it’s a unique sort of week that celebrates not just Irish music and dance, but also finds room for the visual arts, drama and even a lecture series. If you can make it along over the next few days, you won’t be disappointed.

    At the heart of the town’s burgeoning arts scene is the Gonzo Theatre, and founder Philip Doherty is adding hugely to the Fleadh vibe with his hilarious play Fleadh Town, running in the Gonzo’s space above the Imperial Bar on Main Street this week.

    It’s a rambunctious, gloriously profane piece of work, with six actors playing more than 60 characters in a series of ratatat vignettes. What at first feels like a series of well-observed sketches about the run-up to last year’s Fleadh gradually coalesces into a sprawling, interlinked and intricately constructed portrait of a small community coping with a big, big event landing on its door step.

    It’s wildly ambitious – think Short Cuts meets Judd Apatow meets Conversations on a Homecoming – and while it’s occasionally hit and miss, it’s no more so than the average Will Ferrell vehicle, say.

    Between the ingenious plotting, razor-sharp writing and extraordinarily energetic performances from the six actors, this is an impressive achievement, topped off with a trippy, hysterical video cameo from Cavan’s accordion hero Martin Donohue. Confirmation that Philip Doherty is a talent worth keeping an eye on. Check out the trailer for a taste of the Fleadh.

  • 20 ways we clicked with the internet

    August 13, 2011 @ 12:05 am | by Laurence Mackin

    In today’s Weekend Review with The Irish Times, there is an excellent piece by Una Mullally on 20 moments from the past two decades or so when the arts world and the internet collided – with beautiful results. Here is her selection, but I’m sure you all have a few of your own. Leave them below in the comments section and let’s build ourselves a little online arty archive.

    1 Mubi Garage Garage is a subsection of the Mubi website, where new film-makers can discuss, collaborate and – most importantly for you the viewer – upload new film projects. There are more than 3,000 films to choose from; music videos, documentaries, experimental shorts, mini sci-fi adventures and more. In the Projects section, you can check out collections of films from various groups and collaborators. Check out Project #15, Art By Chance, an “ultra short film festival” featuring a series of 30-second films from animation to video art. Now click here.

    2 Stars Eoghan Kidney’s 2005 10-minute animated short about the lives of a couple, Brian (Domhnall Gleeson) and Sophie (Ruth Negga) is an extraordinarily beautiful and powerful piece. Terminally ill, Sophie begins to experience synaesthstic episodes and hallucinations. As her world morphs around her, Brian becomes the only one left to guide her through. Six years on, the emotion, sadness and ultimate beauty of this well-crafted and compelling film still resonates.

    3 The Foucault Lectures In 1980, Michel Foucault delivered four lectures at UC Berkeley. These can now be found on the Ubu website – a treasure trove of writing and lectures with a massive video library storing work by everyone from Salvador Dali to Brian Eno (ubu.com/film) The year before his death in 1984, Foucault would return to Berkely to deliver more lectures on the culture of the self, which are also available here. Now click here.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend: sing a song of Amergin

    August 11, 2011 @ 10:27 am | by Laurence Mackin

    CRAFT:The Song of Amergin is a part of Irish myth, an invocation sung by the druid Amergin that called upon the spirit of Ireland to help him land a ship in safety. It’s stirring stuff; this extract comes from a translation by Robert Graves in The White Goddess:

    I am the stag: of seven tines,
    I am a flood: across a plain,
    I am a wind: on a deep lake,
    I am a tear: the sun lets fall,
    I am a hawk: above the cliff,
    I am a thorn beneath the nail,
    I am a wonder: among flowers

    Better than Braveheart, no? (more…)

  • Short, sharp shocks from the KAF

    August 9, 2011 @ 5:47 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    I have a real soft spot for the Kilkenny Arts Festival. Maybe it’s the atmosphere in the medieval Marble city; maybe it’s the magic of seeing (or indeed playing at) concerts in St Canice’s Cathedral; or maybe it’s all those lovely pints and fantastic conversations in O’Riada’s, Tynan’s or the Hole in the Wall bar.

    So far, I’ve only managed a fleeting visit at the weekend. After playing a gig with 3epkano, I managed to shirk any amp-carrying duty to hotfoot it to the Set Theatre for TrioVD’s explosive set (stop sniggering at the back, they are so-named because they formed on Valentine’s Day). (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend . . . join the KAF

    August 4, 2011 @ 6:15 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    KAF: The Marble City is the destination of the weekend, with the Kilkenny Arts Festival letting its cats out of the bag from tomorrow for 10 days. I’ll be down there tomorrow night playing a live soundtrack to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with 3epkano and Eric Sweeney on the pipe organ, before legging it back up the town to catch Trio VD. We’ve had this band on the blog before, but they’re always welcome in these parts. This is jazz, but perhaps like you haven’t heard it before. It’s frenetically fast and polished, but with enough riffs to keep a metal fan hot in their leather. This could well be the gig of the festival – and it will definitely be one of the loudest. Outstanding, sir.

    Chris Bussey plays the drums so fast his sleeves spontaneously combust (more…)

  • Iceland opens stunning new arts centre in the teeth of a recession

    August 3, 2011 @ 9:19 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    On a recent trip, I passed through Reykjavík (only for an hour or two mind), and I didn’t really have a chance to take in any of the city – I did, though, catch a glimpse of this extraordinary building in an emerging port area in the city.


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