Ó Sé juggles saints and surreal to make Rose of Tralee look easy
TV Review: First night of ‘The Rose of Tralee’ was heavy on beauty but light on talent displays
Dáithí Ó Sé gets iced on stage at the Rose of Tralee Festival in the Dome, Tralee. Photograph: Domnick Walsh / Eye Focus
Host Daithi O Se with some of the 32 Irish and International Roses taking part in the 2014 International Rose Selection at the launch of this years Rose of Tralee Festival last week. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
“I won’t lie to you, I’ve a handy enough job here,” said presenter Dáithí Ó Sé, kicking off the 55th Rose of Tralee, (RTÉ One, Monday) which isn’t true at all because hosting three hours of live TV on one of RTÉ’s most hyped TV shows, that’s also a national institution, is a big ask.
But the Kerryman is the man for the job – proving again on Monday night that he’s up for the craic and well able for the many surreal moments the annual pageant threw his way during the interviews.
He didn’t have to kiss a fish like last year but he got to handle a range of topics unique to this most particular, borderline bizarre competition, from the chat with southern Californian Rose Katie Bergman about her pulmonary embolism and the Kerry Rose Mary Hickey about the value of her Yaris car, (€8,000 in case you were wondering); to the Galway Rose Nicola Corcoran who told him he looked like St Don Bosco, and Laois Rose Teresa Brennan who explained how her mother is an expert on the Common Agricultural Policy.
Forget the tin whistle playing and the singing of the sort generations of children have been forced into performing on Christmas Day for their grannies, it’s the interviews that make this display of diaspora womanhood like no other beauty pageant.
Though so far this year, and we’ve only seen part one of the competition and just 16 Roses, displays of talent were in seriously short supply.
The women all looked beautiful, the dresses classy and gorgeous, but some Roses didn’t do any party piece at all. Not even the old reliable poetry recitation, ideal for those who can’t dance, sing or play the harp.
Although the South Australia Rose, Sarah Harrington, read out a poem so filled with emigrant gloom it would have given Angela’s Ashes a run for its misery and Darwin Rose Natalie Kelly recited her poem about “My lovely little I-er-land” – the last time I heard that pronunciation it was in The Quiet Man.
Still I suspect many viewers were distracted during Natalie’s recitation by the unfortunate positioning of the two large sponge-covered microphones right in front of her breasts. Later shots of poetry readers stayed close to their faces. So there was the odd technical snafu – but I suspect the occasional shaky camera is semi-deliberate, to make the whole event seem somehow more down-home and real.
There were new production elements this year borrowed from other, more slick, reality shows. RTÉ’s Will Leahy appeared every now and then to read out tweets – though reasonably enough he steered clear of the derogatory ones that livened up the #roseoftralee feed. For viewers watching on the RTÉ Player there was a separate, additional programme.