The heart of the matter and the centre of attention
TELEVISION:The versatile Bláthnaid Ní Chofaig shows comic talent in TG4’s satire – and balance in a powerful RTÉ interview
It’s been nearly three years since the first series of An Crisis, TG4’s sharp, satirical drama set in a half-baked Irish-language quango, so the second series, Crisis Eile (Wednesday), has been a long time coming. Perhaps acknowledging the time gap, its writer, Antoine Ó Flatharta, has changed the location, making Crisis Eile appear more a standalone comedy series, albeit with the same sharp satirical bite, than a follow-on.
Series one was set in Dublin, with the bumbling Setanta (Risteárd Cooper) heading a team of dysfunctional, daft or jobsworth public servants attempting to keep their cushy gig as the beady eyes of accountability bore down on them. As the quango’s function was to promote the Irish language and culture, it was a subversive subject for TG4 to give the green light to.
In this series, Cooper is gone and the new location is Brussels, where the former minister for transport, self-important battleaxe Maeve Kelly Clarke (Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, underplaying it nicely and displaying a real talent for comic acting), has been exiled “as a reward for her many blunders” to the political boonies: the European Commission.
She’s given culture, heritage, multilingualism and climate action, a portfolio with the least promise or purpose – not that gravy-train Clarke is too interested in the finer details. Subtitles! A new EU commissioner! A Scandinavian official! It’s like Borgen – except of course it’s not.
An Crises Eile is funny and hits its targets head on. The format is old-fashioned sitcom, so the first episode (of six) was about setting the scene and introducing characters. Some who appeared in the first series (including the effortlessly comic Norma Sheahan) are now exiled in Brussels too. There were several swipes at EU bureaucracy, Irish political dynasties and Ryanair, including a running gag about the dreadful service on “Nolanair”, the budget airline that the new commissioner travels with “for the optics”.
Though maybe Clarke’s translator dying midmeeting and then being kept in the stationary cupboard was a bit too out of kilter with the rest of the comedy that worked so well because it was rooted in reality. And viewers afraid they won’t have a clue what’s going on should tune in: it’s mostly in English.
I suspect that as many people will see Crisis Eile as Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh’s other programme this week. The Truth of the Matter (RTÉ One) pitched up in the God slot on Sunday night. It’s a pity, because she was talking to Tom Curran, partner of Marie Fleming, the woman with MS who brought her right-to-die case to the High Court in December. (She lost her case but has lodged an appeal.)
Their wide-ranging, honest conversation covered the changes in a relationship when one person becomes a carer, the devastation of progressive illness and the pain of the inevitable loss when Fleming’s wish to die by assisted suicide is carried out – there was certainty in Curran’s voice that that would happen.
It put a human face on the news bulletins about the case. The conversation flowed easily between the two despite the uncomfortable setting – they were mostly perched awkwardly on what looked like a hard bench in a religious meeting house.