Radio Review: Ray D’Arcy comes back on air with a frog in his throat, but soon finds his voice – and his persona
The Today FM presenter’s freeranging style works well, but he doesn’t always make the right transition from light to shade
Never a man shy about speaking his mind, Ray D’Arcy started the week uncharacteristically stuck for words. Given that the August lull is upon us, he could be forgiven for being short of topics, but the problem was more prosaic. Having been away on holidays, the presenter was a bit ring rusty as he settled back into his berth (The Ray D’Arcy Show, Today FM, weekdays), his patter stalling amid attempts to clear his throat. “I haven’t been talking a lot, so I’m just getting my voice back,” he admitted. “So excuse me if I sound a little hem-hem.”
Such moments emphasised how free-ranging talk shows such as D’Arcy’s rely on the confident timbre of the host’s voice, all the more during the news drought of the silly season. As it happened, D’Arcy’s vocal stumble was fleeting, which was lucky, because there were indications that his mind was still elsewhere, as when he contrasted Ireland’s population with that of the UK: 4,500 compared with 60,000, apparently.
But D’Arcy also showed off his ability to move easily between light and shade while maintaining his distinctive persona. On Tuesday he joshed irreverently with the comic actor Adam Sandler before affirming his mutual atheism with the broadcaster and Irish Times columnist Vincent Browne, all the while sounding very much like himself.
The following day D’Arcy attempted an even bigger shift in mood. After an item on Kilkenny being named the friendliest city in Europe, he went on to a discussion about the impact of murder on victims’ families. This time the transition was less successful.
Speaking to John, whose sister Sharon Whelan was murdered along with her daughters Zara and Nadia on Christmas Day in 2008, and Rose, whose daughter Rachel O’Reilly was brutally killed by her husband, Joe, in 2004, the mood was sombre. The guests spoke of the void left by violent bereavement – “It’s like someone turned the colour down on the world,” said John – as well as the ongoing legacy of emotional turmoil, with Rose contrasting her lack of rage with her husband’s “huge issue with anger”.
But the item also had an uneasy undercurrent of prurience, particularly when D’Arcy appeared to milk the anguish. “It’s constantly there,” he remarked at one stage, in regard to his guests’ mental torment. “Is it every hour, every minute?”
The interview was memorable, but, predicated on human interest rather than newsworthiness, it was symptomatic of the seasonal need to grab listeners’ attention however one can. Then again, D’Arcy does that anyway.
Of course, there were news stories to be chewed over last week, most notably the Dublin Bus strike. On Tuesday, with the buses still off the capital’s streets, Joe Duffy invited listeners to opine on the matter on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). But the issue failed to rouse the ding-dong one might have expected from Liveline’s usually splenetic listeners.