Fintan O’Toole’s cultural highs and lows of 2014

Lisa Dwan’s series of performances was startling

 

What were your cultural highlights of 2014?

Michael Longley’s beautifully fragile evocation of life, death, nature and memory in The Stairwell. Bryan Cranston’s utterly gripping Lyndon Baines Johnson in Richard Schenkkan’s All the Way. Colm Tóibín’s intricate, moment-by-moment plotting of grief in Nora Webster. The wonderfully loopy Leonora Carrington exhibition at Imma.

Catching up with and being caught up in Eimear McBride’s ferocious and fearless A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. The unconfined joy of The Gloaming. Mikel Murfi’s deeply moving performance in Ballyturk and Ciaran Hinds’s in The Night Alive. Lorrie Moore’s impeccable and inimitable stories in Bark. The rapturous linguistic landscape of Sebastian Barry’s The Temporary Gentleman. Finally getting to see some kabuki in Tokyo.

And the year’s biggest disappointments?

The Government’s malign neglect of the arts and culture: not a red cent extra in the budget; no action on the sale of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre; the John McNulty and Imma-board farce; allowing the National Library of Ireland and National Museum of Ireland to approach collapse. And perhaps the worst single line I’ve heard in the theatre: “I think I’m a bee,” in John Patrick Shanley’s faux-Irish drama Outside Mullingar, on Broadway.

What caught you by surprise?

Lisa Dwan’s performance of three short Samuel Beckett plays – Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby was startling in its power, originality and virtuosity. There’s been nothing quite like it before. Also in Beckettland, Adrian Dunbar’s magical-mystery-tour production of Catastrophe at Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival.

And what will you be glad to see or hear the last of?

Ministerial blather about how much we value culture. Maybe “we” do, but you certainly don’t.

Who or what was 2014’s unsung hero?

Not quite unsung, but unplayed: the great Tony McMahon’s farewell to music leaves a silence in the air.

What’s your top tip for 2015?

The Druid/Mark O’Rowe version of Shakespeare’s Henry plays should be a dangerous walk on a high-wire strung between “these islands”.

2014 in three words?

In spite of . . .

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