Normal People benefited from the pandemic, says Lenny Abrahamson
Abrahamson and Nadine Reid featured on day two of The Irish Times Summer Nights Festival
Lenny Abrahamson. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
“The first few days after Normal People was broadcast, it felt like the quality of the tweets I was reading sounded like they might have been drafted by my mum”, Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson told Irish Times Arts Editor Hugh Linehan, on the second night of the Irish Times Summer Nights Festival on Tuesday.
The festival – supported by Peugeot – is a series of online talks taking place until Thursday 16th.
Discussing the fevered reception that Normal People enjoyed on its broadcast earlier this year, Lenny said: “It was amazing – it functioned both as a lovely ending of making the process of the show, but a lovely distraction of the anxiety that was floating around in part early on during lockdown.”
Speaking on Zoom from Valentia Island, Co Kerry, Abrahamson admitted that Normal People’s success benefited partly from the timing of the pandemic.
“For one thing, it’s a show about intimacy, and it’s made in the way which encourages an intimate relationship with the character,” Lenny noted. “It seems to be people were more open to that encounter, in a way. In the bustle and noise of a normally constituted life – maybe one is moving too quickly to experience a show of this kind in quite the way that people did.”
Abrahamson described the show’s female lead Daisy Edgar-Jones (Marianne) as “exquisite”, while Linehan said male lead Paul Mescal (Connell) was a “Greek god in a GAA tracksuit”.
On the Kildare-born actor, Lenny noted: “If you walked down the street with Paul prior to Normal People, people would say, ‘what a lovely guy’. He’s really good-looking but he wasn’t someone who would walk into a bar and have everyone go ‘Oh my God’. He’s a beautiful, wonderful person in terms of every metric, but he’s only now ‘Paul Mescal’, and will be forever more.”
Abrahamson also discussed the infamous Liveline discussion around Normal People’s sex scenes. “My wife is Polish, and she constantly goes on about Ireland being amazing, open and inclusive – she contrasts it with Poland. I tell her about the 1990s in Ireland, and when she got to hear Liveline… it was like the 1980s calling down the decades to us,” says Abrahamson .
Earlier in the evening, TV presenter Nadine Reid spoke all things beauty with Irish Times beauty writer Laura Kennedy. The conversation ran a glorious gamut from glitter sprays used during smear tests to the benefits of silk pillowcases.
Wearing a red stole, glitter dress and Margaret O’Connor rose headpiece, Reid said she had been keeping an eye on lockdown beauty trends since lockdown began, and has found that in the US, make-up sales have been down 22 per cent in the first quarter. Closer to home, large retailers have reported that skincare sales are up 157 per cent.
Talking about working with Irish clients and their evident penchant for tanning, Reid added: “I don’t know how many times I’ve said to Irish clients, ‘why don’t you love your skin colour? You need to work on this!’ I’ve been raised to embrace and celebrate and love my skin colour. It’s weird for me to work with clients who don’t.”
The Irish Times Summer Nights Festival continues until Thursday 16th. Upcoming Guests include: author Anne Enright; former rugby player Paul O’Connell; former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power; lawyer; former White House insider Melody Barnes; and musician Imelda May.
Tickets for the rest of the festival are on sale at a reduced price of €20, which gives access to all remaining events. Simply click here and apply the discount code “summer20” before purchase to avail of the €20 price. For digital subscribers the discount will be automatically applied – just make sure you are signed in to The Irish Times before you click here.
Ticket buyers receive a link by email on the day of the festival, allowing them to attend the events on all four evenings via their phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.