Pushing the envelope inside the Rose dome


A man in drag dressed in a maid’s uniform was giving Roses lessons in deportment. What next?

SO what about that Banana song on the Rose of Tralee last night?

Sung complete with actions on a programme that showcases the best of the global community of young Irish women. Take it away the Sunderland Rose: Slice banana (slice, slice banana). Peel banana (peel, peel banana). Flip banana. (flip, flip, etc, etc).

Our sides split. The heat under the twinkly lights of a dome packed with 2000 people going literally bananas does funny things to a person.

Eighteen Roses took to the stage last night for Round One of the 53-year–old televisual trooper that is the Rose of Tralee an event which operates on a strict “if it ain’t broke don’t change a hair on its pretty head” policy.

“Three Roses. Ad Break. Three Roses. Break. Three Roses. Break” As second time host Dáithí Ó Sé, a man who was born to do this gig, suggested yesterday the unchanging TV format for the contest is “a bit like Christmas”.

This analogy can be stretched even further to suggest that you might feel a bit ill afterwards but sure it’s only once a year. If viewing figures are anything to go by us Rose gluttons just can’t help ourselves.

And as Ó Sé also said “if people don’t like it well they have a remote control”.

First up on stage Philadelphia Rose Beth Keely, who used to work on Sesame Street, was polite enough not to call the presenter a muppet, something commentator Will Leahy couldn’t resist. Kermit Ó Sé was back to the Dome as an engaged man having recently popped the question to the 2009 New Jersey Rose Rita Talty. He said he took a tip from “that well known Sean Nós singer Beyonce, who said ‘if you like it then you should put a ring on it”.

Speaking to journalists yesterday he described all the Roses as “so beautiful”.

Watch it Ó Sé, you’re a nearly married man. “Just because you are chained to the post doesn’t mean you can’t bark at the cars,” he replied quick as a flash.

Dáithí might be a man who likes to live dangerously but change is a bit of a dirty word in Tralee at this time of year.

It’s not as though the contestants didn’t try.

We had a salsa dancing Rose, a Rose doing a jig to techno music, a Rose who was an extra in a Colin Farrell movie and a Rose who admitted to accidentally injecting herself with worming medicine for cattle, surely a Rose first.

But for the most part things stay the same around festival time in Tralee. Having said that one of the organisers confirmed to The Irish Timesthat the Rose of Tralee festival wants to “push the envelope”. Which is all well and good but who knows where that sort of forward-thinking nonsense might end?

Well there was a bit of a hint sitting in the foyer of Rose of Tralee HQ the Carlton Hotel. London based performance artist Harold Offeh was there dressed up as Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel’s “Mammy” character from Gone With the Wind waiting to give etiquette lessons to the Roses over lunch.

That’s right. A man in drag dressed in a maid’s uniform was giving Roses lessons in deportment. You could’ve knocked us over with a fascinator.

As Mammy’s boss Scarlet might say, tomorrow is another day. In a continuing bid to push the envelope tonight the format is expected to change ever so slightly. Three Roses. Break. Three Roses. Break.

Three Roses. Enter Drag Queen channelling Lady GaGa while carried high on the shoulders of a troupe of half naked Escorts one of which has a wooden leg.

Or rather, three Roses. Break. Three Roses. Enter super cool Liberties darling Imelda May to perform from her new album live from the Dome.

One step at a time, people, one step at a time.