Insert ‘Something Irish’ Here…


I was just amusing myself by thinking of great works of Art/Literature and how I might ‘Irish’ them up a bit.

The reason for this is…

Well, I haven’t a clue really…

Anyway, here’s a few ‘Irished-Up’ classics I thought of:

Stanzas Written in Dejection near Ballintubber.

Romeo and Mary-Francis

The ‘Maureen Lisa’

The Haystack Inferno

The Cray-ture in The Rye

I was reminded of this little game while I was looking over something I wrote ages ago.

In that 'thing', two characters were arguing as to why there was no such thing as a Great Irish Opera.

One character suggested that Puccini's ‘La Boheme’ could be transcribed down to Killarney, complete with the show-stopping aria;

"Yer Tiny Hand is Feckin’ Freezin’ (so it is)".

This little game can be applied to most Artistic Endeavours:

Bob Dylan – "Lie Down, Woman, Lie Down"

Henrik Ibsen – "Peer Gynt’s Goat"

Perhaps you might try putting a few of your own local places into your favourite famous works:

Ode on a Glaswegian Urn?

Indianapolis and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?

Bleak Sten-House-Muir?

Try it. It’s a blast – a small one – but a blast nonetheless.

Sorry?

"’Get out more?"

Why?

Is there a Dr. Marten in the House?

One of my most-treasured idiosyncrasies is that I only ever own one pair of shoes at a time.

I polish them up for posh occasions and wear work boots and wellies whenever the going gets really tough and so my solitary pair of shoes last me a good long time. When I get my new shoes, I put the old ones in the bin and walk away.

I always wear the same brand of shoes. Dr. Martens Classic 1462 – Black – three eyelets – absolutely no yellow stitching. It’s a great shoe and, no, this is not a sponsored link.

Here’s the point.

Last week when my newest-of-the-new shoes arrived, I started wondering how I had ever become so attached to this particular shoe and the wondering took me back to my first encounter with a Doc Marten shoe.

I think I had actually blocked this painful and stupid memory from my brain. Anyway, here it is, in all its truth and inanity.

Christmas, 1987, my new girl would be expecting a nice Christmas present. She’s my wife now and some things don’t ever change. Anyway, hints had been dropped about a nice pair of brown Doc Marten shoes which could be found in the famous ‘Shelleys’ shoe shop in Sloane Square, London. We lived in London then so it wasn’t, like, a ferry trip across the Irish Sea or anything.

So I went to Shelley’s - a great shop - ('still not a sponsored link) and bought the shoes off a very nice girl behind a very nice oaken wood counter.

(Here’s where I do something remarkably silly. Look away if you are squeamish.)

The girl gave me two receipts – I think that’s what threw me. One receipt, I can handle but two? I needed to keep the receipt… receipts… in case the shoes didn’t fit (or fitted an ugly step-sister, or something) but how the hell do I deal with two receipts?

There was a stapler lying on the nice-girls counter. Not just any stapler. A powerful, silver, staple-gun-type-thingie.

In a flash, I had it – I would staple the two receipts together, for safe keeping. After politely asking "May I?" I placed the two receipts on the polished hardwood Sloane Square counter and lined the gun up to staple them together.

I stopped.

What had I been thinking? This powerful staple gun had no ‘back’ on it – no platform for the staple to be pushed into. The staple – and my two receipts - would be embedded into the wonderful oaken-wood countertop. Much embarrassment would undoubtedly ensue.

I smiled winningly at the girl.

Then I quickly (it had to be quick) picked up the two receipts and aligned them both along the outside edge of my index finger. Then, drawing back, I fired a single thick stainless steel staple through the two receipts and on into the soft depths of my digit.

The girl behind the preserved oaken wood counter recoiled in horror. What was this guy? A suicide-by-staple-gun fanatic or something? For my own part, I panicked, screamed then danced around a little – my receipts fluttering gently in the air. The whole shop stood and watched.

In an attempt to regain control of the situation, I slipped my finger nail under the end of the fully-embedded staple and pulled it out. It hadn’t folded over on itself inside my flesh – which was kind of good.

The staple was followed out of my finger by the mother-and-father of all blood-gushers.

I grabbed a tissue off the pristine oak counter (in retrospect, what a well-equipped counter that was), wrapped up my finger, apologised and simultaneously bled profusely, then left. My finger swelled up like a big swollen up thingie and bled weepingly for most of that day. My wife-to-be loved the shoes and the blood stained receipt from Shelleys is now a treasured family heirloom.

And from that time on, I have worn only Dr. Martens shoes.

Beowulf on DVD... Hmmmmm


I often choose my Friday night DVD's with my son John in mind.

He's twelve now and enjoys a good Friday Night Veggie as much as his old dad. But the choice is limited. Many of the old staples have been raided at this stage.

So it was with some anticipation that I rented Robert Zemeckis' (sort of) animated version of Beowulf.

I figured it would have enough dragons and creatures to keep the young man engaged while I would have a touch of Anglo-Scandinavian Epic poetry and... em... Angelina's Digitised Boobies to keep me in my seat.

Okay...

It didn't work for me, sorry.

The quality of this digitised animation just hasn't reached a technological stage yet where I can bypass it and just engage with the story. The nuts and bolts of the technology is just too 'out there' for me to avoid.

For all the braggery of how great a feat this movie is, for me it just looked like a Shrek (1) without all the excellent laughs that we had back then.

In fact, it all takes itself a bit too seriously and, as a result, raises quite a few unintentional laughs.

The bit where Beowulf takes off all his clothes to battle Grendal results in some colossal visual gymnastics in order to keep Big B's appendage off the screen.

Really 'Austin Powers' would have been proud of this one, as our hero bounds from strategically placed candlestick to candlestick which all fall away obediently every time he turns his (computer) sculpted arse to the screen.

Most memorable by far is Ray Winstone intoning in his best East London accent, "I've come ta kill yo' monstah".

That's just great!!

But overall it's not.

'Just great' that is.

Of course, I didn't get to see it in 3D.

I'm sure that would have been quite a display - what with all those swords, dragons and comely maidens protruding their bits out into the theatre.

Perhaps Ray's digitised appendage might have even taken a turn up the auditorium aisle in that version.

No, perhaps not.

Book Review - The Book Thief/On Chesil Beach

The Castlebar Book Club choices for February/March were ‘On Chesil Beach’ by Ian McEwan and ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak.


I loved ‘On Chesil Beach’, hell I suggested it to them.
The level of detail and intimacy in it reminded my of McEwan’s slightly earlier novel ‘Saturday’. Both these books blew me away on account of the often-microscopic eye the author brings to bear on the lives and affairs of his characters.


Both books also have something else in common.



In both cases, the stories roped me in, enthralled and ‘convinced’ me. However, in the cold light of day, when all the reading was done and the writer’s hold over me was broken, then the resolutions in both books left me something less than convinced.

In ‘On Chesil Beach’, a naive misunderstanding leads to far-reaching consequences (a bit of a recurring theme in McEwan’s writing methinks).
It’s just that those far-reaching thingies were just a little too ‘far-reaching’ for my credulity to bear.

Nonetheless, this is an excellent, slender, thoughtful read (with a little graphic content, so be warned) and I commend it unto you.


‘The Book Thief’ is a good read too.
It took me quite a while to get through it – I don’t really know why because it’s not particularly dense or demanding.


It covers similar ground to the central part of ‘The Tin Drum’ by Günter Grass.

The heroine, Liesel, is a little girl who is adopted into a German family after her parents are taken to a concentration camp. Her adventures on Himmel Street during the burgeoning war makes for a well-written and entertaining story.

For me, her experiences came across a little like ‘World War 2 Lite’.



Although the effects of the war and of Hitler’s tenure are not flinched away from, the conceit of using a narrator who views the events from an elevated vista somehow removes a layer of reality from the events described.

One always feels one is inside a story rather than inside any kind of reality.

The fact that the narrator is ‘Death’, ‘The Grim Reaper’, (whatever you call him) seems to be neither here nor there. This device, for me, only serves to delay the reader's entry into the story and, as it constantly reasserts itself, the story remains oddly remote.

The ending of the book (no spoilers, don’t worry) provided a satisfying conclusion to the story.

This was a book which I looked forward to getting back to and that is a commendation in itself.

Perhaps not quite as good as the wealth of glowing reviews which adorn its covers, this is still one to enjoy.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Well if we Irish Bloggers can't wish the World at Large a little Peace and Joy on our national holiday then who can?

Here's an Irish Joke for you all;

An Irishman went looking for a job on a building site in London. The foreman set him a question as a little test.

"What," he asked, "is the difference between a Joist and a Girder?"

"Easy," our (Irish) hero replied, "Joist wrote 'Ulysses' whereas Girder wrote 'Faust'.

(Blogger dances off towards stage left)

Ta da dah-dah ta da duh-uh-uh (crash)

:)

Writing in the Dark Room

Becuase I've been so lucky in having plays I've written produced and 'realised', I've been getting into a bit of trouble lately.

Whereas before, when nobody was seeing the writing, I didn't give a shit what I wrote - I would leg out any kind of old crap and just enjoy the freefall magic of producing - but now I sometimes feel the weight of a potential audience on my back.

The result is that I tread more carefully in my writing, thinking things through carefully as I go, honing the sentences, the meter and even the bloody puctuation, God help us.

This is no good.

I am no longer practicing what I preach, which is the old adage, "don't get it right, get it written.'

I am dicking around when I should be lashing the product out without care for the finished article.

All of that 'polishing-shit' needs to come later.

The writer is a sculptor who must first make his own block of stone from which to carve his Art. Too many of us try to fashion our literary statue from scratch... too many of us fail.

We need a rough block of stone/wood/words which we can later toy with and make perfect. 'Toying with' is easy - it's getting that bloody block of... whatever, that is the curse.

So I'm fed up honing and dithering around - I'm going back to basics.

I'm going to try some free-writing for while - write anything for a set period (ten minutes works for me). No editing, no typo correcting, no stopping.

If you can't think of anything to write, you write about the fact that you can't think about anything to write (savvy?).

To add to the monastic churning effect I seek, I'm using a dinky little programme called 'Dark Room' which just offers you a black screen and some green text - no fancy formatting gizmos or widgets, just me and the words.

I just finished a little session before I wrote this and boy but it's liberating.

I don't have to get it right - not right now - I just have to get it writtten.

And I will... by golly I will.

My Writing Resume

Click here for my latest posts.

Although this is a writing blog, I don't talk about my own writing as much as I thought I was going to.

In case you're wondering if I've ever actually written anything, here's a list of my produced work. I'm only listing writing which has had a full production - there's loads and loads of un-produced material that will hopefully add to this list one day.




Radio Plays

Visualise

Channel 31

To Sleep

The J-Seat

Grainne’s Cut

A Place in Between

Show and Tell

Conception Pregnancy and Bert

Theatre Plays:

To Sleep

Julie’s Call

Paul’s Talent

The Moon Cut Like a Sickle

Midnight in the Theatre of Blood

Dream On

Fine 

The Doubles Partner (Claremorris Fringe Winner 2013)

Dance Night 

Conception Pregnancy and Bert

Visualise 

The Line Rehearsal 

Eight (coming Spring 2017)

Deb's Night (coming Spring 2017)

Acting:

A founder member of and actor with KODE Theatre Company (2004). Three productions to date:

One for the Road

Ritual for Dolls

Impromptu

Competitions:

Twice Winner: London Radio Playwright’s Festival

Winner: Dickens Museum Anniversary Short Story Competition

Twice Winner: Mid and North West Radio Play Competition

Shortlisted: P.J. O’Connor Award (Radio)

Shortlisted: Society of Irish Playwright’s O.Z. Whitehead One Act Play Competition.

Second Place: Edith Ruddick Award – Radio Play

Shortlisted: Mid and North West Short Story Competition

Shortlisted: Irlam Fringe Festival 2014

Winner: Claremorris Fringe Theatre Festival 2013, Shortlisted: 2014, 2015, 2016

As Reviewer/Reader/Shortlister

Woolwich Young Radio Playwright’s Competition – Shortlist reader for three years.

London Radio Playwright’s Competition – shortlist reader for two years.

Currently holding several 'reader' positions but sworn to secrecy on them all.

Film

Writer in association with Claddagh Films, Kinvara, Co. Galway

Channel 31 - a short film, played Galway Film Festival 2010 (and other festivals) on TV soon...

Novel

Finished my first one - hasn't everyone?

Now busy writing the second. I think it's going to be quite good.

Young Balally Players go boy-racing in April.


I spotted this little 'thing' about the up-coming production of my play and thought I might repost it here. Hope that's okay.


Young Balally Players go Boy-Racing in April.


Director Oran O'Rua is bringing a fairly recent play to the Mill Theatre Studio space in April with a very recently formed group of young actors within Balally Players.


The play is 'The Moon Cut Like A Sickle' by Ken Armstrong.


It's a drama written for a teenage cast and is centred around the theme of so-called 'boy-racing'.


The dialogue is fast paced and the writing gives ample scope to tap into the energy and drive of an enthusiastic group of young players.


That's exactly what Oran has assembled.


His rehearsal schedule is underway and the production opens in the Mill Theatre Studio at 8pm on Tuesday 15 April and runs until Saturday 19 April.


The Tom Waits song 'Romeo is Bleeding' has a line that gives not only the title of the play, but also commentary on the way a gang divides into watchers and doers, before and after the inevitable tragic consequence of its dangerous bravado is acted out.


"... and they all try to stand like Romeo beneath the moon cut like a sickle ..."


The play first came to the attention of Balally Players last summer when some members of the group participated in rehearsed readings as part of the The Drama League of Ireland (DLI) organised ‘New Irish Writing’ programme.


The playwright Ken Armstrong, who lives and works in Castlebar, Co Mayo was one of four writers who reached the final workshops in that programme.


'The Moon Cut Like A Sickle' was first performed by 'Do You Playhouse' in their native Castlebar, as well as in Sligo's Hawkswell Theatre. The theatre group is for young people aged 13 to 18 and was founded by Oisín Heraghty and Donna Ruane in 2003.


The Sligo production of the play was covered on RTE Radio in November 2006 and you can listen to the feature from 'The Eleventh Hour' here.


Those dates again are; Tuesday 15 April until Saturday 19 April. I'm hoping one of my favorite bloggers will be coming to review it (if her collarbone permits!) So watch that space... as well as this space, of course.

Stupid in the Ocean

Sometimes when I see a phrase I like I try to write a lyric for it.

Never any music alas.

So I saw the expression 'Stupid in the Ocean' yesterday...

Stupid in the Ocean
(inspired by a ranting-sort-of-a-blog by Naomi)

I'm stupid in the ocean
Brainless in the brine
Very dopey dans la mer
now you're no longer mine

I'm silly in the salty swell
insane in the sea
witless in the watery wave
now you're not here with me

I should not have come without you
I should have stayed at home
Instead of bobbing stupidly
Upon this stupid foam

I'm hapless in the H2O
Barmy in the bay
Alone in the Atlantic
now that you've gone away

This Entrecard Thing...

Yes.

I'm not sure how well this Entrecard thing will work for me as a marketing tool.

I think at least part of the idea is that you zip around people's Blogs, leaving your little card in much the same way as the Easter Bunny leaves imaginary droppings on your lawn.

Part of the idea, I understand.

See, my problem is that so many of these Blogs are so good.

I can't be dropping my little card and pissing-off to the next just like that.

I gotta have a l'il sniff around...

'Half hour later I'm still there, checking out a noodle recipe or learning how to deal with my teen offspring several years before I need to know.

So maybe Entrecard won't work as a marketing tool for me but guess what?

I don't really need a marketing tool

I need Input.

And, boy, there's plenty of that.

Atonement Comment

Finally managed to see 'Atonement' on DVD last night.

I really liked it.

I thought, if one viewed it as a three act story (four acts, really I think). Then the first act was blindingly good but the second act lagged quite heavily.

That first act set up a series of small events with devastating consequences which were beautifully observed by the screenwriter Christopher Hampton.

(God, I remember Les Liasons Dangereuses in London years ago... wow!).

It was also brilliantly presented to the screen in terms of design and photography.

The second act was realised in similarly blinding fashion.

It contains what must be one of the most impressive single sequences we hae ever seen, where the soldiers gather at Dunkirk.

Great but...

But...

Didn't the story largely go away in Act 2? And didn't it stay away for just a bit too long?

One can argue that this war-torn diversion served to set up a gripping-third-act return to the story and I can't disagree - I wouldn't have known how to do it differently myself. But the film damn near left me stranded in Dunkirk. And that would have been a shame, given how very very good the overall effect is.

And, because this is intended to be an earnest comment about a very good film. I just won't get into Keira Knightley coming up out of that fountain in her little semi-trasparent pink shift.

...

(PHOOOOOAGHHHH!!!!)

Damn, I got into it there for a moment, didn't I?