Arts

Meath singer Sibéal to perform at Sydney's Zone Out Festival

An up-and-coming Irish songstress has released her debut album ahead of a trip down under.

County Meath native Sibéal Ní Chasaide will perform repertoire from her self-titled work at Sydney’s Zone Out Festival at the end of September, joining an international line up with her fresh take on Irish folk.

Sibéal is an unexpected star in the 2019 music scene, introducing audiences worldwide to sean-nós, the traditional and emotive style of singing in Ireland's Gaeltacht.

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The 21-year-old has said of her unique sound, “I like…bringing the contemporary edge to sean-nós singing.

“That’s who I am essentially, I’m not just a one-dimensional person.”

She also performs songs in English with Blackbird and The Parting Glass nestled among the tunes sung as Gaeilge, ensuring the eponymous album’s universal appeal.

Sibéal rose to prominence as a school student when renowned composer Patrick Cassidy heard her sing and invited her to perform vocals for a centenary documentary, 1916: The Irish Rebellion.

Sibéal discusses her journey to success.

Her live performance of Mise Éire - the moving centrepiece of the score - with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra cemented her status as one to watch.

She has since recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios and shared her voice with audiences in the United States, Canada and the UK, accustomed to the touring life after spending her childhood travelling with her father and uncles’ Irish folk band.

Sibéal has been called a young woman of the new Ireland returning Irish music to the international arena.

The Zone Out Festival features international and Australian neo-classical artists, yoga sessions, panel discussions and film screenings.

The event takes place at Carriageworks on Saturday, September 28.

Dara Ó Briain renews love affair with Australia

One of Ireland’s best loved comics is back in Australia.

Dara Ó Briain is well known from British television shows such as Mock the Week and The Apprentice You’re Fired but he was familiar to Irish audiences long before that from shows like Don’t Feed the Gondolas and The Panel.

Fast-talking, charismatic, incredibly sharp and intelligent as well as very, very funny, Ó Briain brings his Voice of Reason tour to Australia this week.

The Bray native has long held a great affection for Australia and almost moved to Melbourne at one point, he reveals.

“I had a couple of big years in Australia when I was much younger as a comic. I came over for the Melbourne Festival, did the Adelaide Fringe and I genuinely thought I was going to be spending a lot of time in Australia.

Ó Briain with actor Kenneth Branagh at an Embassy of Ireland function in London. Picture: Jeff Spicer

Ó Briain with actor Kenneth Branagh at an Embassy of Ireland function in London. Picture: Jeff Spicer

“I even looked at buying a flat in Melbourne. I totally fell for the place and then I didn’t go back for 16 years because of work.

“I got screwed over by RTE at home basically: ‘No, no, no, don’t go to Australia because we’re definitely going to do a thing with ya’. And I lost out on the Melbourne Festival because RTE promised me to do something.

“Basically it got to a point in my life where it was difficult to justify to my new wife why I would spend three months partying in Australia so it became less of a priority and it became a distant thing until a few years ago when i went back again.

“It was like, ‘where have you been all my life?’ It was fantastic but it was very different to go from playing a small room at a comedy festival in Melbourne to doing two nights in the Opera House in Sydney which is what we did last time. That was like, ‘Okay, this is great, I haven’t had to do any work to get this but I’m in the Opera House, fantastic’. Australia’s golden, glorious for me. I love it to bits.”

It was in 2017 that the now 47-year-old was last here to do those two shows at Sydney Opera House as well as gigs in Melbourne and Perth.

O’Briain almost moved to Melbourne 16 years ago.

O’Briain almost moved to Melbourne 16 years ago.

He constantly met the young Irish in Australia at the time and empathised with them and the dreaded farm work requirement for those who want to extend their stay.

“There was a bit of irritation over their whole 88 days. The opening line I had was, ‘Hello Sydney, I’m going to Melbourne, then I’ve got to do 88 days working on a farm, then I’ve got a show in Perth’. That was the opening line that I had and that got a huge laugh from the Irish, all of whom were trying to avoid doing 88 days working on a farm.

“The audience was one third Irish, one third British and one third Australian so it made kind of an interesting tension to play with.

“You couldn’t just fall back on the idea of it being an Irish expat crowd, that kind of, ‘oh my God, remember the old days?’ Luckily I don’t have to do that so it keeps you fairly honest.

“The (Australian) audiences are not that different, they’re storytellers like the Irish.”

Ó Briain may be familiar from his television presenting, and has been announced as the host of a forthcoming revamped Blockbusters, but his own stand-up shows allow him more freedom.

“Mock the Week, the panel show is great fun to do because you’re amongst friends ... but in terms of delivering the best comedy I can do, that happens when I’ve got you for a while, when I’ve got you for the evening. When I’ve got you for two halves of the show, I know I can set something up at the start that pays off an hour and a half later.

“When you’re doing a panel show, it’s really in and then out of there and that’s great, great for getting gags out, gags rather than stories.

Also read: Orange Is The New Black actor to star in Martin McDonagh play

“On stage, you really come across as who you are, personality-wise and can play with that. I have their attention now and instead of going boom, boom, boom with the jokes, I’m going to set them up and the dominoes will fall later. Especially as I’ve been doing it for so long now, the shows work in a complicated way.”

His Voice of Reason show has been described as a reflection on some of mid-life’s mundanity with some topical issues like Brexit thrown in.

He’s reluctant to reveal much about his material, an exercise he likens to a band describing an album.

“Do you know what? I hope to never have to describe the show because it’s kind of like a band having to describe an album: ‘Well, there’s a couple of fast ones, a couple of slow ones, hope you’ll like it’. Comedy shows are a bit like that. Towards the end, it feels a lot more connected than it was earlier on but some of it will be off the cuff.

“It will be the 167th time I’ve done the show so to be frank, if it isn’t working by now, I don’t deserve to be up there.”

Dara Ó Briain plays Brisbane on September 11, Sydney on September 14 and Melbourne on September 16.

Statue of Irish-born NSW Premier gets green light

Thousands of passers-by will soon have the chance to refresh their knowledge about the Irish namesake of Sydney’s Martin Place.

A lifesized bronze statue of the immigrant turned three-time NSW Premier Sir James Martin will be erected in the pedestrian mall after the City of Sydney art committee’s decision to decline the proposal was overturned.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Planning Minister Rob Stokes intervened to encourage Lord Mayor Clover Moore and the committee not to throw out the project.

Prolific Australian sculptor Alan Somerville completed both the Parramatta and Martin Place renditions of James Martin as a boy.

Prolific Australian sculptor Alan Somerville completed both the Parramatta and Martin Place renditions of James Martin as a boy.

James Martin was born in 1820 in Midleton, Cork, where there have been have been similar demands for his recognition with local historian Ged Martin (no relation) calling for a plaque to honour the expatriate.

Cork-born James Martin, after whom Martin Place in Sydney is named.

Cork-born James Martin, after whom Martin Place in Sydney is named.

After sailing to Australia in 1821 Martin grew up in a cottage adjacent to Old Government House, where his father was employed as a stable boy, and despite the family’s poverty sacrifices were made to send him to the prestigious Sydney College.

He would go on to become a journalist, editor, author and attorney before his political career took off, initially seeing him become the member for Cook and Westmoreland.

After two stints as attorney-general, Martin became Premier for the first time in 1863.

Despite his ministry losing power in 1864, Martin would have two more chances to hold the position, during which he pioneered the establishment of a branch of the royal mint in Sydney.

Raised by strongly Catholic Irish parents, Martin’s personal faith wavered over the years, yet he fought for a society based on Christian principles throughout his political life.

He retained his parents’ family focus, having 15 children with wife Isabella Long.

The bronze will replace an existing plinth in Martin Place, while there is already a statue in Parrammatta recognising Martin’s formative years spent there.

Both artworks were completed by sculptor Alan Somerville, famed for the soldiers that stand proudly on the ANZAC bridge.

Win passes to see Dublin movie Animals

Animals, directed by Australian Sophie Hyde, opens nationally on September 12.

The movie, based on the novel by Emma Jane Unsworth, is shot entirely in Dublin and showcases the Irish capital’s growing reputation as a cool, cosmopolitan city.

“Dublin is a very vibrant city. It's very romantic,” director Hyde said.

“It can be quite raw and rough as well. It has a kind of old world and a new world charm all at the same time, and it would be easy to be distracted there. It's very social. And yet, there's this great love of writers and literature.

“So it was a very perfect city to set our girls' world in because all of those things combine, and there is a history of lauding these great writers and loving the idea of drinking and the party and being in the world in a certain way.”

The film is a fierce and unapologetic celebration of female friendship, an intmate, funny and bittersweet examinaton of the challenges of turning talent into action, and being a modern woman, with faults, longings and competing desires

Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger play best friends Tyler and Laura in Animals, directed by Sophie Hyde.

Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger play best friends Tyler and Laura in Animals, directed by Sophie Hyde.

Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) have been flatmates and best friends for 10 years, marauding around the streets of Dublin, rejectng the expectatons that bombard modern women and actng purely on desire.

For Tyler, this is the best version of life, even with the inevitable hangovers, but when Laura's (younger) sister Jean gets pregnant... on purpose... Laura panics.

Should she still be partying into her mid-thiries? And where has her supposed talent as an aspiring writer got her, apart from notebooks full of scribbles?

In an inky-dark bar she meets rising-star pianist Jim, who falls for Laura’s wit and passionate attitude to life, and the two soon become engaged.

Inspired - or maybe intimidated - by teetotaler Jim’s commitment to his work, Laura knuckles down to finish the novel she’s been writng for a decade.

Tyler, however, is convinced that marriage is the wrong thing for Laura and that her literary success depends on a life of excess, adventure and - crucially - variety... startng with the devilishly handsome Marty.

Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat and Irish actor Fra Fee in a scene from Animals.

Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat and Irish actor Fra Fee in a scene from Animals.

As Laura tries to balance these precarious pieces of her life, she only makes things worse.

Can she really have it all? Or is her life of debauchery with Tyler ruining her attempts to create something meaningful?

As Laura struggles to come to grips with what it is that she really wants, she begins to realise that living a life for herself might mean leaving someone else behind.

Alia Shawkat, who plays Tyler, said she loved shooting in Dublin.

“I love Dublin. I'm so happy that the film ended up here. I think it's a special place. Very special. It feels like a small town that I can't believe I never knew about before. It's like a big city at a small town. And yeah, the Guinness is great, people are nice. It rains a little too much, but makes the sun more worth it.”

We have ten double in-season passes to see Animals, which opens around Australia on September 12. To be in with a chance to win a free double pass, just fill in the entry form below. All entrants will be added to our Irish Echo email newsletter database.

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Yael Stone to star in McDonagh play

Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone will play the title role in Sydney Theatre Company’s forthcoming production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen Of Leenane.

The role of Maureen Folan was originally to be played by Rebel Wilson but the Hollywood actor pulled out due to a scheduling clash.

Stone is an impressive replacement having also built an international following from her role as Lorna in all seven seasons of the Emmy-winning show.

She was also catapulted into the media spotlight late last year after going public with allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush with whom she co-starred in a Sydney production of Diary Of A Madman in 2010. Rush, who won a defamation case against The Daily Telegraph over reports of inappropriate conduct during a production of King Lear, has denied the allegations.

Stone, a NIDA graduate, has worked extensively in the Australian film, television and theatre industry since she began her professional career at the age of thirteen.

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Most recently in Australia, Yael played Tori Lustigman in Deep Water  on SBS and Dora Lumley in Picnic At Hanging Rock on Foxtel.

Also joining her in the cast is well-known Australian actor Noni Hazlehurst, who will play Maureen Folan’s cruel mother Mag. Hazlehurst has performed in everything from Playschool to The Letdown and A Place To Call Home.

Director Paige Rattray said the two central characters are “brilliant roles for women”.

“They are both incredibly flawed beings, playing domestic roles that have been thrust onto them by society and circumstance,” she said.

“Their psychology is complex and you see-saw between feeling anger, sympathy, understanding and outrage at their actions. I can’t wait to see what actors of Yael and Noni’s calibre will bring to these roles. If our photo shoot is anything to go by our audiences are in for a very funny and surprising ride!”

Beauty Queen Of Leenane was the first big stage hit for McDonagh who went on to pen the Broadway and West End hits The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as acclaimed films such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

The play showcases McDonagh’s devilishly satisfying sense of humour with a cruel underbelly.

The STC production comes on the back of a sell-out season of his equally dark comedy The Cripple Of Inishmaan at the Old Fitzroy.

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane runs from November 18 to December 21 at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

Curtain rises for new Brisbane Irish theatre group

An Irish-led Queensland theatre company is launching with a production of Mike Bartlett’s provocative play Cock this month.

Bosco Productions has been established by Derek Draper from Dublin and Paddy Farrelly from Meath and will aim to bring Irish plays to the Queensland stage.

Paddy Farrelly has years of experience onstage in Brisbane and in 2016 produced Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman, which formed part of the global centenary commemortaion of the 1916 Rising.

“We decided we would set up Bosco, do this play to start off with and then we’re going to focus on a few Irish plays,” Farrelly said.

“We nail this, play as we will, [and] that opens up a whole new audience for everything else we want to do. If we started with an Irish play it’s not going to have much of a draw outside of the Irish-Australian community. You’re a one-trick pony. Doing it this way, you got chops.”

Cock’s main character John has always identified as a gay man. However, when John and his boyfriend take a break, he starts a relationship with a female that surprises even himself. The play by young English playwright Bartlett builds to a showdown where both lovers and genders fight for John. It is described as a sharply observed and witty play exploring complex issues like bisexuality and identity. Rising star Julian Curtis will play the lead role.

Bosco co-founders Paddy Farelly from Meath and Derek Draper from Dublin.

Bosco co-founders Paddy Farelly from Meath and Derek Draper from Dublin.

Bosco’s co-founder Derek Draper has starred in an acclaimed run of David Mamet’s American Buffalo and been nominated for the Billie Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist for his work in Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West.

Draper explains it is a play that Australia has yet to see in the way it should be done.

“It’s a comedy about the indecisions in life. It’s about trying to fit in. It’s about being in a relationship too long or not having the courage to leave it. It’s about leaving and not having the courage to go back. It’s about choice, people will really have fun with this play. It’s very unique.

“It hasn’t been done the way it needs to be done in Australia. What I wanted to do was take this play and give it the platform it hasn’t got in Australia yet,” he said.

Cock will be directed by Helen Howard who has won four Matilda Awards for her work as both an actress and a director.

“A ship is nothing without its captain. Helen is an absolute legend of the theatre and screeen here in Brisbane,” Draper said.

“Helen Howard doing this with us would be like Brendan Gleeson or Liam Cunningham landing down at a local drama group in Ireland saying, ‘Lads I’ll give you a dig out’.

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“It’s on that level,” Farrelly added. We nail this play with the level of difficulty that it has, with the level of interest that people will have to see how we deliver it, we nail this and we absolutely have a platform to bring all the really good Irish stuff in here.”

“Getting people together to celebrate anything Irish. I think is such a wonderful thing,” Draper added. “Nobody’s doing it and I don’t know why. If there isn’t an appetite for the great writers and the fantastic black humour that we have then I think it’s kind of up to us to introduce it.

“What we really need to do is get people excited about culture again and that’s going to be a mammoth task that is going to be well beyond mine and Paddy’s capabilities. But maybe we can inspire two other people who are thinking about it and maybe in Western Australia or Sydney. If anyone’s reading this article, get in touch.

“If you’re a director or a producer or you’re a showrunner or you’ve got an idea or you’re just passionate about Irish culture, let’s connect. Trust me, we’re the same. I don’t know you either and I’d love to.”

The company is already looking at productions in Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and elsewhere.

Why is the company named after the children’s TV character? “Bosco is the underpinning thing from our childhood,” Draper says.

“It’s a homage to childhood and that is where we’re going to get all of our creativity.”

Cock will be staged at the Metro Arts Centre in Brisbane from August 21 to 31.

Hope and humanity take flight in 9/11 musical

A musical play that tells the unique true story of the people who were stranded in the Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks has opened in Melbourne.

After the twin towers and Pentagon had been targets and nobody knew if there were going to be more attacks, 38 planes carrying nearly 7,000 people from over 100 countries were redirected to Gander, almost doubling the population of the remote Canadian town. In addition to this, there was no knowing how long they would be there.

Come From Away tells the story of how the people of Gander welcomed these unexpected, confused and no doubt scared visitors to their home, not only giving them beds and food but also help and support. It is a moving story that has been lauded with a Tony Award and several Olivier Awards from its stints on Broadway and the West End.

Director Martin Croft told The Irish Echo: "I've been in the business for a long time and this is one show that is really quite extraordinary. We're very excited to bring it to Australia.

"The story is actually not about 9/11, it's about 9/12. It's what happened in the days afterwards that was totally different to New York and the rest of the world's experience of what was happening.

Come From Away is set in Gander, Newfoundland, a place with strong irish heritage.

Come From Away is set in Gander, Newfoundland, a place with strong irish heritage.

“It's about the friendship and companionship and compassion and empathy that this little island showed to 'Come From Away' people. 9/11 is in the background but the story itself is really about the generosity of this town and how they made everybody feel welcome and mothered them, made sure they were safe and tried to make them happy and give them as much information and comfort as they were able to.

"There's a wonderful image the day it happened of people in the airport just standing looking at this world map and going, 'Where are we? I didn't know there even was such a place'. All these different cultures and languages turned up and the poor Ganderites had to learn how to make food to make everybody happy."

All based on real life people and events, the play shows how the local people helped those stranded which extended to great displays of kindness such as waiting by the phone with one woman who was desperate to hear any news of her New York fire fighter son.

"It's incredibly emotional but you get really emotional because of the kindness. It's not because it's sad, you're sitting there watching and thinking, 'Wow, I wish everybody was like this'. That's the moving part of the show, the humanity of it."

Come From Away’s music has a strong irish influence.

Come From Away’s music has a strong irish influence.

The play features music with an Irish flavour, honouring the major Hibernian heritage of Newfoundland. The Gander accent sounds Irish. that comes from it being the first stop and place to settle for so many people leaving Ireland.

"It's an interesting accent because it is such an amalgamation of the immigrant Irish Celtic influx that came after the American/Canadian accent had been established. It blended on this little island that was the first port of call for anyone that was leaving the British Isles."

The play's title comes from the term people in Gander call people from off the island, a 'come from away'. The play has also played in Ireland with a stint at the Abbey Theatre preceding its West End run.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news of 9/11. Martin tells us the people in this play had a very different experience because they saw and experienced so much kindness because of the great evil act.

"They have this strange experience. They knew this terrible thing had happened but they actually had a wonderful time. They were meeting new people, having BBQs, going on walks in this beautiful country and so at the end of it, they had to go back to reality. So in some ways they had a delayed reaction to the enormity of what went on because they were slightly shielded from it, they weren't being constantly fed with it. In the case of Nick and Diane who ended up getting married, it was a wonderful time for them and they feel quite strange about it."

"That's the real appeal of the show, I think. You can see yourself in it so much. They are just ordinary people.

"It's very personal, very connecting and very emotional."

Come From Away is currently showing at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre.

Crippling laughter awaits in Inishmaan stage treat

Much has happened to Martin McDonagh since he wrote The Cripple Of Inishmaan back in 1996.

He’s now an Oscar and Golden Globe winning writer and director, deploying his sledgehammer humour on the big screen, most notably in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sydney audiences have a chance to revisit the Cripple Of Inishmaan with a fine production of the play at the Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo.

The cripple of the title is Billy, an orphan who lives in the care of his adoptive spinster aunts. He, like everyone else in Inishmaan, is bored and dreams of a better life elsewhere, anywhere.

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The arrival of a Hollywood crew to shoot Robert Flaherty’s Man Of Aran creates an exit strategy for Billy but will he get away or will his plan be derailed by secrets and lies?

McDonagh unflinchingly holds a satirical mirror up to rural Irish life, its preoccupations, obsessions and insecurities. There are dark secrets and benevolent lies, family betrayals and belligerent blackmail, vengence and violence and eggs, lots of eggs.

Laurence Coy as Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson as his mother in The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Picture: Marnya Rothe

Laurence Coy as Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson as his mother in The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Picture: Marnya Rothe

The characters are cartoonish versions of people we instantly recognise and McDonagh, who spent his youthful Summer holidays in the west of Ireland, skillfully captures the cadence and musicality of the vernacular he would have tuned into as a young man.

He also challenges myths surround Ireland and Irish people. Are we friendly? Or simply nosy?

The result is painfully hilarious, poignant and profound. It may be that Billy is the least crippled member of the Inishmaan community.

The Mad March Hare Theatre Company’s production is faithful to the spirit of the dark humour and almost all the actors comfortably inhabit their characters and embrace the terrible beauty of the script.

William Rees, a young actor who lives with a disability, is impressively compelling as Billy.

Laurence Coy is a standout as the scheming village gossip Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson is outstanding as his alcoholic, bed-ridden mother.

A cleverly adaptable set, which makes the most of the limited space at the Old Fitz, is put to good use. A shop counter becomes a currach which becomes a bed.

Director Claudia Barrie’s attention to detail is impressive and she is well supported by lighting director Benjamin Brockman and production designer Brianna Russell.

While some of the Irish accents are a little sketchy, it would be churlish to say that this slight shortcoming takes away from what is a very enjoyable night of theatre.

FOUR STARS

Review: Once you see it, you'll like it

Guy meets Girl, and that’s where the introductions end.

The principal characters in this Sydney premiere production of Once remain nameless, but never voiceless throughout the minimalist musical nimbly staged in a Darlinghurst church-turned-playhouse. 

The Irish vacuum repairman and Czech immigrant, connected by a hoover that will not suck, set about on a week-long mission to craft an album with a ragtag bunch of skilled musicians in Dublin.

The stars need no more than a few days to become well-versed in wistful love under each other’s tutelage. 

Toby Francis’ Guy and Stefanie Caccamo’s Girl feed off each other’s wit and talent, each spurring the other to work to their full potential as they give their all to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s melodies.

Francis’ breathlessness is warranted at the end of the brutally pining When Your Mind’s Made Up, but Caccamo is undoubtedly the main attraction.

The actress, best known for her work in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, is affecting at the helm of the piano, commanding and impressive everywhere else.

Girl’s deadpan approach to comedy and love comes naturally, “I’m always serious. I’m Czech”, and keeps the audience locked out of her thoughts until the right moment.

Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis star as Girl and Guy. Photo: Robert Catto.

Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis star as Girl and Guy. Photo: Robert Catto.

The ensemble cast, including seasoned theatre and radio personality Cameron Daddo, commits to the accents and sensibilities of at-times caricatured roles, and to the rich history of Irish folk music.

Bringing the orchestra out of the pit and into the light helps preserve the trance of Once, with mere scene transitions becoming moments of intrigue as the kindred virtuosos weave hazily across the set.

It is during earnest scenes of stillness that the play feels most rushed, like the performers can’t wait to pick up their instruments again, but the audience - who have awaited the musical’s Sydney opening since it’s Australian premiere in Melbourne five years ago - hardly minds.

The Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production is more musical than any iteration that has come before, a point of pride for director Richard Carroll.

Name an instrument, and musical director Victoria Falconer, who joins the cast as barmaid Reza, can probably play it.

Once is an amalgamation of the best of musicals, plays, intimate concerts and spontaneous pub sessions, the entangled union a recipe for success.

FOUR STARS: ****

After selling out its initial run, new shows have been added from July 30 to August 4.

Watch: New doco captures Sydney Irish emigrant lives

Tomás De Bhaldraithe is one of the emigrants whose life journey is told in A Lifetime Of Stories.

Tomás De Bhaldraithe is one of the emigrants whose life journey is told in A Lifetime Of Stories.

A new documentary and web project captures the amazing life stories of some Sydney Irish seniors.

The documentary, A Lifetime Of Stories, premiered at the Irish Film Festival in Sydney and is now available online. The film, devised by Enda Murray, features in-depth interviews with a number of older Irish migrants in Sydney and allows them to tell their own stories in their own words.

The participants come from the four provinces of Ireland. Pat Foley, Tomás de Bhaldraithe, Marion Reilly, Marie McMillan and Damien McCloskey reflect on their life journeys with humour and wisdom. Pat Foley, 90, left Moyvane in Co Kerry in the early 50’s and worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Damien McCloskey grew up in Derry and witnessed some of the tumultuous events in that city including Bloody Sunday in 1972. Marion Reilly is from Connemara and had the adventure of a lifetime when she travelled to Australia overland on a hippy bus in the 70’s.

Tomás de Bhaldraithe is from Dublin and is a learned Gaelic scholar and a skilled sailor of Galway hookers.

Marie McMillan is from Dublin. Marie is a skilled performer and has won numerous awards at slam poetry battles around Sydney.

Director defends convict movie after festival walkouts

Dubliner Aisling Franciosi stars in the chilling convict-era movie The Nightingale.

Dubliner Aisling Franciosi stars in the chilling convict-era movie The Nightingale.

The director of a new Australian movie starring Irish actress Aisling Francioisi has defended the film after a number of patrons walked out of Sydney Film Festival screenings.

The unhappy film-goers singled out the film’s graphic depictions of rape and murder but director Jennifer Kent said The Nightingale, set in colonial-era Tasmania, was “not ‘about’ violence”.

"The Nightingale contains historically accurate depictions of colonial violence and racism towards our Indigenous people," she told the ABC.

"Both Aisling Franciosi and myself have been personally contacted by more than a few victims of sexual violence after screenings who are grateful for the film's honesty and who have drawn comfort from its themes,” she added.

"I do not believe this would be happening if the film was at all gratuitous or exploitative.

"We've made this film in collaboration with Tasmanian Aboriginal elders, and they feel it's an honest and necessary depiction of their history and a story that needs to be told.

"I remain enormously proud of the film."

At the Sydney premiere on Sunday at the Ritz cinema in Randwick, the ABC reported that one woman walked out during the early stages, shouting: "I'm not watching this. She's already been raped twice."

Set in 1825, The Nightingale tells the story of Clare, a young Irish convict woman, who chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.

Kent was determined that the violence in the film would be an honest and authentic depiction; that in order to respect those who suffered and died in this period, she wouldn’t shy away from the truth of what happened.

“Many Australians know what happened in certain parts of the country during that time, and other people don't,” Kent explains. “A lot of people outside Australia know nothing or very little about it. I couldn't go into this part of our history and water it down.”

“Like many other countries that have been colonized, the indigenous people of Australia were subject to horrendous treatment by the colonizers. The systems of power were brutal, and I wanted The Nightingale to reflect this.”

The film was awarded the Special Jury Prize, and Baykali Ganambarr received the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor at the Venice Film Festival.

Celebrating the Joyce of life on Bloomsday

The work of Irish writer James Joyce is celebrated around the world on Bloomsday.

The work of Irish writer James Joyce is celebrated around the world on Bloomsday.

The work of James Joyce will be celebrated at a number of events in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to mark Bloomsday.

Joyce’s seminal novel Ulysses is set on June 16 which has become known as Bloomsday after the central character of the novel, Leopold Bloom.

Each year, fans of the book and Joyce’s other work gather to hear passages from his prose read aloud or celebrated through music.

This year’s Bloomsday festivities begin in Sydney on Thursday June 13 at the Stanton Library in North Sydney.

Rebel Wilson pulls out of McDonagh play in Sydney

Among those reading passages from Ulysses will be former NSW premier Bob Carr and the State Librarian for New South Wales Dr John Vallance. Musical entertainment will be provided by Martin Horan.

This event is free but bookings are essential.

On Saturday, June 15, a group of Irish and Australian actors and musicians will celebrate Bloomsday at the State Library of New South Wales.

Performers for the evening include journalist and broadcaster Daniel Browning, Áine De Paor, Awaye, harpist Clíona Molins, Brendan O’Reilly and members of the Aisteoirí Theatre Company.

The event begins at 6pm and tickets are $10. Bookings can be made via the State Libary’s website.

The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills will host its own Bloomsday celebration on the day itself, Sunday June 16.

The event, which begins at 3pm features a program of readings, music and song. Admission is free.

In Brisbane, the Queen St Mall will play host to a free, family-friendly celebration of Joyce’s work.

Readings will be interspersed with music and other entertainment featuring the Queensland Irish Association pipe band and Irish dancers.

The event runs from 11am to 2pm.

Irish academic Dr Ronán McDonald will discuss the ‘consecration’ of James Joyce’s Ulysses at a celebration of Bloomday in Melbourne.

Irish academic Dr Ronán McDonald will discuss the ‘consecration’ of James Joyce’s Ulysses at a celebration of Bloomday in Melbourne.

In Melbourne, Bloomsday will be celebrated with a seminar and lunch at the Swiss Club in Flinders Lane.

The seminar will be chaired by Australian polymath, writer, teacher, lawyer, social activist, quiz champion and former politician Barry Jones and feature eminent speakers Dr Ronán McDonald, Gerry Higgins, Chair of Irish Studies at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Steve Carey.

Dr McDonald, a Dubliner, will present a paper entitled The Consecration of Ulysses: National or Universal? in which he will examine how Joyce’s ground breaking novel gained its status as one of the great works of the 20th century. Dr Carey will speak about Joyce’s time in Zurich in 1917 during the First World War when he was writing Ulysses.

This key time in Joyce’s life, during which he produced a stage production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest, part-inspired Tom Stoppard’s play, Travesties in which the writer is a central character.

Bloomsday organisers in Melbourne are staging a production of Travesties as part of their Joycean celebration.

The play, directed by Globe-trained Jennifer Sarah Dean, will be performed at fortyfivedownstairs theatre in Flinders Lane from June 12 to 23.

Rebel Wilson pulls out of McDonagh play

Rebel Wilson choose the McDonagh play but will not now star in the STC production.

Rebel Wilson choose the McDonagh play but will not now star in the STC production.

Hollywood star Rebel Wilson has withdrawn from the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

The Australian actor was the most high profile and exciting casting for the 2019 season when she was announced for the role of Maureen Folan in the dark comedy but she will no longer be part of the show due to an “unforeseen scheduling conflict”.

When Sydney Theatre Company announced its 2019 season last year, artistic director Kip Williams said the McDonagh play was the actor’s choice.

Williams told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time: “We had a different play on the table. She came back to us and said, ‘Thanks, very interested in that but I would love to do Beauty Queen Of Leenane’.”

In a press release, the STC said: “Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict,Rebel Wilson has withdrawn from Sydney Theatre Company’s production ofThe Beauty Queen of Leenane. New casting for the Martin McDonagh comedy will be announced in the coming weeks.”

The actress, who lives in Sydney, is well known for her roles in Hollywood movies such as Bridesmaids and the Pitch Perfect film series. She can be seen starring alongside Anne Hathaway in The Hustle, a female remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane runs 18 November to 21 December at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney.

The play was the first big hit for McDonagh who went on to pen the Broadway and West End hits The Pillowman andThe Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as acclaimed films such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Animated Irish movie treat for Sydney, Melbourne

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn and Tommy Tiernan.

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn and Tommy Tiernan.

The forthcoming Children’s International Film Festival, be be held in Sydney and Melbourne, will feature an star-studded Irish animated movie.

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, which was co-produced by Telegael (Ireland), Nukufilm (Estonia), Grid Animation (Belgium) and Calon (Wales), took out the Best Animated Feature award at the Schlingel Festival for Children and Young People held recently in Chemnitz in Germany.

Produced on a budget of €10 million, Captain Morten and the Spider Queen is the first feature length stop-motion film to be animated in Ireland.

The all-Irish cast includes Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn, Ciarán Hinds and Michael McElhatton, stand–up comedians Mario Rosenstock, Jason Byrne, Tommy Tiernan and Neil Delamere as well as young up and coming Irish talent Cian O’Dowd and Susie Power who play the roles of Morten and Eliza.

The movie is focused on ten-year-old Morten who spends his days building a toy ship and trying to avoid the ire of his reluctant guardian – a mean ex-ballerina named Anna – while his father is at sea.

Morten hopes to one day be a Captain just like his dad. After a chance meeting with the inept magician Señor Cucaracha, Morten is magically shrunk down to the size of an insect and trapped aboard the deck of his own toy ship as the room around him floods! With a wicked Spider Queen and Scorpion Pirate already on board, being Captain is going to be harder than he ever imagined.

For screening details, click here.

Irish movie treats at Sydney Film Festival

Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat in Animals, which will be screened at the Sydney Film Festival.

Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat in Animals, which will be screened at the Sydney Film Festival.

The forthcoming Sydney International Film Festival will feature several movies with an irish connection.

The Nightingale, directed by Jennifer Kent, is an Australian feature which has won praise in Europe.

Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.

It stars Dubliner Aisling Franciosi in her first lead role and won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Dubliner Aisling Franciosi in The Nightingale.

Dubliner Aisling Franciosi in The Nightingale.

Animals is another Irish Australian feature set in contemporary Dublin.

Directed by Australian director Sophie Hyde and based on the popular novel by Emma Jane Unsworth, Animals stars Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, Whip It) and Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, My Cousin Rachel).

Criticizing the minutiae of female friendship, Animals focuses on two untamed, party-crazed roommates living it up in Dublin whose friendship is tested when one of them falls in love.

Papi Chalo, directed by Irish filmmaker John Butler (Handsome Devil), stars Golden Globe winner Matt Bomer (White Collar, Magic Mike) as a gay lonely TV weatherman who strikes up an unusual friendship with a straight middle-aged Latino.

A Dog Called Money is a documentary about Grammy Award nominee musician PJ Harvey.

Irish director Seamus Murphy, whose film A Dog Called Money screens at the Sydney Film Festival.

Irish director Seamus Murphy, whose film A Dog Called Money screens at the Sydney Film Festival.

Directed by Irish filmmaker Seamus Murphy, it is a glimpse into the writing and recording of the 2016 album The Hope Six Demolition Project in a London recording studio.

For details of screenings and venues, visit www.sff.org.au