Arts

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’.

Cock.Poster.1000px.jpg

“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



Cranberries honour lost singer with final album

Dolores O’Riordan’s death in January 2018 was mourned around the world.

Dolores O’Riordan’s death in January 2018 was mourned around the world.

There was a national and international outpouring of grief when lead singer of the Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan, died suddenly in January 2018 aged 46. The loss was felt not only in her native Limerick where the streets were full of mourners for one of Limerick’s most famous daughters but also all around the world for hits like Zombie and Linger.

More than a year since O’Riordan’s death from drowning due to alcohol intoxication, the Cranberries are releasing an album of songs O’Riordan had worked on before her sudden death. With the blessing of O’Riordan’s family, the band finished the album.

It was a help in their grief to have something to work on for her but it was also a constant reminder of the tragedy when it hit them that the singer would not be coming in to work on her parts for the recording.

“We kind of said going in, if we felt that this wasn’t going to work then we would just scrap the idea and just forget about it,” The Cranberries guitarist Noel Hogan told The Irish Echo from Ireland.

“The first couple of days, your emotions were all over the place because you were focusing on doing what you do and getting it right and at the same time there is a constant reminder that Dolores isn’t here anymore. You just have to put the head down and get on with it really and be professional, or as professional as you can be, about it.

“Then when you’re at the point that we are now, a year and a bit later you’re looking back and it’s kind of hard to imagine the grieving process without actually having done that. I definitely feel that it [the album] helped the three of us in some bizarre way to have something to focus on.”

Hogan remembers how excited O’Riordan had been about the recorded material.

The Cranberries at the height of their popularity in 2003. (From left) Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, Dolores O’Riordan and Fergal Lawler.

The Cranberries at the height of their popularity in 2003. (From left) Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, Dolores O’Riordan and Fergal Lawler.

“The last six months, from June to December, she and I were in constant contact. We were on opposite sides of Atlantic but she had this new burst of energy, I couldn’t give her enough music to write to.

“She wanted to work; she had a lot to say, given everything that had happened to her in the previous three years. It was trying to keep up with her, really,” Hogan said.

“She had shared that enthusiasm with her family a lot about how much she was looking forward to getting back into work, I think her family were aware of that. It was definitely something that she wanted to do and she had worked hard on these songs.

“To not finish it would do her an injustice.”

O’Riordan’s lyrics take on added poignancy on the album. Lines like ‘Ain’t it strange when everything you wanted was nothing that you wanted in the end?’ strike an emotional chord for her band mates and fans.

“Because of everything that happened, there’s almost a double meaning to them now.

“There’s a lot of discussion in this album and the topic is about things ending and coming to an end. Up until that summer, Dolores had been through a lot and it was well publicised and she was very open about it.

“She felt that she had turned a corner for better things and knew that that was behind her. The subject matter of a lot of these songs is, ‘that’s behind me now, this is the next chapter’. Then obviously what happened in January 2018 changed everything.

“When I went back to listen to them in February 2018, your mind can not help but wander off into another place and kind of realise what she’s saying here and how poignant it is now.

“This was written as another Cranberries album, that’s all it was ever meant to be in the origins of it. I know that forever more people will read more into these lyrics than she ever meant, but she would like that kind of thing anyway.”

Is this the end for the band?

“We never sat down and had a conversation about it but I think the general consensus was that we would do this album because we had started it, Dolores and I had started writing it, and it was so far into that process that it would be wrong to not finish it. We haven’t ever discussed doing any more than that.

“It’s just Dolores was such a unique voice and such a massive personality that really trying to replace her would be almost an impossible job.

“I think we would find it weird as well. It’s a double-edged thing. If we kept going, we would love to but you’re always going to be compared to this version of the Cranberries and that can have a very mixed response.

“We didn’t want to destroy the legacy at the end, do some kind of patchwork album and just try and make a few pound out of it. The agreement was that if any of us thought this is really not one of our best just to put it away on the shelf and forget about it.”

Asked for his favourite memories of the singer, Hogan goes back to the early days of the Cranberries in the 1990s.

“It’s funny because you start to remember these things after somebody passes away. You know someone is there at the end of a phone or a visit away all the time so you kind of take things for granted. I think we all do that with friends and family and suddenly someone is not there anymore and all this stuff comes flowing back to you.

“A lot of the stuff I started to remember was from the very early days … when no one knew who we were.

“We were in many ways this little gang and we were going around writing these songs and playing to two or three people at night. The thing about Dolores was she always just laughed things off, she was great for joking and messing and things like that. I guess in this business you have a public face and you have the person behind that only closer people would know.

“She hated the way that particularly in the music industry people take themselves very seriously. They come in and they’re like, ‘you gotta do this’ or ‘you gotta do that’. She just couldn’t get her head around that, she used to just laugh at that stuff and make us laugh about it as well.

“They’re nice memories … because it was that journey that we were all on at that time in particular.”

New memoir celebrates the life of Irish Australian cellist

The late Maureen O’Carroll, who played cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The late Maureen O’Carroll, who played cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

A NEW memoir has been published that celebrates the early life of Irish Australian cellist Maureen O’Carroll, who died in 2012.

Born in the Sydney suburb of Balmain to Irish immigrant parents, John and May O’Carroll, Maureen carved out a very successful career as a professional musician.

She and her nine siblings all showed a gift for music and their parents saw this as the path out of poverty.

Six of them, including Maureen, attended the NSW Conservatorium of Music High School and went on to become professional musicians.

O’Carroll was drawn to the cello at a very young age, and would prop her brother Robert’s violin on a jam tin and play it like a cello.

At 17, she joined the New Zealand National Orchestra and went from there to New York, where she performed with Frank Sinatra, among others. In 1974, she returned to Australia as a single mother of three. She played a blind audition behind a curtain (to avoid gender discrimination) and was accepted into the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The O’Carroll clan. Six of the children attended the NSW Conservatorium Of Music.

The O’Carroll clan. Six of the children attended the NSW Conservatorium Of Music.

Being a child of two rebels who had fought for Irish independence, Maureen was deeply patriotic about Ireland. At one Sydney Symphony concert, she noted Rule Britannia was on the program and refused to play it. She placed her cello down and marched off stage, only returning at its end.

The new book, A Musical Memoir of an Irish Immigrant Childhood, has been written by her daughter Leora although Maureen is posthumously credited as a co-author.

“Even though her family endured hardships and poverty, my mother always had an optimistic outlook and her humorous takes on her childhood is what makes her recollections so enchanting,” Leora told the Irish Echo.

“As an adult, I was working in New York City as a television writer and producer and decided to move to Seattle where my mother lived, so that we could finally work on this memoir.

Maureen, aged 12, practicing her cello.

Maureen, aged 12, practicing her cello.

“We sat side by side for many months to write the book. It was important to us to authentically capture the memories as seen through the eyes of a child. During the writing process, I learned much more about my mother’s life, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work with her to capture these memories.”

In this extract, Leora writes about her father’s barber shop in Balmain which was called The Anchor. While hairdressing certainly took place at The Anchor, John O’Carroll ran other enterprises from the shop, which was set up in the family home on Darling Street.

“The most popular feature of the Anchor, however, was not the barbering, but Dad’s other business – his lending library. Housed in a partitioned area at the back of the barber shop, was a small collection of books which included volumes of Macaulay’s History, The Complete Works of Benjamin Disraeli, and The Novels of Lord Lytton, all undoubtedly purchased as a lot by my father at an auction.

“They were dry and unreadable Victorian works, but they weren’t meant to be read. One of dad’s sidelines was bookmaking. He wasn’t binding more volumes for the library but taking bets on the horse races. Bookmaking was an illegal activity, but this didn’t stop many shopkeepers from engaging in it, and my father enjoyed maintaining a unique system to disguise the betting; a borrowed book would be returned with the bet and money placed inside, and another book would be checked out ready for the next bet.

“On Saturdays, the Anchor was a social centre for many local men, who were off work that day and would evade their share of household chores by insisting to their wives that they need a haircut or shave. But of course barbering wasn’t the main attraction. Saturday was the most important day for horse racing and consequently, a particularly busy one for the lending library.

Leora O’Carrollm, who wrote the memoir with her late mother.

Leora O’Carrollm, who wrote the memoir with her late mother.

“Clutching their Lord Lytton novels, the men would hover around the radio in the smoke-filled Anchor, engrossed by the announcer’s incessant monologue of race results from tracks around the country, and as this was thirsty work, they took turns carrying a billy can up the street to the London Hotel to be filled and refilled.

“The lending library was enjoying a burgeoning patronage when my father fell victim to an informer. It was suspected that the woman who ran the comic book shop a few doors away didn’t appreciate the competition, and one day two policemen came into the Anchor – “We’re sorry Jack, but we have to take in your account books.” They probably were sorry too, also being patrons of the lending library. My father didn’t say anything but looking unconcerned, beamed one of his cheeky grins and proudly handed over his ledgers. All of his records had been written in Gaelic.

“Gaelic was not a common written language in Australia and while many Irish people may have spoken the ancient Celtic tongue, there were very few who read it. An attempt was made by the authorities to find a translator. The search was unsuccessful, and even if there was someone who could translate Gaelic, no self-respecting Irish person would have ever agreed to be employed in such a fashion.

“Without the required evidence, the case was dropped and my father resumed his concerns at the Anchor, congratulated by all the eager literary members of his lending library.”

Maureen O’Carroll: A Musical Memoir Of An Irish Immigrant Childhood is available via Amazon

Irish Film Festival to screen in Sydney, Melbourne

Between Land And Sea, which focuses on Clare’s burgeoning surf scene, is one of the movies in this year’s Irish Film Festival.

Between Land And Sea, which focuses on Clare’s burgeoning surf scene, is one of the movies in this year’s Irish Film Festival.

The Irish Film Festival returns to Sydney and Melbourne this May.

The festival officially launches in each city with Float like a Butterfly, an uplifting drama from the producers of Sing Street and the Oscar winning film Once. Set in 1972 when Muhammad Ali was set to fight in Dublin, the film follows Frances, a young Traveller girl with big dreams of becoming a champion boxer.

The film has been acclaimed at both the Cork and Toronto International Film Festivals.

The celebration of Irish cinema begins in Sydney with a community screening of Unquiet Graves at Penrith Gaels Club on Wednesday May 1, followed by the official opening night at the Chauvel in Paddington on Thursday May 2. The festival runs in the Chauvel until Sunday May 5.

The Melbourne leg of the festival takes place at the Kino Cinema in Collins Street from Thursday May 9 until Saturday May 12.

This is the fifth iteration of the festival which started in 2015.

Festival director Enda Murray says he is proud of the programme for this year’s festival. When pressed for a ‘must-see’ he nominates The Drummer And The Keeper.

“Nick Kelly, who is the writer and director, was the lead singer with Irish band The Fat Lady Sings back in the day,” he said.

“He brings a songwriter’s sensibility to the film and I love the fact that it revolves around music.”

The director also singled out A Lifetime Of Stories, a documentary in which older Irish emigrants reflect on their lives. Sydney residents Tomás de Bhaldraithe, Pat Foley, Marian Reilly, Marie MacMillan and Damien McCluskey are some of the locals featured.

“From witnessing Derry’s Bloody Sunday in 1972 to sailing around Ireland on a Galway Hooker, these are men and women who have experienced life to the full,” Murray said.

Float Like A Butterfly follows the fortunes of an Irish Traveller girl who dreams of becoming a top boxer.

Float Like A Butterfly follows the fortunes of an Irish Traveller girl who dreams of becoming a top boxer.

Among this year’s festival highlights are:

Float Like a Butterfly

It’s Ireland in 1971. Muhammad Ali is fighting in Croke Park in Dublin and Frances (Hazel Doupe, right) a young Traveller girl dreams of being a boxer. From the producers of Once and Sing Street, Float Like a Butterfly is a powerful and timely story of a girl’s fight for freedom and belonging.

Unquiet Graves

This documentary alleges that the British government colluded with Loyalist paramilitaries in the deaths of more than 120 citizens in Ireland in the early 70s. Unquiet Graves details how members of the RUC and the UDR, (a British Army regiment) were centrally involved in the murder of over 120 civilians during the recent conflict in Ireland. Director Seán Murray will be a guest of the festival.

Between Land and Sea

Lahinch, Co Clare is an unlikely home to five surfing schools and one of the world’s most dramatic big-wave breaks beneath the majestic Cliffs of Moher. This enthralling documentary presents some incredible surf photography and an engaging portrait of new lifestyles for young people on the West coast of Ireland.

The Drummer and the Keeper

Two young Dublin men find friendship despite their mental health problems in this tender and uplifting rock’n’roll story. Gabriel (Dermot Murphy), a drummer who is bipolar, meets Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), a teenager with Aspergers Syndrome, while the pair are in rehabilitation. An unlikely friendship blossoms despite the hardships giving both young men something to live for.

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

An Irish farmer takes on a multinational company in this weird and wonderful documentary.

A Lifetime Of Stories is a documentary in which older Irish emigrants in Sydney reflect on their lives. One of the subjects is Tomás de Bhaldraithe.

A Lifetime Of Stories is a documentary in which older Irish emigrants in Sydney reflect on their lives. One of the subjects is Tomás de Bhaldraithe.

Dublin Oldschool

A WANNABE DJ deals with life head-on in a drug-fuelled weekend Dublin’s rave scene in the ‘90s. Ulysses meets Trainspotting. Director Dave Tynan is a festival guest.

Metal Heart

We hear amazing stories of travel, work and family in the oral histories which the subjects present in their own words. From partnering with Hurricane Higgins in snooker to a young woman driving overland to Australia via Kathmandu on the ‘magic bus’ in the ‘70s - these are men and women who have experienced life to the full.

No Party for Billy Burns

Billy Burns (Kevin McGahern) is a would-be cowboy lost in the dreary fields of Cavan. Billy seeks romance and adventure and dreams of riding into the sunset but the local rednecks have other ideas.

The Camino Voyage

Five artists including Oscar winner Glen Hansard embark on a modern day Celtic Odyssey as they row a currach 2,500km from Ireland to Northern Spain.

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen

A FAMILY cartoon featuring a shrinking boy, a talking caterpillar, and the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn and a host of Irish comedians.

For tickets and the full program, click here.

Irish boy Fox finds his voice in Australia

Entertainer Bobby Fox, who now calls Sydney home, was born in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford.

Entertainer Bobby Fox, who now calls Sydney home, was born in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford.

Bobby Fox had to come to Sydney to find his voice. And what a voice.

The Longford native is one of four featured singers in the new production of Saturday Night Fever, which opens at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney next week, the latest entry is his impressive showbiz resume.

Fox is now an established star of Australian musical theatre with credits ranging from Jersey Boys to Hot Shoe Shuffle to Spamalot to Assassins. But it was Irish dancing that originally steered him towards a life in showbiz.

“All my upbringing was Irish music and Irish dancing,” he tells the Irish Echo at Saturday Night Fever rehearsals in Sydney. “When I first came to Australia I wanted to expand my horizons as a dancer but I absolutely needed a break from Irish dancing.”

He had performed and toured internationally with Riverdance as well as a number of spin-off shows.

“I was a champion dancer up to the time I joined Riverdance in 1998 but that was when I became passionate, that’s when the passion went ‘click’ and I just wanted to perform.”

Fox relished his time with Riverdance and describes the ensemble as “the very best”. He went on to join a show called Dancing On Dangerous Ground, in which he performed in London and in New York, at the Radio City Music Hall. He then joined To Dance On The Moon, a smaller Irish dance show. It was this production that first brought him to Australia in 2002. But he knew it was time for a change.

“I was doing a performing arts course in Sydney and one of the elements was song ‘prep’. So I had to put a song together and perform it for the class. Everyone around me was saying ‘you have to come back to Australia’.”

He says he owes a debt of gratitude to the couple who ran the course, Elena and Mario De Cinque of ED5 International, who helped him apply and ultimately secure his residency.

“They researched the visa pathway and gave me the money to pay for it. They just said ‘pay us back when you have the money’. Three weeks after I got my residency I got a call to say I had a part in the Sydney production of Mamma Mia. As soon as I had my first couple of paychecks I said ‘thanks lads’ and I was on my way.”

Bobby Fox at rehearsals for Saturday Night Fever in Sydney.

Bobby Fox at rehearsals for Saturday Night Fever in Sydney.

If Mamma Mia was the springboard, Jersey Boys was the splash hit.

The stage musical, which dramatises the remarkable real-life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, premiered in Sydney in 2010.

The show had won Tony and Olivier awards in New York and London as well as a Grammy for best recording of a musical so expectations were high for the Australian production.

The Edgeworthstown man’s ability to master Frankie Valli’s trademark falsetto was key to him securing the role and he was given the nod by the singer himself.

“I had sung falsetto before but I didn’t think it was that special,” he says. “I could sing before Jersey Boys but Jersey Boys taught me how to sing. I learned how to do it safely, how to clarify it, how to expand the sound, how to take it from just hitting the note nice and sharp to it being something that bellowed through walls.”

Fox went on to perform the role almost 1,000 times around Australia leading to other musical theatre roles in Blood Brothers, Oklahoma and the Australian musical Ladies in Black, which toured nationally and for which he received a Green Room Award nomination. In 2017, he performed in Assassins for which he received a Helpmann Award nomination. On screen, Fox’s credits include Upper Middle Bogan, It’s a Date, Tricky Business and House Husbands. He also appeared in the feature film The Cup. He is also one of Australia’s most in demand corporate and event entertainers.

He admits to creative restlessness and says likes to expand his musical resume along the way.

“I know there’s always something more to me. If I was doing the same thing all the time I would explode.”

In Saturday Night Fever, he is one of four star vocalists along with Paulini, Marcia Hines and Nat Conway, performing songs like How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive and More Than A Woman. His involvement, he says, came about through his girlfriend.

“My partner Mel [actress, singer and model Melanie Hawkins] who plays Stephanie, was auditioning for the show so we watched the movie together. That was the first time I had actually seen it. I was obviously familiar with the music and I’m such a big fan of disco. The craftsmanship of the tunes is second to none.”

Fox, whose sister Lisa is an accomplished actor and performer in Ireland, will soon get a chance to

channel his Irish heritage in his own show, The Irish Boy, in which he will sing, dance and reveal his other musical skills on the button accordion and the bodhrán.

“What I want to do is take the traditional and combine it with what’s happening now. I want to replicate that session feel like when the craic’s on and the tunes are good..”

Dubliner Enda Markey, who is producing the show, said, “Bobby is one of the most charming and charismatic performers in the country, and it’s been a real labour of love to be able to develop The Irish Boy with him to create a unique celebration of our home country, showcasing Bobby’s incredible talents.”

It will also give Fox a change to dance again. Last year, while performing Assassins at The Sydney Opera House, he fell on stage during his big number on opening night, breaking his foot.

“It will be a year in June since that happened,” he says. “I’m keen to get the feet moving again.”