Streets ahead of the rest
There was a week in July this year when I counted myself particularly lucky to live in Ireland. In the space of seven days, I got to hear renowned soprano Renée Fleming in the NCH, I saw a fantastic production of A Streetcar Named Desire in The Gate and by the close of the week was joining the crowds at the RHK to see film score composer Ennio Morricone.
In terms of theatre, it was a year of memorable performances as opposed to stand-out productions. What a year it has been for Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. I was glued to Love/Hate, but Tom gave one of the outstanding theatrical performances of the year in Mark O'Rowe's thrilling play Howie the Rookie. When this play was first performed, there were two actors cast, but this production was re-imagined for a single actor. Playing the two characters Howie and Rookie, Vaughan-Lawlor proved that he is an actor at the top of his game.
Other stand-out performances included Lia Williams in the aforementioned Streetcar; she was born to play Blanche DuBois. It was Owen Roe's time to play King Lear at The Abbey and he didn't disappoint. Olwen Fouéré was mesmerising in Riverrun. Her adaptation and performance of the voice of the River Liffey in Joyce's Finnegans Wake deserved all the praise it received. I am already looking forward to seeing Roe and Fouéré together on stage in A Tender Thing, a new adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in January.
I still travel to London to see West End productions. This year I enjoyed A Chorus Line, the bold but hilarious The Book of Mormon and a particularly fine production of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. However, thanks to The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, I only had to take a short journey to see brilliant touring productions such as The Lion King, West Side Story and Wicked this year. What did we ever do without this venue?
Record numbers attended the reopening of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, with more than 6,500 people turning up over the opening weekend in October. Highlights included the opening of the highly anticipated Eileen Gray exhibition. Earlier in the year I was intrigued by the first major retrospective in Ireland of the work of surrealist painter Leonora Carrington.
January is always cheered up by a selection of great movies as film-makers release their productions in the US by the end of December to ensure consideration in the Oscars race. This year we have already seen the impressive Gravity, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks.
Michael Douglas was quite brilliant as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra and who will ever forget Rob Lowe as the plastic surgeon? Paolo Sorrentino showed off his extraordinary originality in The Great Beauty.
Woody Allen was back on form with Blue Jasmine, starring the excellent Cate Blanchett. Steve Coogan also proved himself to be a fine actor in non-comic roles in What Maisie Knew and Philomena. My movie disappointment of the year was Pedro Almodóvar's I'm So Excited. His return to light comedy was, for me, a disaster.
It was great to see the Impac literary award go to Kevin Barry for City of Bohane. It just so happens that the novels I read this year were mainly by Irish authors, from TransAtlantic by Colum McCann to Donal Ryan's The Thing about December.
I haven't read enough books this year, though. So let me now state a new year's resolution: read more. I have a pile of brilliant books on my shelf waiting to be read. So here goes, smart phone off.
The culture charts
'Jack and the Beanstalk'
Alan Hughes back as Sammy Sausages alongside top models Nadia Forde and Michele McGrath. Add in a giant, a beanstalk and a dancing cow and you have a spectacular panto! Tivoli Theatre, Dublin. See www.tivoli.ie
'Aladdin' in Limerick
Twink, Richie Hayes, Leanne Moore and Adam Lawlor star in Aladdin at UCH Limerick. Making his panto debut is 2010 Mr World Kamal Ibrahim in the title role. Get ready for chart-topping tunes and more than a touch of magic. Running until January 5 at UCH. See www.uch.ie
'Cold Mountain' musicians
Multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell met actor and fiddle player Brendan Gleeson on the set of the film Cold Mountain. They will tour with piper Michael McGoldrick and guitarist Francis Gaffney. January 7-17, starting in The Sugar Club in Dublin. See www.musicnetwork.ie
- Aedín Gormley presents Movies And Musicals (Sat 1-4Pm) And Sunday Matinée (Sun 12-2pm) on RTÉ Lyric FM.