Monday 26 September 2016

My cultural life: Joe Dowling

Published 09/05/2016 | 02:30

Joe Dowling
Joe Dowling
War and Peace
Mark Rylance
Guernica

Joe Dowling is a former artistic director of the Abbey Theatre and the founder and first director of The Gaiety School of Acting. He has directed in all the major theatres in Dublin, in London, Stratford, Ontario and on Broadway. From 1995 until last June, he was director of The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Under his leadership, The Guthrie built a new three-theatre complex on the banks of the Mississippi River. His last production at The Guthrie was O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, which starred Anita Reeves and Stephen Brennan. He is now directing Othello at the Abbey Theatre, which is currently previewing and opens on May 11. Joe is married to broadcaster and executive coach Siobhan Cleary, and they have two children.

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Book: War and Peace

Recently, I had surgery to repair a broken ankle, and recuperation demanded weeks of inaction. I decided that I needed a major reading project. What better time to tackle Tolstoy's War and Peace. Given the normal busy schedule, it would be impossible, but with the foot in the air 1,500 pages seemed eminently possible. So glad I did. Not quite worth breaking an ankle for, but a magnificent experience nonetheless.

Musical: Hamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical Hamilton is the biggest Broadway hit in years. It has just won the Pulitzer Prize and will run forever. It is a remarkable show which tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and an immigrant from the Caribbean. What makes the show so special is how it embraces racial diversity with historical accuracy. The Broadway Album, which combines show tunes with rap and hip-hop is a pure delight and worth listening to.

Film: 'Bridge of Spies'

My favourite film last year was Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies and I was thrilled that my friend, Mark Rylance, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The story of the swap of the U-2 pilot, Gary Powers, for a Russian spy during the height of the cold war was brilliantly told - as only Spielberg can. The downing of the plane over Russia was one of the most exciting film sequences I've ever seen.

Painting: Guernica

Seeing Picasso's Guernica in Madrid a few years ago was a remarkable experience. At the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia, it stands alone in a large room and demands complete attention. As people stopped to gaze, there was a reverential sense of wonder at the power of the artist to evoke such a deep emotional response to the work. One of the greatest anti-war statements of the 20th century.

TV: American Election

I am completely obsessed with the unfolding drama of the American Presidential Election as played out on all American networks. I am feeling some withdrawal symptoms while in Dublin. The farce of government formation between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is a poor substitute. As the news shows yet another group of badly-suited men with folders marching purposefully towards Government Buildings, I long for the drama of Trump's incessant insanity or a Bernie Sanders pie-in-the-sky promises.

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