Saturday 25 November 2017

Arts: Shaken by Bond and stirred by Joyce

It's that time of year again when we look back, review and ponder what entertained us, moved us, surprised us, made us laugh, made us cry, brought us joy and gave us pause for thought.

As someone who makes quite a few trips to the cinema, this was in fact a disappointing year for film. Yes, in the past few weeks we have had such gems as Amour, The Master and Argo, but the best films tend to reach us in December and January as filmmakers release their movies just in time for the awards season.

It's not at all surprising that Skyfall did so well at the box office as we were dying for a good movie! Skyfall gave a nod to the traditional aspects of the series but with plenty of surprises, and Judi Dench proved to be the best Bond girl of them all.

It turns out that one of the best movies of the year was an Irish one. What Richard Did directed by Lenny Abrahamson, with a very impressive central performance by Jack Reynor, stayed with me for weeks.

The combination of a hugely talented and impressive cast, directing by Garry Hynes, and the emotional power of Tom Murphy's writing means you have a winner. My theatrical experience of the year without a doubt was DruidMurphy.

The three plays (Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine) could be viewed either individually or all in the one day. I was left pretty drained but with an overwhelming feeling that I had just experienced an extraordinary theatrical event, a triumph for Druid.

The year marked the lifting of copyright on James Joyce's works in the EU. I really enjoyed Corn Exchange's adaptation of Joyce's Dubliners. Meanwhile The Dead, the final short story in Dubliners was dramatised by Frank McGuinness, a perfect choice for The Abbey's Christmas production with a stellar cast.

I saw my first Wagner opera courtesy of the new Irish company 'Wide Open Opera'. I wasn't sure if Wagner would be for me but was very taken with soprano Miriam Murphy, and The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fergus Sheil played magnificently.

I happily avoided Fifty Shades of Grey but enjoyed the page-turning thriller Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson and Kevin Barry's weird and wonderful collection of stories, Dark Lies the Island.

Due to extensive refurbishment, IMMA's exhibitions programme was based in two separate locations – the New Galleries in the RHK and the ground-floor exhibition spaces in the NCH building. The Earlsfort Terrace space turned out to be a perfect fit for a major mid-career retrospective of the work of leading Irish artist Alice Maher.

Meanwhile, Visual in Carlow was transformed into a skating rink mimicking the set of the movie Heaven's Gate by Dublin artist Brian Duggan. Visitors donned skates and dressed in period costumes, interacting with the installation in the most playful of manners.

The award for most enjoyable TV programme of the year for me goes to Downton Abbey. Dame Maggie's acerbic putdowns alone make Downton worth watching. There were tears of joy when Lady Mary and Mathew finally married and I'm still not over the shock of Lady Sybil's death. In this age of social media and Twitter, how on Earth did they keep that one secret?

Here's to another year rich in culture and entertainment. Let's face it, in these harsh economic times we need the escapism more than ever.

Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals (Sat 1-4pm) and Sunday Matinée (Sun 12-2pm) on RTÉ lyric fm

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