Step into the future - our critics' guide to the best in film, TV, podcasts, music, gigs and more for 2018
Our critics' guide to the best in culture coming your way in 2018.
compiled by Paul Whitington
The quality films come thick and fast in January, as studios release the movies they feel will perform strongest in the awards season. To that end, some heavy hitters will be jostling for your attention in the coming weeks, and I've picked out the best of them below. The Oscars themselves take place on March 4, and it will be interesting to see how they approach the dread subject of sexual harassment in the film industry.
Knowing Hollywood, there'll be plenty of po-faced hand-wringing, and one can expect much celebrity showboating on the subject at Cannes. The Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place between February 22 and March 4, and will open with Cartoon Saloon's ambitious new animation The Breadwinner, which may feature at the Oscars as it's already been nominated for a Golden Globe.
Other than that, there's the usual phalanx of superhero movies and idiotic summer blockbusters, some of which actually sound like fun. And new films by Steven Spielberg, JK Rowling, Alex Gibney and Wes Anderson are surely cause for hope.
out January 1
Aaron Sorkin is not known for writing strong, silent types, and Molly's Game is populated by uniformly brainy folks who talk faster than horse-racing commentators. It's very entertaining, though, and is based on the true story of high-stakes poker hostess Molly Bloom. Jessica Chastain is superb in the lead, and should get an Oscar nomination.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
out January 12
Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards is also being touted as an awards big-hitter, and while I didn't much care for it myself - I found it glib and over-written - Frances McDormand is in top form as a fearsome southern woman who refuses to let Woody Harrelson's local sheriff forget about her daughter's unsolved murder.
out January 19
Steven Spielberg's deeply satisfying period drama charts the Pentagon Papers crisis which erupted between several newspapers and the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. Meryl Streep plays the Washington Post's inexperienced publisher, Katharine Graham, Tom Hanks its dashing editor Ben Bradlee, and we all know how much the Academy hates presenting awards to those two…
The Shape of Water
out February 14
Guillermo Del Toro's moving science-fiction adventure has divided critics somewhat, but is a visually imaginative fantasy that manages to mix the cheap thrills of 1950s B-pictures with a story reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. Sally Hawkins may well get nominated for the film.
out February 16
When it comes to the Best Actress Oscar, the smart money seems to be on Saoirse Ronan, whose performance in Greta Gerwig's critically lauded Lady Bird is being praised to the skies. Ronan plays Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson, an intense and difficult teenager whose relationship with her mother reaches a crisis during her senior high school year.
out February 23
Alex Garland's last film, Ex Machina, was superb, and in his upcoming sci-fi horror Annihilation, Natalie Portman plays a scientist who finds unexpected horrors when she leads an expedition into an environmental disaster zone.
Ugly misgivings proliferated on the internet when it was announced that Alicia Vikander would be playing Lara Croft in this action reboot - she's not curvy enough, apparently. She's certainly a good enough actress, but as I recall the Angelina Jolie original was pretty bad, so let's hope this one is better.
Isle of Dogs
I always look forward to Wes Anderson films, and Isle of Dogs sounds like a lot of fun. A dystopian stop-motion animation set in a futuristic Japan, it tells the story of a little boy who goes looking for his pet dog on an island to which all canines have been banished. Needless to say, Bill Murray shows up in the voice cast.
Ready Player One
out March 30
Steven Spielberg's action thriller (main image) is set in the future, but looks like a throwback to the great sci-fi films of the 1980s. In the year 2045, the world has become so overpopulated and unpleasant that people spend all their free time losing themselves in virtual reality games that become frighteningly real. Olivia Cooke and Mark Rylance star.
A Wrinkle in Time
Ava DuVernay has tempted Oprah Winfrey back to the big screen to star in this intriguing sci-fi fantasy A Wrinkle in Time. A girl sets out to free her scientist father who is being held captive on a distant planet. Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon co-star.
Avengers: Infinity War
out May 4
In another year packed with superhero movies, Avengers: Infinity War will probably make the biggest splash. In it, Captain America and his friends will once again be confronted by an intergalactic megalomaniac. The two previous Avengers films made almost $3bn between them, and this should do similarly brisk business.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
out late May
It's a case of so far, so good in terms of Disney's stewardship of the mighty sci-fi franchise, but if they mess with everyone's favourite Star Wars character, the backlash will be nasty. Solo stars Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo, but it's already had a mid-shoot change of director, which is rarely a good sign.
Before you start moaning about George Clooney and Brad Pitt being too old for this kind of nonsense, Ocean's Eight is an all-female version of the jokey heist franchise. Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter play members of a gang that stage a daring raid in New York.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Thanks mainly to a decent script, great effects and the presence of two very fine actors in Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the 2015 reboot Jurassic World was surprisingly enjoyable. It grossed $1.6bn, so this sequel should be one of the box-office hits of the summer.
Pixar's big summer release is Incredibles 2, which will be doing well if it reaches the charming heights of the 2004 original. The Parr family are still trying to live a normal life and conceal their superhero identities when their nemesis Mr Freeze re-emerges. Holly Hunter and Samuel L Jackson reprise their voice roles.
The Jungle Book
Completed last year but delayed for obvious reasons, Andy Serkis's motion-capture version of Rudyard Kipling's adventure yarn will inevitably be compared to Disney's much lauded 2016 remake. It looks interesting, though, and Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch are among a sparkling cast.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
out November 16
JK Rowling insists she remains happy with the casting of Johnny Depp in her Fantastic Beasts sequel despite the whiff of scandal concerning his volatile break-up with Amber Heard. And if it's anything like as good as the original, it's sure to be one of the biggest films of 2018. Eddie Redmayne stars, with Jude Law playing a young Dumbledore.
Mary Poppins Returns
out December 26
This daring sequel to one of the best-loved family musicals of all time is set in America during the Great Depression, where the grown-up Michael is now living. When his wife dies and leaves him to look after his three kids along, unexpected help floats down from above. Emily Blunt should be perfect in the lead role, and the film is released next Christmas.
Ones to watch
Lance Daly emerged as a hugely promising Irish filmmaker with his 2008 feature Kisses, a gorgeous and dreamlike teenage odyssey set along Dublin’s canals. He has since struggled to match that drama’s high quality, but this year he becomes the first filmmaker to seriously tackle the grim legacy of the Great Famine. Black 47 stars Barry Keoghan and Hugo Weaving, and could be one of Irish cinema’s real highlights in 2018.
For some years Greta Gerwig has been the ditsy muse of film-makers like Whit Stillman, Rebecca Miller and her off-screen partner Noah Baumbach. In Baumbach’s Miss America and Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women she showed real depth in her acting, and her writing/directing debut Lady Bird has been praised to the skies. In fact, she may get Oscar nominations in the Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Film categories.
Fionn O’Shea was excellent as the moody misfit Conor in John Butler’s winning coming-of-age drama Handsome Devil, and his career now seems to be taking off. He co-starred in Siege of Jadotville, has just finished shooting the World War Two drama The Aftermath with Keira Knightley and Stellan Skarsgard, is currently working with Stephen Mangan on a new Channel 4 comedy called Hang Ups, and was recently named as one of Screen International’s ‘stars of tomorrow’.
Millie Bobby Brown
Born in Spain but raised in England and America, 13-year-old Millie Bobby Brown got small parts on TV shows as a child actress before being cast as the mysterious ‘Eleven’ in the Duffer brothers’ Netflix hit Stranger Things. Her portrayal of the troubled and telekinetically gifted teenager had real emotional depth, and marked her out as a future star. She’s since landed lucrative modelling contracts, and has been cast in Warner’s 2019 blockbuster Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
compiled by John Boland
If you haven't yet binge-watched the second season of The Crown (Netflix), please do so because it's even better than the first, and Claire Foy is absolutely riveting as the insecure but steely young monarch. Sadly, she's to be replaced in next December's third season by Olivia Colman, though that, too, should be fascinating.
In the meantime, there's much else likely to fascinate us over the next 12 months, not least the Coen Brothers' first foray into television drama; the reunion 20 years later of Roseanne and the rest of her original cast; a seven-part ITV adaptation of Thackeray's Vanity Fair; BBC adaptations of both Little Women and The War of the Worlds; a retelling of the Gianni Versace murder; and another comedic reunion in the return of Will & Grace.
RTÉ's dramatic output begins forthwith with the second season of Dublin-set legal drama Striking Out, starring Amy Huberman as feisty lawyer Tara and Neil Morrissey as her maverick colleague, and hopefully some of the first season's implausibilities will have been sorted out this time around.
RTÉ is also in co-production with the BBC for a one-off biopic of comedian Dave Allen, whose irreverence was controversial in his day and who is here played by Aidan Gillen.
Meanwhile, our national broadcaster is hoping that the second season of Dancing with the Stars will prove just as popular as the first.
Elsewhere, there's lots of intriguing programming on the way.
Created by Ryan Murphy, the man responsible for Glee and Nip/Tuck, this drama series follows the lives of Los Angeles cops, paramedics and firefighters and its impressive cast includes Angela Bassett, Connie Britton and Peter Krause. Whether it rises above the formulaic remains to be seen.
American Crime Story
This second season of true-life dramas (the first concerned the OJ Simpson case and starred Cuba Gooding and John Travolta) deals with the 1997 slaying in Miami beach of flamboyant Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez), whose assassin killed himself eight days later. A 10-episode series that also stars Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Having given their blessing to Noah Hawley for his marvellous TV spin-offs from their 1996 movie Fargo, the Coen brothers have themselves ventured into television with this six-part series of one-off westerns starring James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson and Tyne Daly. Given the pedigree of its makers, this has created a lot of advance buzz.
Described as a pre-apocalyptic crime drama, this stars Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn as two metropolitan cops investigating nefarious deeds while waiting for the earth to explode from nuclear warming. You might wonder why they'd bother, but the BBC is talking up this four-parter.
Sky Atlantic, January
The second season of Sharon Horgan's acidic comedy about unhappy socialite Sarah Jessica Parker whose extra-marital affair is discovered by hubby Thomas Haden Church. The first season was more barbed than funny, but Horgan's take on the messiness of married life still registered strongly.
Billed as "Thelma and Louise meets Breaking Bad", this features three cash-strapped suburban moms who rob their local supermarket and have to face up to the consequences. Christina Hendricks (Joan in Mad Men) leads the cast.
Gentleman Jack (BBC1)
The third season of the marvellous Happy Valley isn't due until at least the year's end, creator Sally Wainwright having got sidelined into writing this drama about 19th-century lesbian socialite Anne Lister. Suranne Jones, so frighteningly good in Doctor Foster, plays the lead character and should give it a lot of oomph.
Sharp Objects (Sky Atlantic)
Based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, who went on to write the phenomenally successful Gone Girl, this eight-part thriller concerns the murder of two young girls and the attempt by troubled reporter Amy Adams to discover the perpetrator.
New drama from Mike Bartlett, the man behind Doctor Foster and the excellent BBC2 blank-verse one-off King Charles III (with the late Tim Pigott-Smith), has John Simm as a grieving father who thinks that a medical consultant is responsible for his son's death.
Will & Grace (channel to be confirmed)
Revival of the hit sitcom that ran from 1998 until 2003, with Erin McCormack returning as an older version of debonair gay lawyer Will and Debra Messing as his best pal. Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes are also back in their old roles, though it remains to be seen whether the chemistry remains as it was first time around.
A very British Scandal (BBC1)
Scripted by Russell T Davies, this three-parter concerns Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe, tried in 1979 for conspiracy to murder lover Norman Scott. He was acquitted but the case ended his political career. Ben Whishaw and the underrated Hugh Grant (so good with Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins) star.
The first season was very arresting as Jason Bateman's dodgy financier fled to hillbilly country with wife Laura Linney and teenage kids, trying to keep the real baddies at bay while doing their bidding. His survival has led to this second season.
Four-parter from veteran dramatist David Hare, with detective Carey Mulligan probing the murder of a pizza-delivery man, John Simm as the politician caught up in the case and Billie Piper as his wife. The line-up is good anyway.
compiled by Ed Power
True crime has gained a new life with podcasts. Four years on from Serial, a gripping new series presented by Payne Lindsey will revisit the notorious Atlanta Child Murders, in which 28 young African Americans died between 1979 and 1981. The case is also the subject of series two of David Fincher's Mindhunter, so the podcast doubles as a primer for the Netflix hit. Lindsey is a name in the genre, with his Up and Vanished series - about the disappearance of a Georgia beauty queen - downloaded more than 10 million times.
Available from January 5
Another true-crime podcast - but with a difference. From the creators of HBO's The Jinx, Crimetown drills deep into the dark side of the American Dream. Season one focused entirely on Providence Rhode Island, birthplace of HP Lovecraft and, so say hosts Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling, a town where "organised crime and corruption infected every aspect of public life". Series two will debut in 2018, and will focus on another city. (Date TBC)
Serial Season Three
After an underwhelming second season - which veered away from the whodunit genre to tell the story of US military deserter Bowe Bergdahl - the true-crime podcast to rule them all took a year off (also so producers could release the acclaimed S-Town). It returns in 2018, though details are scant. "Season three takes on something huge and different with characters and narrative but very different from the first two seasons," the team promises.
Each week an unidentified guest speaks honestly about a difficult time in their life. There is the Silicon Valley millionaire who has a breakdown, an overworked doctor who commits a fatal error and a woman whose life changes when she carries out an act of violence. It sounds prurient, but even the most hard-hearted listener will experience a shiver of empathy. New episodes will continue through 2018.
compiled by Katy Hayes
Project Arts Centre, Dublin Feb 1 - Feb 24
A world première of a new play written and directed by Mark O'Rowe. Produced by Landmark Productions, it is described as a psychological puzzle, a devastating tragedy and a subtle game of survival. Featuring Cathy Belton, Derbhle Crotty and Aisling O'Sullivan, all top actors who represent a generation of female acting talent at the height of their powers. It will be a theatrical treat to see this trio together on the stage; that alone would be well worth the ticket price.
A Play for Ireland
Submissions close on February 1
Fishamble: The New Play Company are busy keeping the playwriting flame alive. They have put out a call to all writers to submit an idea that captures the zeitgeist of the country. This initiative is run in partnership with six venues across the country, including the Pavilion, Dún Laoghaire; Everyman, Cork; Lime Tree Theatre/Belltable, Limerick; Town Hall Theatre, Galway; and Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Five writers will be chosen to take part in each venue, involving 30 writers in all. The entire initiative is part of Fishamble's 30th birthday celebration in 2018. So if you have that brilliant idea bursting in your head, get it down on paper. Open to anyone over 18.
Galway, Feb 1 - 4
Baboró International Arts Festival For Children host this once-off special festival aimed at the very little ones, aged up to six. Located around the city and in various Galway theatre venues, the international shows include: the UK's Polka Theatre with Under the Rainbow, where music and puppetry will introduce children to a turtle and a bird of paradise, suitable for ages 3-6; Dance Theatre Auraco from Finland with Tunto (Touch) catering for children aged 0-6, and good for visually impaired kids; and Compagnie ONAVIO from France, with Pas de Loup (No Wolf) about childhood fears, geared for kids aged 18 months to 5. Lots of other delightful offerings in this inventive programme.
The Unmanageable Sisters
Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Feb 26
Deirdre Kinahan adapts Michel Tremblay's 1965 comedy Les Belles-soeurs to an Irish setting. The original was written in a colloquial French dialect, which is associated with the Québécois working class. Kinahan has shifted the action to Ballymun in 1973. A local woman has won a load of Green Shield Stamps and she invites 15 of her pals round to help her lick them all and stick them into the books (younger readers, ask your gran). Directed by Abbey co-director Graham McLaren.
Where We Live
The Complex, Smithfield, Dublin March 6 -18
Thisispopbaby, in cahoots with the St Patrick's Festival, have created a two-week extravaganza of theatre and art, films and discussion, all focused on the story of what it feels like to live in Dublin today. Amongst the array of theatre goodies are: The Mouth of a Shark, a show about asylum seekers from director Oonagh Murphy and composer Maeve Stone; Here & Now, created and performed by Veronica Dyas, directed by Amy Conroy; Conversations After Sex, written by Mark O'Halloran and directed by Tom Creed; Money, written and performed by Peter Daly, directed by Phillip McMahon; and Not a Funny Word, written and performed by Tara Flynn, directed by Phillip McMahon.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Black Box Theatre, Galway, March 20 - 24
Enda Walsh adapts and directs this version of the successful 2015 book by Max Porter, produced by UK company Complicité. The première is in Galway as an early offering from Galway International Arts Festival before it transfers to the capital. Porter's story is about a man and his two sons dealing with the aftermath of his wife's death. A capricious crow appears and takes on a role in helping the bereaved trio cope with their loss. Plenty of theatrical possibilities there. Walsh's long-time collaborator Cillian Murphy stars.
Gate Theatre, Dublin, April 12 - June 9
A rollicking musical by Stephen Sondheim from 1990, this is a black comedy that explores the dark side of the American dream. It presents a parade of the men and women who have assassinated or attempted to assassinate the presidents of the United States. The musical styles reflect the various eras represented. The unpopularity of the current incumbent of the White House in liberal circles lends a naughty edge to programming this. Directed by Gate boss Selina Cartmell, with musical direction by Cathal Synnott.
On Raftery's Hill
Abbey Theatre, Dublin, April 27 - May 12
Marina Carr's play was first produced by Druid in 2000 and proved highly controversial. Irish audiences weren't quite ready for the rebarbative presentation of vicious patriarchal incest, and its tour to the United States didn't please the conservative Irish-American audience there. Given the press stories that have broken since that time, and the exposure of shocking and traumatic hidden stories behind the front doors of Irish family homes, it'll be interesting to see if audiences are more able for it in 2018. Directed by Abbey associate director Caitriona McLaughlin.
The Last Ship
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin, June 4 - June 9
With an original score and lyrics by Sting, this musical will have its UK première in Dublin, following its original production in Chicago in 2014 and a subsequent Broadway outing. Inspired by Sting's own childhood growing up in the north of England, it is about the closure of the local shipyard and its effect on the community. Sting has a loyal following among 50-somethings, having provided some key ingredients of the late 1970s and 80s soundtrack. Will that groovy fanbase go with this new musical-theatre style?
Asking For It
Everyman, Cork, June 15 - 23
Louise O'Neill's novel Asking For It gets its stage première as part of Cork Midsummer Festival. The adaptation has been created by playwright Meadhbh McHugh in collaboration with Annabelle Comyn, who also directs. The Everyman programme continues to groom a strong regional flavour with this new work based on material by the Cork-born novelist. Dealing with victim blaming and rape culture, the novel was palpably in touch with the zeitgeist when it first appeared in 2015, and the stage adaptation will likely be challenging and controversial.
National Theatre, London, May
Brian Friel's play about the vexed relationship between the Irish people and the English language gets a fancy revival on the Olivier Stage of London's Royal National Theatre, directed by Ian Rickson. This is a terrific play that explores the complex dynamic of all the relationships on these islands. It is a timely work as the drama of Brexit wends its way through the political landscape of the United Kingdom.
Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Oct 10
Thomas Kilroy's plays are unusual in the Irish canon with their cerebral and experimental feel, and their restless reshaping of theatrical form. This is a welcome opportunity to see this World War II play from 1986. It features two Irishmen who were catapulted into significant roles in the war: Brendan Bracken MP, who was Winston Churchill's private secretary; and William Joyce who broadcast propaganda from Nazi Germany as Lord Haw-Haw. Directed by the Lyric's executive producer, Jimmy Fay.
Ones to watch
It almost never happens that a work gets pulled from the slush pile, but this has been the fortune of Perry’s play Porcelain, which was submitted under the Abbey’s open call last year. It will premiere on the Peacock stage in February. Perry is a 27-year-old from Cork who did Drama and Theatre Studies at UCC. This is her full-length professional debut, following a student production at the Granary Theatre and a short play last year at Theatre Upstairs.
Journalist Murphy had his first play about the banking crisis, Guaranteed!, produced in 2013, which was later filmed for TV. He’s since carved out a niche in documentary theatre, with plays such as Bailed Out and Inside the GPO. 2018 will see a new play about the 1982 Tony Gregory deal, Haughey/Gregory, produced by Fishamble: The New Play Company. It will have an outing on the Peacock stage in February, accompanied by discussions and debates.
compiled by John Meagher
Between Two Shores, January 19
The Dubliner's third solo album is eagerly anticipated and lead single 'Time Will Be a Healer' bodes well. It was recorded in Black Box studios France, which is owned and operated by Hansard's old Frames bandmate Dave Odlum. It's the follow-up to 2015's Grammy-nominated Didn't He Ramble.
First Aid Kit
Ruins, January 19
The Swedish duo, sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, return with a fourth album, and first since 2014's excellent Stay Gold. The 10-track album will include the single, 'Postcards', which was unveiled to positive notices in October.
Always Ascending, Feb 9
This will be the Glaswegians' first album since the departure of founding member Nick McCarthy and the first to feature new members Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie. After an absence of five years, Alex Kapranos and friends have opted for an intriguing producer - DJ Phillipe Zdar, one half of veteran French house band Cassius.
Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, March 2
The prolific New Yorker is back with a 15th album which sees him return to the gospel and trip-hop hybrid of his earlier work. That's evident on lead single 'Like a Motherless Child', a reworking of the traditional slavery-era song 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child'. Moby's rendition features guest vocalist Raquel Rodriguez.
Music for Cars, June TBC
The Mancunian quartet enjoyed a great 2016 thanks to the all-conquering success of their second album, the unwieldily titled I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. This follow-up has much to live up to and the band's Matty Healy has been talking it up in Gallagher-esque fashion: "If you look at third albums, OK Computer or The Queen is Dead, that's what we need to do."
Turbo Grafx 16, TBC
Gaming fans won't need to be reminded what the expected title of the superstar rapper's forthcoming album is all about. To everyone else, it's a vintage console from the late 1980s that West was apparently enamoured with as a child. After the messiness of his last album, he needs to rediscover form - especially with Kendrick Lamar barely putting a foot wrong.
My Bloody Valentine
The Anglo-Irish quartet, under the leadership of Dubliner Kevin Shields, operates at a glacial pace but the band have been making positive noises that a successor to 2013's mbv will surface in 2018. Considering that mbv was their first album in 22 years, that would be an achievement in itself.
Ones to watch
The 21-year-old Norwegian has generated much publicity in recent months, not least because of her exceptional single ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’. She appears on the BBC’s increasingly prophetic ‘Sound-of’ poll for 2018 and she wowed them at Other Voices in Dingle at the beginning of the month. There’s a distinct Scandinavian edge to her soulful brand of pop and she will show what she’s about when she headlines the Academy, Dublin on March 23.
Dubliner Jonathon Ng, 21, has been on our radar for some time thanks to his forays into electronic music and he releases his debut album Vertigo on the cool Astralwerks label on January 19. He’s already generated considerable interest on social media and his illuminating cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ was viewed more than a million times on YouTube. It’s a sign of his steady rise that he plays the Olympia, Dublin, on April 24.
The 20-year-old London-based Irishwoman does a fine line in country pop and her second album, Talk of This Town, was well received when it was released by major label Warner Bros during the summer. She plays an intimate show at the Green Room (at the Academy), Dublin on March 8 but her trajectory is such that it will likely be the last time she’s performing in such modest venues. She’s just announced a show at London’s Bush Hall.
Christine and the Queens put sophisticated French pop on the map in recent years and her compatriot Flora Fischbach — aka Fishbach — is likely to keep the Gallic flag flying high. This 26-year-old knows her way around an engaging pop song — have a listen to her outstanding single, ‘Béton Mouillé’, and try not to be seduced by the confluence of vocals and clever, playful arrangements.
3Arena, Dublin, February 7
The LA rapper topped many critics' end-of-year polls with his state-of-the-nation Damn - a follow-up to the universally praised To Pimp a Butterfly. Lamar has become the greatest rapper of his generation and he's got huge crossover appeal, too, having guested on U2's latest album.
3Arena, Dublin, February 20
Moz's latest album, Low in High School, may have been something of a disappointment, but his back catalogue is rich and varied. And there are plenty of much-loved Smiths songs, should he wish to deviate from his own solo material.
Beck + Yeah Yeah Yeahs
3Arena, Dublin, May 23
This double bill brings together two great American outfits - the prolific Beck and New York indie darlings Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The former is promoting his 13th album, Colors, while the Karen O-fronted trio are touring for the first time in four years. Their latest album is Mosquito.
National Concert Hall, Dublin, June 2
Cork's finest band reconvene for a special show which will see them perform this their most emblematic album, The Clock Comes Down the Stairs, in its entirety. And what an album: inspired by their new life in Thatcher-era London, it rails against yuppies, hypocrites and the music industry.
Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin, June 15 and 16
On the crest of a wave following the realise of their seventh album, Sleep Well Beast, Matt Berninger and Co play their biggest Irish shows to date. Support on the first night is from Lisa Hannigan (the National's guitarist Aaron Dessner produced her most recent album), while Villagers will appear on the second date.
Croke Park, Dublin, June 15 and 16
Ed Sheeran will play the capital's largest show in 2018 when he lands at Phoenix Park, but of the year's monster gigs, these are the ones to be most excited about. Swift has been on flying form with her latest album, Reputation, and its predecessor, 1989, is one of the decade's best pure pop albums.
Marley Park, July 12
The Hawaiian's superstar status has been secured on this mammoth nine-leg 24K Magic tour, which kicked off in March of this year and called to Dublin's 3Arena in April. It will conclude in London's Hyde Park two days after this Dublin date.
Bulmers Forbidden Fruit
Dublin, June 2-4
There's an exceptional line-up for this hardy perennial in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, including The War On Drugs (responsible for A Deeper Understanding - this critic's favourite album of 2017), Grizzly Bear, Warpaint and Vince Staples.
Live at the Marquee
Cork, June and July
This brilliant series of concerts has been a staple on Leeside for a dozen years and this year's offering is as eclectic as we've come to expect. It kicks off with 1980s pop heart-throbs A-ha on June 12, and there are shows headlined by Bell X1 (June 15) and Alanis Morissette (July 4).
Live At Iveagh Gardens
There's no better venue for outdoor summer shows in Dublin, just a 10-minute stroll from Grafton Street. More shows will be announced in the New Year, but for now, we can get excited about The The, who will play a rare gig on July 7, while rising Irish band The Academic are there on July 20 and the aforementioned Alanis Morissette does her thing on July 5.
compiled by George Hamilton
The Big Bang: the launch of Irish National era
National Concert Hall, January 9
After a gap of eight years, opera is back. Irish fans can look forward to 2018 secure in the knowledge that there will be plenty for them to enjoy on a regular basis. The merger of Wide Open Opera and Opera Theatre Company under the auspices of the Arts Council will mean the chance to savour an opera season once again. Full-scale productions are promised for the major cities with smaller-scale shows touring throughout the country. All will be revealed at The Big Bang, an evening of operatic delights, featuring Ireland's top voices and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra with Irish National Opera's Artistic Director Fergus Sheil at the helm.
National Concert Hall, March 15
I'm always on the look-out for the latest visit by a top international pianist, and this one certainly fits the bill. Remarkable to think, too, that the now internationally renowned Cassard was the first winner of the Dublin International Piano Competition, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary (see below). His programme majors on the music of Debussy, born 100 years ago this year, and scans the spectrum featuring Chopin and Liszt, Grieg and Rameau, and plenty more besides.
London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle
National Concert Hall, April 18
The NCH's International Concert Series goes from strength to strength. Big names abound, and they don't come much bigger than Simon Rattle. After almost two decades in charge of the Berlin Philharmonic, he's beginning his tenure as Music Director of the LSO. This is the first of what will be five annual visits by the orchestra. On the programme, Mahler's Symphony No 9 - one that Rattle has recorded with both the Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonic.
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, May 2 - 6
The man who composed the carol 'O Holy Night' - Adolphe Adam - was a prolific writer for the musical stage. Giselle was his most successful ballet, the tale of a young woman who dies of a broken heart when she discovers the man she loves is involved with another, and the supernatural goings-on that ensue. Reimagined for the 21st century by Akram Khan, one of the most innovative and celebrated choreographers, this version featuring the English National Ballet premièred to rave reviews just last year.
Dublin International Piano Competition
May 18 - 29
Open to professional pianists of all nationalities between the ages of 17 and 30, and held every three years, this is the 11th edition. With preliminary rounds in the RDS, followed by the semis and the final (which takes place on May 29) in the National Concert Hall, the standard is sure to be of the highest. Some 63 pianists from countries right across the globe - China, Japan, Korea, Canada, the USA and Russia to name but half a dozen beyond Ireland and the UK - competed last time.
Wexford Opera Festival
October 19 - November 4
As ever, a centrepiece of Ireland's operatic year, this 67th version keeps up its reputation for presenting a programme that avoids the mainstream and shines a spotlight into hidden corners.
The main evening operas this year include a double bill. Umberto Giordano's Mala Vita, the story of a working man which was a little too close to the knuckle and caused uproar when it was staged in Rome in 1892 - too true to be good, it was noted - plays alongside L'Oracolo by Franco Leoni, which premièred at Covent Garden in 1905.
There's Dinner at Eight, a tale from the Great Depression by the contemporary American composer William Bolcom, which had its first outing in Minnesota this year. By way of counterpoint, Wexford also features a work from the 19th century, Saverio Mercadante's Il Bravo.
compiled by Hilary A White
Foil, Arms and Hog: Oink
January 4 - March 10, nationwide
Lovers of sketch comedy will probably already know of Foil, Arms and Hog, the Rathfarnham trio who have managed to bring their scripted buffoonery into the mainstream live circuit as well as appearances on the small screen. As for Sean Finegan, Conor McKenna and Sean Flanagan themselves, the jury is still out on which is which in terms of being dumb, dumber and dumbest. All we know is they are painfully good at what they do.
Alison Spittle: Worrier Princess
January 5 - February 10, nationwide
Reviews of Spittle's recent RTÉ sitcom Nowhere Fast have been on the mixed side but the live circuit is where the none-more-midlands comic hits her stride. Worrier Princess stops off around the country to deposit doses of Spittle's dotty self-deprecation to the nation. When she goes off-piste, her surrealist tendencies and air of timid irreverence can be compelling.
Danny O'Brien: RaconTour
January 12 - April 20, nationwide
Having steadily ascended the Irish stand-up circuit over the past decade or so, O'Brien's frenzied stage persona and biology-fuelled riffs have made him one of the more distinct comedy voices on the scene.
A regular at the Edinburgh Fringe - where RaconTour debuted this year - and festivals across the globe, the Wicklow comic stays particularly gig fit throughout the year given his weekly hosting of the esteemed Dublin stand-up club, The Comedy Crunch. Delicate ears should perhaps avoid but everyone else is advised to pop along.
Flight of the Conchords
March 25 and April 2, 3Arena, Dublin
It can be hard to recall those days when Flight of the Conchords were a Kiwi comedy music duo with strange faces and strange accents to accompany them. Today, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie are one of the most successful comedy acts on the world circuit, with hit TV shows and Grammy awards under their belts. This first headline world tour in seven years carries added poignancy following the death last year of Conchords totem David Bowie. Tickets still remain for the second night at the time of writing but you wouldn't want to dilly-dally.
Al Foran: Impersonate This!
April 14, Vicar St, Dublin
Foran has won legions of online subscribers through his uncanny YouTube takes on everyone from Conor McGregor and Enda Kenny to Eddie Murphy and Morgan Freeman. While the actual comedy writing of his material perhaps needs to be brought up to the undeniable standards of his mimicry, this Vicar Street date should make for a good occasion for Foran to test out his abilities in a protracted headline set. Given the title, expect plenty of his gurning Robert de Niro.
Michael McIntyre's Big World Tour 2018
June 7 - 9, 3Arena, Dublin
As big as they come in arena-sized stand-up comedy and showing no signs of his wit dulling, McIntyre's success can be put down to a bright and breezy way with observational comedy that hasn't had to rely on profanity. His analysis of Christmas eating habits is a perfect example and one that will hit many nerves at this time of year when the horrors of sprouts and bread sauce loom large. A third date has been added to this Dublin visit by the UK giant due to huge demand. www.michaelmcintyre.co.uk
compiled by Hilary A White
Brian Maguire - War Changes Its Address: The Aleppo Paintings
January 26 - May 6, IMMA, Dublin
IMMA kicks off 2018 with this collection by Brian Maguire that came about following his recent journey to Syria. Maguire expresses the sombre energies of war-torn Aleppo in a series of works that look to communicate not only the massive destruction that city has endured but also the wider issue of an international arms trade that facilitates such horrors. It complements earlier works that dealt with the huge refugee crisis that came as a direct result of the Syrian War.
Freud Project, Ethics of Scrutiny: curated by Daphne Wright
February 14 to August 31, IMMA, Dublin
Securing a five-year loan of 50 works by Lucien Freud was a coup for Kilmainham. What's more, IMMA is putting the works to good use by framing interesting seasons such as this around the great 20th-century realist. Here, Daphne Wright (who was inducted into Aosdana in 2011, the year Freud died) positions pieces by the English master and grandson of Sigmund alongside works by everyone from Emily Dickinson to Johnny Cash to examine the changing nature of identity and perception.
Portrait of a Family
May 19 - August 19, The Model, Sligo
As father of Jack and William, John Butler Yeats often ends up having to play second fiddle to his considerably more discussed sons. The Model will go some way to addressing this as it puts on show the considerable wares added to the Niland Collection following the Yeats family sale at Sotheby's last September. This promises to be an intimate look at a family who are one of the nation's great cultural institutions through the works of its patriarch. John B's masterpiece Self Portrait, New York is set to feature.
Between Paris and Pont-Aven: Roderic O'Conor and the Moderns
July 18 - October 28, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
It's been 30 years since anywhere held a retrospective of the great Roscommon post-impressionist Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940). This new exhibition looks to be very much worth waiting for, featuring as it does works not previously shown in public. It will also attempt to contextualise O'Conor's significant contribution by juxtaposing his work with peers and collaborators such as Gauguin, Van Gogh and Cuno Amiet.
Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger
July 20 - October 13
Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, SkibBereen and Dublin Castle
The largest collection of Famine-related art in the world is housed in Ireland's Great Hunger Museum in Connecticut, US. A selection that includes works by Paul Henry, Jack B Yeats, William Crozier, Hughie O'Donoghue, Micheal Farrell, Alanna O'Kelly and Dorothy Cross will travel back across the Atlantic to the homeland for what will most likely be a fascinating and poignant compendium. The exhibition at Uillinn will run alongside a series of events tailored around education and community.
Beasts from Brazil: Rediscovered Drawings by Frans Post
September 8 - December 9, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
The Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Post (1612-1680) set out for Brazil - a Dutch colony at the time - in 1636 with the intention of committing to paper an illustrated account of the indigenous wildlife there. (Fun fact: It also allowed him to escape an outbreak of the plague that had come to his hometown). Post spent seven years in what must have been a different universe in those days, and he returned to the Netherlands with a shimmering body of work. Thirty-four coloured drawings of exotic animals and tropical vistas were recently discovered, and it is these that will be exhibited in Merrion Square alongside NGI's resident Post work, Brazilian Landscape.