Wednesday 12 December 2018

'Brilliant, ridiculous, hugely entertaining' - RTE's Documentary on One, Prince at the Castle

Darragh McManus looks back on this week's radio

Prince
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The late, much-lamented Prince definitively was an outsider who did not operate by the normal rules.

The Documentary on One, Prince at the Castle (Radio 1, Sat 1pm), was a very enjoyable look back at his notorious 2011 concert in Malahide Castle.

Prince had fired his band and a group of Irish musicians were roped in, at extremely short notice, to back him up. Three years previously, he had famously cancelled a Croke Park gig, again at short notice, resulting in years of legal action by promoter Denis Desmond. (It resulted in the phrase "tell that cat to chill" entering the Irish lexicon.)

Colin McElarney and Ronan Kelly's documentary scooted back and forth with great liveliness and a lightness of touch, from Croker 2008 to Malahide 2011, detailing the rows, ructions and recriminations involved in both. The story was brilliant, ridiculous, captivating and hugely entertaining: a fitting testament, in a funny kind of way, to the capricious little genius himself.

Meanwhile, on radio this week:

Show me the books you read and I'll tell you who you are - that's my ruling maxim for life. I love books, love reading and love people who love reading books. So, unsurprisingly, I was most pleased at the return of Shane Coleman's Top 5 Books slot to Newstalk.

This ran, until 2016, on his weekend show for the same station. Now it's been reborn as a Newstalk podcast, which means that this week they were able to fire up three or four episodes together, beginning with Minister Paschal Donohoe, crime writer Liz Nugent, Never Mind the Buzzcocks star Phill Jupitus and journalist/broadcaster Nadine O'Regan.

It's a brilliantly simple idea, and a simply brilliant one. Over half an hour or so, Shane takes his guest through their pick of the five books which they've found most affecting, enjoyable, resonant or influential in their lives.

I could listen to people talking books until the cows come home anyway, but here you have the added element of revelation: their choices often reveal things about the person that you might not have previously expected.

So, for instance, while Paschal unsurprisingly had two political tomes on his list - a memoir by ex-UK Labour politician Denis Healey plus Ireland and the Global Question by Michael O'Sullivan - he also mentioned Paul Murray's award-winning novel Skippy Dies (I was further surprised to learn that David Cameron is a big fan) and the historical novel Any Human Heart by William Boyd.

Jupitus had the most diverse selection of the lot, spanning AA Milne's children's classic The World of Pooh and the humorous poetry of Pam Ayres, to the seminal crime novel The Hunter by Richard Stark, which was made into the equally seminal movie Point Blank, and Clothes Music Boys, the autobiography of Viv Albertine of pioneering punk band The Slits.

He also picked Dada: Art and Anti-Art by Hans Richter, a history of the groundbreaking surrealist movement which - surprised again - we discovered was a massive influence on a lot of British TV comedy, from Monty Python to The Mighty Boosh.

Liz Nugent admitted she "only recently started reading non-fiction", name-checking I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice and Matchstick Man by Julia Kelly. But her top five were all fiction, and included Banville's The Book of Evidence, Perfume by Patrick Süskind, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights - Liz first read it in Leaving Cert, which is the ideal time in my opinion - and Pat McCabe's The Butcher Boy. Most of her choices, she admitted, concentrate on people with a "dark seam" inside them: outsiders, psychopaths, people who don't operate by normal mores.

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