Thursday 19 September 2019

Radio: The consolations of high art and super pop culture


Stan Lee (PA)
Stan Lee (PA)
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Politics continues to dominate radio to some extent, with US elections last week and the will-they-won't-they pas de deux of Brexit negotiations over the last few days. So it makes for a refreshing change, if nothing else, to listen to something more pleasurable, and less aggravating and depressing, than politics: arts and culture.

The death of legendary comics artist Stan Lee was marked by Corkman Will Sliney on Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am). A comic-book illustrator who currently draws Spider-Man for Marvel, Sliney explained how "iconic" the 95-year-old was - in his field and beyond.

Hulk, Ironman, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, X-Men, Ant-Man: essentially, most of the superhero characters monopolising cinemas for the last decade were, at least in part, products of Lee's fertile imagination. "Those characters he created," Sliney said, "have touched so many people, whether that was watching the movies or reading the comics."

Actress Evanna Lynch achieved fame with another iconic franchise, playing Luna in the Harry Potter movies. She spoke to Ryan Tubridy (2FM, Mon-Fri 9am) about doing something completely different: competing on the US Dancing with the Stars.

Lynch was good value, a cheerful and self-deprecating character. She poked fun at herself when saying that actors are always being warned not to do reality TV, but "I just love dancing and have always wanted to be on that show… I'm really a failed dancer because I wanted to be a dancer rather than an actor but I just didn't have the technique and wasn't really focused."

The Co Louth native also opened up about her struggles with bullying and an eating disorder. On another show it might have felt mawkish - or worse, a bit exploitative - but Tubridy handled it with sensitivity and sympathy. He really is good at this type of interview.

Art Beneath the Waves (BBC Radio 4, Mon 4pm) was a fascinating exploration of people creating underwater art. That's not a metaphor: these painters, dancers and sculptors literally go under the surface. Talk about diving right in for the sake of art.

We heard about underwater ballet - without an oxygen-tank - giant submerged statues, filming of rare deep-sea life and even one artist who brings a drawing board and paper, floating and drawing (presumably while striving to keep the paper dry). It's all a sort of magic, really.

Meanwhile The Green Room (Newstalk, Sat 8pm) spoke to choreographer and founder of the Irish Modern Dance Theatre, John Scott, about Cloud Study. A new performance described as "part dance, part theatre, part athletics", it opens in Dublin soon: magic of a different form.

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