Comedian Dara Ó Briain fears so much for the future of live entertainment that he believes there may be a need to save historic venues from property developers.
The Wicklow man is part of a star-studded line-up on RTÉ’s Comic Relief charity broadcast on Friday, but while he's delighted to be one of the principal organisers, he's also worried about his own industry's prospects.
"The whole thing is weird, it’s basically the suspension of our entire world, all our live stuff," Dara (48) tells the Sunday World.
"It's affecting the staff in the theatres, no one has been coming in the doors for a long time.
"Everyone who works in the live industry is very aware that we are not going to come back for another year, nine months, six months whatever."
Dara has been luckier than most of his colleagues. "I have just come off a 180-date tour, I was only finishing it off," he says of the lockdown. "I suppose I'm the luckiest of anyone in this, that I had just finished and was about to start a Canadian tour.
"But I had just come out of 180 different rooms where no one I worked with is being paid now for a year, that's going to have a huge effect. When we come back it could be hugely different. There are people in that industry who aren't being paid at all at the moment."
Dara says that the prospects for future work are uncertain. "The last I heard about of my tour dates in Canada is they will happen a year later than they are supposed to. No matter how tough that might be for me, that means the staff in theatres aren't working for a year because you can’t do it from home.
"Anywhere, the Abbey, the Olympia, Gaiety, Vicar Street, you can't work for a year because you can't get crowds in the door. We don't know it for definite but everybody is presuming this."
He fears if venues are not used it could lead to them being taken over by developers.
"We have to have a campaign so the buildings don’t disappear and get bought up by property developers and turned into apartments... when there’s no money coming in through the door in a year."
The father-of-two was persuaded to take part in Friday's Comic Relief show by his friend Deirdre O'Kane, with all money raised going to the Community Foundation of Ireland, which funds innovative social projects.
"I got nagged by Deirdre '’Kane, which is the way she did the other live gigs as well," he explains. "Then the torch got passed on to me to nag other people, which is why the film we made for them is just a list of cameos that people sent in. We wrote a script that people could add to. So our cast list is ludicrous, like Jimmy Carr, Dave Mitchell, John Bishop, they all are doing this one ridiculous sketch about The Panel (the RTE show he hosted from 2003-2006).
"People can do it at home... they can record a funny thing now and again on Zoom, that's all we have to offer. We have all been kind of recalibrated in terms of what our use is to society and this is literally our only use at the moment."
Dara is appealing for the public to step up to the plate and help out. "It's a very easy sell because there's no bucket collections or coffee mornings. They have all got scuppered," he emphasises.
"At least Ireland is a good guy for creating umbrella organisations and pulling people together for stuff. So we got The Panel, as it were, together on a big Zoom chat and cut it into a fake documentary. We came up with a silly parody documentary thing, it's kind of funny."
He raves about other acts. "The stuff Deirdre has got together for this, Normal People and the Sexy Priest from Fleabag, it's ludicrous the people who have turned out for this," he beams.
"Like Hozier singing in a deserted Croke Park for a big finale they have, it's mad. It’s gorgeous stuff. So I think its going to be a very good event."
Dara, who is married to his surgeon wife Susan, is busy home-schooling their two young children and says he has never spent so much time under the one roof at their home in London. A huge Arsenal fan, he also got to see the return of the Premier League, when the Gunners lost 3-0 to Man City on Thursday.
"It was reassuring that Arsenal basically gave a sense of normality by losing three-nil to Man City. The universe hasn’t changed entirely that Arsenal are still making an utter hames of it in some way that we didn’t even suspect," he smiles.
RTÉ Does Comic Relief will feature a range of performances and contributions. As well as Dara Ó Briain, they include Hozier, Amy Huberman, Bridget & Eamon, Chris O’Dowd, Niall Horan, Jason Byrne, Normal People’s Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones, Saoirse Ronan, Andrew Scott.
The show will be broadcast live on RTÉ from 8pm until close to midnight on Friday (with a break for the News) with links to Irish talent here and further afield.
via Sunday World
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