Tuesday 24 October 2017

Emotionally involved in Carthy's homework

TELEVISION Commentator Brian's tenacity earns him top marks from Declan Lynch, if not from RTE

Brian Carthy (RTE), Power Plays (RTE1): THOSE of you who follow the GAA scene will be aware of a controversy involving RTE commentator Brian Carthy.

It seems that several of the top GAA managers are refusing to co-operate with RTE in support of Carthy, who was perceived as the next-in-line to Michael O Muircheartaigh, but who has apparently not been elevated to that high place after all.

It is not for me to comment on the rights and wrongs of this issue, as I am not emotionally involved. But I have noted an aspect of Carthy's personality which should stand him in good stead in this imbroglio -- he is man of fierce tenacity.

This is evident from his Saturday morning sports bulletin on the radio, during which he invariably tells us the fixtures for today's top action in the Barclays Premier League, in which I am emotionally involved.

Not for Carthy a simple run-through of the fixtures. Instead, he adds a little flourish to each one -- so he won't just say Chelsea v Liverpool, or Manchester City v Bolton, or Fulham v Wolves, he insists on "Chelsea are up against Liverpool, Manchester City face Bolton at home and it's Fulham to play Wolves". Or words to that effect.

There is a sort of sublime pointlessness to it all, yet he does it week after week, because that is his style -- like I say, he is tenacious.

It is also somewhat in the style of a schoolboy who has been given an assignment to express the same thing in eight different ways for his homework. Essentially, we are listening to Carthy every Saturday morning, doing his homework.

FOR Fintan O'Toole, the stakes were not so high -- Power Plays was a polemic in which Fintan challenged the playwrights of today to engage with the great issues of our time, like the old-timers did. So, it wasn't something really important, such as reading out the racing results. But still ...

With Ireland in such a terrible state, where are the

O'Caseys or the Tom Murphys to dramatise all this madness? Why is there almost no such thing any more as a controversial play?

I, too, have mused much on these matters, and I am usually left in a state of confusion, which, as Brian Friel assured us, "is not an ignoble condition".

Indeed, almost every mention of Friel for the past 20 years has used this line of his, which is not his fault, but which makes you wonder ... do the people who keep quoting this really think it is so dazzlingly insightful that it needs to be conveyed at every opportunity?

I mean, it's good and it's true, but would you be entirely surprised to hear something similar being intoned by Mr Spock in Star Trek?

My confusion, I suppose, is due to these mood swings, which I experience whenever I am thinking about the theatre in general. At one level, I have liked and respected almost every individual I have ever met who works in the theatre. And yet, at another level, there are moments when I doubt if there's a line of dialogue written for the theatre in recent times which would make the cut for the average episode of Friends.

Which is an exaggeration, I know, but I don't think we can over-state this, because I feel this is a more fundamental matter than is generally imagined -- though eventually, when you work through it, maybe it doesn't really matter at all.

After all, why would you need to go to the theatre when you can stay in your room and watch great dramas such as The Sopranos or Mad Men?

We still cling to these old assumptions that there is something innately superior about theatre; that a writer for television, for example, should always be aspiring to this higher form that is the stage.

Yet, increasingly, the smart ones are seeing the theatre as a sort of a crude testing-ground in which they can make their mistakes in front of unsophisticated audiences before they graduate to the more important and demanding art form that is film or TV drama.

Likewise, we persist in our reverence for literary fiction when it is clear that any half-decent newspaper column will contain more original thinking and a better class of writing than you will find in the entire Man Booker longlist.

And this is not just a recent thing. Since the Sixties, any social commentary in the theatre has been purely incidental, given that it was happening on a grand scale in rock'n'roll, which had also claimed so many of the great talents.

So, the theatre may be dead. But death, too, is not an ignoble condition.

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