Tuesday 10 December 2019

My cultural life: Joanne Ryan, playwright

Joanne Ryan
Joanne Ryan
Neill O'Driscoll

Joanne Ryan is a playwright, performer and theatre maker. She is a native of Limerick city, where she lives with her partner Rob and son Rowan. Her debut solo show, Eggsistentialism, won a Lustrum Award, the Melbourne Fringe Tour Ready Award, and a Best Storytelling Bouquet at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017; it has been performed to critical acclaim in London, Cyprus, Liverpool, Malaysia and, most recently, Australia, where it won a Critics' Pick Award. Ryan is delighted to be bringing the show on a nationwide tour of Ireland this month. All tour dates and details on

Film: Babies


Thomas Balmès's 2010 documentary Babies brilliantly captures the day-to-day lives of four babies born in very different parts of the world - the plains of Mongolia, the dusty grasslands of Namibia, the high-rises of Tokyo and the streets of San Francisco - and chronicles their first year of life from when they're born in the hospital (or hut!). There's zero narration, very little dialogue (and no subtitles when there is), so you're free to luxuriate in the relentlessly gorgeous cinematography and his adorable, hilarious subjects.

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Music: Amanda Palmer

These days I seem to spend more time with playlists than albums. A noteworthy exception this year has been Amanda Palmer's powerfully vulnerable There Will Be No Intermission. It's a raw, 20-song-long opus that charts her experiences of miscarriage, cancer, grief and parenthood. It is beautifully crafted and just bursts at the seams with refreshing, relatable honesty.

Artist: Neil O'Driscoll

Neill O'Driscoll

Neil is a wonderful human, artist and collaborator with a great eye and a quick wit, and I love all the work he did for Eggsistentialism. This image is a still from a piece of animation that covers events in Ireland's reproductive health history in the 1960s and 1970s.

Book: Lifelines

In 1985, a group of students started writing to famous people asking them what their favourite poem was and then published all their replies in this awesome anthology, edited by Niall MacMonagle. Margaret Atwood and Mike Murphy nominated poems.

TV: Gogglebox

The reactions are great, the voyeuristic thrill of getting a nose into other people's lives, living rooms and family dynamics is brilliant, the meta 'ooh, look we're watching telly of people watching telly' is fun and it's often really insightful as well. I've heard the creator say that there's sociology sessions covering it in Oxford, and that isn't surprising.

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