Monday, 26 November 2012

Dara O'Briain at The Apollo- published in The Irish World

It’s a long way from children’s TV in Ireland that Dara O’Briain has come. These days he is spending considerably less of his time doing “make and do” and a lot more filling London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Leah Quinn went along to see his new show – “Craic Dealer”.


It seems on this side of the pond Dara O’Briain can do no wrong as he continues to pop up on our TV’s in shows about everything from boats to Mathematics.


The British seem to have truly embraced this gentle giant which seems odd when you compare his success to other Irish comedians such as Des Bishop and Andrew Maxwell, who have done well but are in no way taking complete control of our air waves.


His continued success puzzles me even more after this latest disappointing gig as from start to finish I found it to be heavily lacking in imagination. In fact it became apparent that it is hard to pin point or recognise O’Briain’s own authentic comedic style which can only make you wonder if there is any at all.


His comedy is safe, inoffensive and at times delving slightly too far into the blatantly obvious.


Throughout the show his gags seemed as if they may have come from someone else and yet with his charm and talent for timing he managed to deliver them effectively and more often than not receive a hearty reception.


His reliance on the audience to provide some sub standard jibes was hugely over done as he made school boy type comments about their names, professions and spouses.


It was even a fan of the comedians that came up with his shows title, which O’Briain freely admitted but which in no way aided his persona as a creative entertainer.


O’Briains comedy will never excite like that of Spike Milligan nor inspire philosophical follies like the work of Tommy Tiernan or Dylan Moran but he fits nicely into the family friendly niche that many seem to enjoy.


However if you like your comedy fresh, risky and bursting with opinion then perhaps have your funny bone tickled elsewhere.

Declan O’Rourke Review- Published in The Irish World 22/09/12

Let’s face it when you go to a gig you hope at the very least to enjoy the music, anything else is just a bonus.

Declan O’Rourke’s gig last week in The Leicester Square Theatre delivered to the audience so much more than a few cheerful tunes and proved that O’Rourke is far from a one trick pony,  and more of a Grand National stallion in entertainment.

O’Rourke gently guided his audience through nearly every human emotion available with his soulful music and endearing use of his own honest blend of humour.

The intimate venue added to the relaxed ambiance of the evening with its old style theatre seating and rustic red curtained surroundings, into which O’Rourke fitted comfortably.

Each of his songs made different but affective impacts on the audience as before each one he told of their back stories and relevance to his life.

A lot of these stories were highly entertaining and at times hilarious which allowed the audience to feel as though O’Rourke was more like an extremely modest best friend that had called round for a chat than that of an elitist songwriter distant from those beyond the stage spotlights.

Songs such as Whatever Else Happens and Marrying the Sea brought an emotional silence to the theatre which was delivered so soothingly I’m nearly convinced I heard a tear drop fall.

While his others songs such as Lightning Bird Wind River , in which he used a ukele, and Your World got the audience off their seats fondly singing along.

It also was not difficult to see why his song writing has a large celebrity following such as Paul Brady, Gary Lightbody, Ronnie Wood and Paul Weller who once said of all the songs in the world it is Declan O’Rourke’s Gallileo that he wished he had written.

Gallileo is a real classic that uses poetic lyrics which you can’t help but stop and respect.

Based on this performance I am of the opinion that O’Rourke is somewhat of a hidden gem, his talent cannot be compared or likened to that of anyone else and on top of his great musical ability he also seemed like a hugely likeable character.






The Cranberries at The Apollo- published in The Irish World 13/10/2012

After a six year vacation from the life of rock and roll, The Cranberries have returned to the stage. Leah Quinn went to see them in London’s Hammersmith Apollo, and tells how The Cranberries can still very much rock out with the best of them.


Up there with your Irish Mammy’s brown bread and hurling, The Cranberries have always been intrinsically Irish.


They cannot be compared to or copied as it was obvious to anyone with a pair of ears and a radio back in the nineties that they held a sound all of their own which not only showcases haunting Celtic melodies but also the musical talent that Ireland continues to produce.


Flash forward to the present day in 2012 and they can still put on one hell of gig.



Although their media presence has been near to non-existent the last ten years, with their six year departure and delayed album promotion, due to the sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan’s father, it was evident that they still maintain a loyal and passionate fan base.


Their latest album, Roses, of which many songs featured quite a bit in the Apollo, was realised on Valentines Day of this year but did not receive the response it deserved as promotion was put on hold.


This is a pity as many of these songs were quite fresh and contemporary but seemed to still remain true to the bands authentic sound.


O’Riordan, who is now a mother of three and in her forties, was just as much the rock chick as ever, holding an energetic and captivating performance from start to finish.


Her energy was in turn shared by the crowd who,  with myself included, heartily sang along to many of the old favourites such as Salvation, Zombie and You and Me.


Although O’Riordan’s inclusion of her own solo and their latest album’s hits received less of a sing-a-along from the crowd they still seemed to make a powerful impression on everyone there, drawing both respectful silences and huge cheers.


In between songs O’Riordan either quickly changed into yet another impressiv rock star-esque ensemble or modestly chatted to the crowd about the meaning behind their songs with her infamous endearing Limerick accent still wholly intact…” Ah sure it’s great to be back lads…”


It has been twenty three years since the band first formed in Limerick and judging by this latest performance not much has changed in terms of their determination and strength of performance for their fans.


From start to finish the band gave the crowd their monies worth and more ensuring every note and drum beat was felt and delivered with bucket loads of enthusiasm.


If you were a fan back in the nineties but have since been led astray by more contemporary rock bands, I appeal to you to revisit your old flame at their next live gig and fall back in love with The Cranberries.


Damned by Despair- published in The Irish World

The London National Theatre is currently showing Frank McGuinness’s version of Damned by Despair until October 19th.

Written by the Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina back in the 17th century, the award winning Irish playwright’s take on this gang culture filled drama definitely arouses some curiosity.

The story itself is a pious one which aims to teach the audience a lesson in faith and its benefits to us in this life and the next, centring around two very different characters, Enrico and Paulo.

Paulo is a devout monk who has dedicated every inch of his life to living in accordance with the ten commandments when he asks god for an indication as to what will follow his demise.

The devil, disguised as an angel, answers Paulo and tells him that his end will match that of Enricos.

 Paulo seeks out this infamous individual with whom he shares his fate and discovers he is a vicious criminal destined only for the hot fires of hell.

 Naturally,after years of behaving himself, this enrages Paulo and he turns to a life of crime himself, rebelling against the god he believes has betrayed him.

 McGuinness delivers this version with a contemporary flavour, featuring retro t-shirt wearing goons and a cappuccino drinking Satan, in a style which could be acquainted to that of Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet.

 While it is possible to see where McGuiness was going with this style of theatrical delivery it felt a little unoriginal on stage. This may have been mostly due to the bad casting as some of the actors brought little weight to their quite heavy roles.

 Enrico, who was played by Bertie Carvel, was a prime example as his quite camp portrayal of a very macho and threatening main character dragged the whole performance down quite a bit.

 His quite effected and at times quite feminine delivery, made Enrico, who’s every move was expected to make us cower in our theatre seats with fear, look less like the Satan’s ideal companion and more like a member of your local church choir. 

 This wasn’t helped by an unfortunate onstage prop malfunction when Enrico was clad in heavy prison chains chasing his girlfriend around a cell…only to become unshackled and free shouting “If only I could be free of these chain!”…a mishap that left the audience in fits of laughter and the plays ending in an unconvincing heap.

 There were however some enjoyable moments and glimpses of potential theatre magic, the majority of which came from Irish actor Rory Keenan who played Pedrisco, Paulo’s servant.

 Keenan, who has just finished in Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come in the Donmar, provided the audience with most the laughs as his expert timing once again shone through.

 Also the inclusion of a child soprano actor as the singing shepherd sent shivers penetrating through the tiers.

 Although the playwright’s background differed in many ways to that of McGuinness’s their similarities most likely lie in the affect of extreme faith on an individual or community. This was perhaps why McGuinness took on such a project being brought up a Catholic in county Donegal.

 However not enough pieces of this version’s puzzle fit neatly enough together to make any sort of theatrical impact on the audience and judging by the abundance of empty seats in the second half, it also left far too many disappointed.

My Complicated Relationship with Ryanair

Published in The Irish Times online September 12th 2012

After three years living abroad, Leah Quinn has yet to perfect the art of packing light. She writes from London about her experiences flying with Ryanair to and from her home in Clare and how it has impacted heavily on both her wallet and blood pressure.

Leah Quinn: "My pre-flight time is spent filling my pockets with as many of my worldly possessions as I can fit." Photograph: Marcus Culloty
Having lived abroad several times, and now holding an address in London, Ryanair has become my most common mode of transport to and from my home in Clare. Over the past few years, I have contributed generously to the company’s profits, due to the copious amounts of money they have taken off me for my overweight bags.
I would have been of the opinion that my bags were never really overweight, just rather big-boned, but my flying experiences have recently resembled scenes from the Bourne Identity.
Gone are the days when I sat in the lounge calmly flicking through a magazine and chewing fruit gums. Now my pre-flight time is spent filling my pockets with as many of my worldly possessions as I can fit whilst trying to get my carry-on bag to suck in its tummy.
I can honestly say that I have never committed a crime in my life, except for stealing Barbie clothes from my cousin’s collection as a six-year-old; I believe my conscience to be pretty clear. But when I am walking the green mile towards the departures door I may as well have the original copy of the Mona Lisa in my back pocket, given my rapid heart rate.
This intense game of good versus evil all begins when I book my ticket, as I try to purchase my flight without being tricked into ticking a box which might add on charges for golf clubs, kiddie’s meals or oxygen.
The preparation for the actual journey begins the night before, or whenever I decide to pack, but I find when tackling Ryanair, preparation is key. My bag is packed, unpacked, and re-packed, I then weigh it on the bathroom scales and decide to change bags.
This process alone is exhausting and often leaves me considering the ferry, though the prospect of sea sickness always quickly dismisses that thought from my anxious mind.
Then comes the check-in desk. I sometimes think more eye contact the better, but it really seems to depend who you get on the day. I try to elicit some empathy, to get them to understand my need for a GHD or collection of heavy bangles.
As he/she asks me to put my bags on the conveyor, I give an over-enthusiastic “Oh yes no problem”…my last attempt at becoming their long lost best friend. When the numbers begin to tot up I continue to hold their stare with a perhaps creepily intense smile, hoping they might forget that my bag is being weighed.
Then, more often than not, comes the news that my bag is too fat to travel, and that if I wish it to accompany me on my voyage I must pay the piper. On handing over this money my smile mutates into gritted teeth.
I imagine Michael O’Leary throwing his head back with laughter at Leopardstown and shouting “Another €50 on Terms and Conditions to win, Leah’s bag is overweight again!”
I shuffle away ashamedly pulling my wheelie carry-on behind me like a scolded child, often looking back at the stewardess bitterly as I climb the escalator.
Then the real fun begins.
I join the queue of nervous travellers and subsequently start to lose my sense of self pride as I stuff my iPod, purse, UK and Irish mobiles, make-up bag, book, sunglasses and random items of clothing into my coat pockets. As we get closer to the departure door, that enthusiastic smile begins to creep back onto my face.
I quickly hand over my passport and boarding card as I try to make the swiftest of exits whilst also attempting to conceal my carry-on behind my bulging pockets. I am usually spotted and asked to lift my second bag onto the scales.
Then comes the real moment of shame as the rest of the queue are forced to wait for the result which ends in another fee payment or a scramble on the airport floor to rearrange my bag, as under-garments and high heels are flung about the place in desperation.
All that is left then is to try and doze off in my plane seat and forget the whole ordeal, but the staff are eager to keep me alert with their offers of food, drinks, ring tones and smokeless cigarettes.
Even though these experiences continue to punctuate my life, I will hold my tongue for now and continue to suffer for the sake of that extra pair of heels or my winter coat.