I know I’m extremely late to the party but I just blazed through both seasons of Fleabag. Don’t know how I missed it. I just can’t get over how truly incredible and original it is. Brilliantly creative liberties taken and whipsmart in it’s execution. Oh how I wish I could have seen the original theatrical production this show evolved from. Phoebe Waller Bridge is such a wildly brilliant writer and note perfect performer. And what a terrific cast across the board, with special effusive praise for Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott (I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them put in a bad performance in anything). Probably preaching to the choir here, but if you were foolish enough to miss it like me, then don’t delay and watch it. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a work of genius.
Creativity comes in so many forms, and this week introduced me to a beautiful new one in the shape of “Jelle’s Marble Runs“. As an avid viewer of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, I was doubly pleased it made me aware of this totally compelling YouTube channel, dedicated to racing marbles on homemade tracks. Dry, silly commentary, coupled with absurd back stories & adoring marble fans, makes this a truly bonkers but brilliant slice of creativity. In the absence of actual sports, this might just be the only must-watch thing around. Not joking – it’s really fun, and a very welcome diversion.
Update: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is now an official sponsor of Jelle’s Marble Runs
A few weeks ago, my friend Gary Dunne, who curates an incredible artistic slate for the London Irish Centre asked me to contribute a poem to their online season. Gary and the staff of the LIC do incredible work for the Irish community in London and they have been very good to me down the years – they hosted the London premiere of Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About, and I have also showcased sketches with The Brownbread Players there too. It’s always a warm, giving audience that finds a connection through a shared tribe in a generous welcoming environment. So I was honoured to be asked, and frankly, I was happy to have a creative project to focus on in the rare moments I had to myself during this uncertain time.
The theme was HOPE which really spoke to me, and the image of a paper cup delicately dancing on a wave is one that has been with me for decades, but never found a proper home in a piece of writing. As soon as I sat down to write the poem I knew that this was where it had been drifting towards all along. It came together relatively quickly (thank goodness because time is a rare commodity these days) and it allowed me to marry it to a piece of music I wrote many moons ago that had also never found a creative home (unsurprisingly, the music was also written around the same time the image of the cup first washed into my brain). I also knew that the focus should be on the words but have a strong simple visual to guide it, so I went down to the sea by my home to film the waves but they just weren’t right. I resigned myself to using what I had and then serendipitously my friend Jim posted a short video that day on Facebook of the Irish Sea, that connects this island of Ireland to the UK, and I simply knew that it was the perfect accompaniment. Jim graciously allowed me to use it, and I lent my rudimentary video editing skills to piece it together. The end result feels ever so slightly imperfect but absolutely right, and I am immensely proud of it.
I hope it resonates with all of you, and I would be grateful if you shared it onwards with anyone in need of a message of hope right now.
Delighted to announce that I have written a new poem in response to these remarkable times we find ourselves in (and created an accompanying little film to go with it). It will debut later this week as part of the London Irish Centre’s new curated series entitled SOLAS. Stand by…
Just finished the incredible tv show Normal People. It manages the rare feat of being as good as the superb source material of the book, while still being its own beautiful work of art. Incredible central performances by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, beautifully filmed and directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald, and impeccable nuanced writing. It’s unlike anything I have seen before and, to me, it is an absolute masterpiece and will stick with me for a very long time. Available on Hulu, BBC and RTE for anyone who wishes to see it.
One thing that gives me joy and has allowed for a moment’s pause in all of this uncertainty is cooking. Learning new recipes and making good food with my parents was such a cornerstone of life growing up and we have continued the tradition of making our family dinner as the anchor in our day. Under lockdown , I have occasionally had the opportunity to cook and explore recipes once again. This weekend we made a Southern meal of Fried Chicken (brined in buttermilk), Waffles, and Kale (collard greens style). It was a team effort and ended up being a delicious family dinner that just sparked joy & creativity.
These are strange & unusual times, and time is at a rare premium for so many of us, but when I have been able to carve out a moment for myself during this lengthy stretch, these creations are what I have been drawn into. Feel free to add these to your own list, or feel free to ignore them. Just wanted to share what I’ve been digging of late
Better Call Saul: The prequel to Breaking Bad, which might even be better than the original series. Superb writing, beautifully filmed and career best performances from Bob Odenkirk and the extraordinary Rhea Seehorn.
After Life: Ricky Gervais is occasionally a bit smug and irritating for me these days, but in this show he has created a brilliant meditation on grief and loss. Easily the best thing he has done since The Office.
The Last Dance: Despite being only a casual basketball fan, this documentary is a compelling look at elite sports and the awe-inspiring athlete that was Michael Jordan. I remember the 97-98 season very well from my time living in Utah and watching the Bulls compete in the captivating NBA Finals against the Jazz. Nice memories
Westworld: Eerie, icy, austere, odd, gripping, beautiful bonkers show. No idea what is going on, but I love it.
Hitching For Hope by Ruairi McKiernan: A memoir of Ruairi’s hitchhiking adventure around the island of Ireland, which becomes a reflection on hope and a peek into the soul of Ireland. Really spoke to me at this time
The Rap Year Book by Shea Serrano – Funny, insightful, interesting book about hip-hop, where the “Most Important Rap Song” from every year since 1979 is, discussed, debated, and deconstructed. Shea Serrano is a great writer and his joy just bounds off every page.