Saturday, 24 October 2015

Josef Locke, A Grand Adventure

Last year I went along to the Derry Playhouse to see Felicity McCalls dramatisation of the legendary voice that was Josef Locke. McCall had penned this 'Grand Adventure' and it showcased Locke at odds with his younger self and alter-ego throughout the musical production. It was a huge success and a delight to watch on stage.
When I recently saw that the production was now being staged at the Millennium Forum for two nights only I was happily awaiting a return visit. What I witnessed last night exceeded all my expectations. Having brought mother along first time around I did likewise second time. A huge fan of Locke's music she was looking forward to a repeat performance. A repeat performance we did not get! Instead we got an extended vision into the life and work of the great man, Josef Locke. An extended insight into his ego, his faltering ways and his exquisite voice.
McCall had since devleoped this production and it showed in all the right ways. With the addition of a female presence, Orla Mullan certaily brought a new element to the stage. Alongside her amazing voice, she showcased a variety of female person's, primarily that of May Devitt.
Peter Davidson excelled in his portrayal of the 'reflective Josef' alongside other influential males surrounding Locke in his career. Brenn Doherty once again represented 'identity Josef' and Locke as a young boy.
Karl McGuckin again portrayed the voice of Josef Locke and faltered not once! His rendition of 'The Town I loved So Well' was possibly the first time I have witnessed the forum so still. One would certainly have heard a pin dropping. The concluding applause showed the appreciation of this great 'voice'.
Throughout this show we hear such Locke classics as 'Hear My Song', 'Kathleen' and 'Galway Bay' to name but a few. We get to see what life was like for Locke in Blackpool. We learn how he fled Britain as a tax exile. How he returned to his home and eventually returned to the UK.
McCall has successfully captured the life, the flambouyancy and the mischievous ways of Locke in this new theatrical production. Locke was loved by many and his 'voice' allowed for his forgiveness at all times.This piece by McCall is warm, witty, affectionate and exceedingly talented from start to finish.
Josef Locke, A Grand Adventure runs at Millennium Forum, Derry again tonight Saturday 24th October and then will be staged at Lyric Theatre, Belfast from Friday 13th November to Sunday 15th November. A viewing is highly recommended!

GMcC

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Coffee no no!

Just a few short weeks ago on October 1st, I started my day as normal. Around 7am I ventured out into the autumnal morning for a stroll before kickstarting my day. On this particual day I had a blog post to write for Mummy Pages, and then I had a three hour lecture to attend as my work in Student Support. Following my morning stroll on a normal basis I usually enjoy the ritual of a steaming mug of coffee. Prior to going into lectures I normally purchase a steaming mug of coffee to take along. It wasn't until that morning of October 1st that I realised just how important my mug of coffee is in my life.
On return from my stroll that morning I switched on the kettle and logged into facebook. It's really just a habit now I guess. Facebook was awash with posts about 'Sober October'. Everyone was giving up alcohol for the month. So I stopped and thought about it and decided to give it a go. As I set my mug in place for the coffee it dawned on me that giving up alcohol wouldn't be much of a challenge. I normally drink wine with a meal out or perhaps one night per week. I enjoy drinks on a Saturday night but can do without also. So then I had the brainwave as I put my spoonful of coffee into the mug....I'd go off Coffee for October. So the coffee was put back in the jar and replaced with a gree tea bag. No problem. I can do this.
So my day began. The blog post got written and the green tea was drank. Shortly after 12pm I arrived on university campus ready for work and as usual proceeded to the coffee shop where I purchased my normal mug of coffee. I sat down outside (the sun was shining and I still had 10 minutes) when I realised that I was 'off' coffee for the month. Despairingly I left the coffee cup down and made my way to the lecture theatre with a bottle of water.
Over the next 3 hours I could smell coffee from all angles. Students were sipping...the lecturer was sipping and other support workers were sipping...coffee.
As the days went by I could find myself getting the whiff of coffee everywhere I went. That aroma just floats through the air.
It's now been three weeks since I embarked upon  this task and I'm already counting the days until November 1st. I will look forward to a frothy mug of coffee on that morning and I shall count my blessings that I only decided to abstain for a month. Little did I know I would ever wish I'd made the decision to abstain from alcohol instead.
It's taught me how dependent I have become on this drug. It is a drug as I'm addicted. I'm finding each day difficult without it. But I shall return to it soon.
I'm very fortunate that I haven't experienced side effects - apart from my mood swings and short tempered periods!!!
I never thought that not drinking coffee would have such a profound effect on my life. Whilst shopping I walk past the coffee shops. I'm missing my time reading and sipping in various establishments on a weekly basis. I look forward to welcoming this return. I feel guitly that I'm a little angry when I meet someone drinking coffee and I can't have some. I'm seeing a side to myself I didn't know existed.
So if you're drinking coffee and meet me over the coming week or more, step aside and ignore me....it might be best in the long run!!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Brian Friel, Farewell!

As Brian Friel's funeral cortege left Greencastle earlier today, a group of villagers in Muff gathered at St. Mary's Hall to applaud Brian en route to his resting place at Glenties. People gathered for up to an hour prior to the arrival. During that hour North West Culture Gal met and chatted to local folk who all remember Brian and his family during their long years in Muff, with great fondness.
Ladies talked about their time in school with Brians daughters. Men talked about how they had never appreciated a literary figure before Brian Friel. One man told me that he was made read 'Philaelphia Here I Come' in school. He hated literature and on his reading of the said piece, he not only acquired a love of Brian Friel's work but literature in general. Such is the power of Brian's words and language.
One local lady remembers getting a lift to school in Derry with Brian. Another recalls her lift down Ardmore Brae with the playwright. A former employee of the Friel family said that she has so many fond memories of Brian and she'll treasure them forever.
I shed a few silent tears today in Muff as everyone talked and smiled at their individual memories of the great man who once lived among us.
An avid fan of Brian Friels writing, I will always treasure my meetings and conversations with the man. My bookshelves overflow at home with his work. Just recently I brought my mother and sister to a stage production of 'Dancing at Lughnasa'. I recall bringing my young son, many years ago, to a production of 'Making History' in The Guildhall, Derry. He said after the show, 'Mammy that was very long but I just learned so much about our history'.
Friel's work is embedded with language. His love and passion for language was endless. He used language to convey so many important messages and explored various themes within.
Unlike many of Ireland's great literary artists who left the homeland to write, Brian Friel remained very much rooted in his. He remained within his homeland and explored it continuously in his writing.
As Brian passed through Muff today on his final jourey home, he was applauded for being one of us, for being one of the greatest playwrights Ireland, and indeed the world, has ever known. And he was applauded for just being Brian.
So Mr Friel, as you travel along the country roads to your final resting place in Ballybeg, your very own 'little town' of Glenties, rest assured that we folk in Muff will always carry a little piece of you in our hearts. We will always remember you from Ardmore Brae and we will continue to love and appreciate the legacy you left us in your amazing works.
Here's hoping the big theatre in the sky appreciates that it is about to welcome Ireland's greatest playwright and a very lovely soul.
From the people here in the North West village of Muff, we thank you Brian for an amazing legacy and we thank you for being you. Rest in peace our dear friend.

GMcC