Same-old, brand-newNew­stalk

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - RADIO -

Gen­der bal­ance is not the only short­fall in ev­i­dence at the broad­caster as old hand Mark Cag­ney fills the slot re­cently va­cated by Ivan Yates

lis­ten for many rea­sons. In Colin Murphy’s new ver­sion of the great play (di­rected by Con­all Mor­ri­son), Ham­let is a young buck kick­ing around mod­ern-day Derry, pick­ing rows with ev­ery­one, trou­bled and angst-rid­den.

The broad story is the same, chunks of the orig­i­nal are miss­ing, and the text is largely broken up to avoid lengthy speeches, though Shake­speare’s mem­o­rable lines – so many – sur­vive, but not always in the mouths of the orig­i­nal char­ac­ters. So Ophe­lia gets the “To be or not to be” so­lil­o­quy – spo­ken with great sad­ness just be­fore a news bul­letin an­nounces her body is found in the Foyle.

There are computer gam­ing ses­sions, Snapchat con­ver­sa­tions, YouTube rants and, for lis­ten­ers who en­joy com­plex sound­scapes (in­clud­ing orig­i­nal mu­sic by Si Schroeder), this is a ter­rific lis­ten. The de­vice of a news­reader (UTV’s Paul Clark) punc­tu­at­ing the break­neck ac­tion helps to ori­en­tate lis­ten­ers.

Ham­let, Prince of Derry is such a ra­dio nat­u­ral that it comes as a sur­prise to learn it was orig­i­nally an am­bi­tious stage project – with the well-known writer and direc­tor work­ing with ac­tors from Stage Be­yond Theatre Com­pany, a Derry group for adults with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. When lock­down hap­pened and the planned live per­for­mance in May couldn’t take place, to get the project out to an au­di­ence, RTÉ’s ra­dio drama depart­ment came on board and the play was recorded by the cast from their homes with sound su­per­vi­sion from RTÉ’s Damian Chen­nells and Ruth Ken­ning­ton.

A side­ways dive

Quirky, niche and so full of facts it can hardly con­tain it­self, The Al­manac of Ire­land (RTÉ Ra­dio 1, Wed­nes­day) is a side­ways dive into Ir­ish cul­tural tra­di­tions by Manchán Ma­gan, who has the oth­er­worldly air and soft-spo­ken de­liv­ery of a mys­tic trav­eller about him.

The first in the se­ries in­volves a whistlesto­p tour through the his­tory of farm­ing – the dates fly by, from thou­sands of years AD to the 18th cen­tury with the slimmest hope of grasp­ing any­thing other than the odd nugget: early Ir­ish dairy farm­ers made ri­cotta; the trade in pigs was so im­por­tant for house­holds that the pig was known “as the gen­tle­man who paid the rent”.

A gear change in the sec­ond half sees Ma­gan (who writes in The Ir­ish Times), driv­ing west in search of the Tír Sáile, the 14 sculp­tures of the North Mayo Sculpture Trail, Ire­land’s largest public art project. He finds a piece called Ac­knowl­edge­ment – you could say you couldn’t miss it as it’s 50m long – but I for one had never heard of it and was glad to. Sit­u­ated on an un­marked burial mound, it is, Ma­gan says, “an ele­men­tal art ex­pe­ri­ence”.

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