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”.