Travel

A Three-Day Itinerary for the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef. It conjures up a whirl of coral, fish and beaches, diving into the depths to witness a world hidden beneath the waves. And it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

The Whitsundays is the perfect base to explore this magnificent natural wonder.

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Day One – See Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island

Fly into the Whitsunday Coast Airport (Proserpine). It’s about a 45 minute bus journey to reach the small town of Airlie Beach. There’s also an airport on Hamilton Island, about five minutes’ drive from the resorts there.

Spend some time in Airlie Beach looking at the local wares, swimming in the lagoon and taking a stroll along the Bicentennial Walkway to Abell Point Marina. Get a ferry over to Hamilton Island (times, prices and regularity vary) – the trip is around an hour each way – and do a kayak tour at sunset.

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Books, Journalism, Writing

Aspiring authors flock to Dublin’s International Literature Festival

Thousands of writers are heading to Dublin city in Ireland this week in the hope of gleaning advice, encouragement and inspiration at the International Literature Festival.

I spoke to festival director Martin Colthorpe about what keeps drawing people back nearly 20 years on, as well as authors Vanessa O’Loughlin, Catherine Ryan Howard and literary agent Sallyanne Sweeney on their advice to get your book on the shelves.

Have a watch of my 3News report for TV3 Ireland:

 

Film, Journalism

A beauty of a film – ‘Beauty and the Beast’ review

The hotly anticipated remake of the 1991 Disney classic Beauty and the Beast hit cinemas this weekend, and it lives up to the hype.

Emma Watson takes the lead as bibliophile Belle, who is frustrated by the limits imposed on her life as a young woman shunned by her village for her intelligence.

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A tormented prince, magically transformed into a beast as a result of his selfishness and greed, imprisons her father in his castle for stealing a rose. Belle takes her father’s place. She and the Beast grow to understand each other through the help of the castle’s enchanted staff. She must look past his hideous exterior into his soul and fall in love with him to break the spell.

I’m sure Watson feels the pressure of living up to a character she – and we all – loved since childhood, but as she appears on screen singing her opening number Belle, you can feel the audience settle in the knowledge that Watson is going to deliver.

Continue reading “A beauty of a film – ‘Beauty and the Beast’ review”

Journalism, Theatre

Review: Brontë, Smock Alley Theatre

A tale of love and loss – the words of Polly Teale are interwoven with excerpts from the iconic Brontë novels to make two hours of a captivating story.

The play is a fascinating watch because it questions what drives people to write, why and if fame matters, and how three young women from the Yorkshire moors made their names as some of the most renowned authors in history.

While the three sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne – certainly lead the production, this is very much a Brontë family drama: we watch their brother Branwell’s descent from a young man full of potential and promise into the depths of alcohol addition, and their father Patrick’s encouragement to better themselves through exploring the world of literature. The actors perform very well together as a whole, have clearly established strong relationships with each other that come across on stage, and all had mastered the regional accent.

I admire how much the cast gets out of Smock Alley’s intimate and minimalistic set at the Boys’ School: with just a few chairs and a table, the Brontës come alive again. We are front-row witnesses to a chaotic family dynamic, both as grief tears them apart and as they learn of their literary success.

Ashleigh Dorrell as Anne Brontë stands out for her ethereal nature and her ability to communicate her character’s thoughts in a quiet way. As Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights, her otherworldly look becomes ever more haunted and you really do believe she is horrified by the decisions she has made and the person she has become. However I wasn’t particularly keen on Katie McCann donning for all intents and purposes a shower cap to transform from Emily Brontë to Nelly the housekeeper for those scenes, although her matronly concern is well portrayed.

The ‘drunk’ acting by Desmond Eastwood as Branwell is somewhat exaggerated with deafening roars, and when I saw it he accidentally knocked one of the chairs apart as he stumbled raucously around the stage. His youthful bravado is more believable, amplified by the symbolism of his tight curls turning lank and wild as the character battles his addiction. As Heathcliff he conveys a wonderful intimacy with Catherine, complemented by Ashleigh Dorrell’s stellar performance.

For me, the star of this is Ruairí Lenaghan, who plays multiple roles including Patrick Brontë, Charlotte’s tutor Constantin Héger, and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre. He sinks into each part with seamless authenticity, contending with multiple accents and physical ailments, and shines the most as the shy and earnest Arthur Bell Nicholls. Louise O’Meara is equally at her best as Charlotte Brontë here, playing off the growing fondness and mutual embarrassment between the characters.

One of the most striking elements of the play for me is the exploration of how loss shapes you: perhaps most evident towards the end of the play, when Charlotte is left alone as those closest to her have passed away. Though she feels their physical presence around her, their absence is tangible as she sits alone at her desk.

Overall, I thought it was a wonderful show, suited to both Brontë diehard fans and newcomers. Those who aren’t overly familiar with the books will learn more about the women who wrote them, and those who have devoured every word will consider aspects of the authors’ personalities that they perhaps hadn’t before.

Brontë has a limited run at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin every evening at 7.30pm until Saturday 11th March. Tickets are €15, or €12 concession. You can book it at smockalley.com/bronte/. This will be followed by performances at the dlr Mill Theatre in Dundrum from Thursday 16th March (8pm) to Saturday 18th March (matinée 1.30pm). Tickets there are €18, or €15 concession, with groups of 8+ at €12. To book, see milltheatre.ie/events/bronte/.

Lead image courtesy of Illustrated Productions/Ste Murray.

This review was also published on Xpose.ie.

Writing

Inspirational Women Series: #2 – My grandmother

This is the face of a fighter. Not one who swings punches or gets in the ring. One who has the kind of inner strength you hope for in dark times, a resilience that never fails.

Aged 90, she has battled Alzheimers now for a decade, and it’s not just a physical battle where the body degenerates, but it is – of course – a mental battle. Beyond struggling for words, forgetting birthdays, imagining missing children… thoughts become jumbled fragments and your family are strangers.

Illness does not discriminate. The sadness, anger and frustration lingers, that this could happen and there’s no way to stop it. That to some she is a number and not a person. What is the hardest is when people think she’s stopped existing. She is still a human being full of love and gratitude. She may not recognise those she was once close to, but that doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be made to see her, to talk to her, and to try and make her day better.

My Nana wakes up every day with the determination to keep fighting. She is a true warrior who does not see a future with a disease – she sees a life despite it. She has faced it head on and refuses to let it dominate her. She still holds on to her soul, the very essence of who she is, and that has meant everything to me. She still smiles, she hums fragments of songs, her eyes light up when she hears one of our voices. Her mischievous laugh lifts my spirit and makes the bad days worthwhile.

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She would always give us anything, whatever we needed, even if it meant she had to go without. And even now that is who she is. She does not know who I am but still tells me ‘alright my love’ and that I am ‘a nice child’. How does a person who is supposed to have forgotten everything still remember how to be kind?

I was scared, when she was diagnosed. The future flashed before me, the unknown, but the all too apparent reality. I did not want to let go of the person I knew.

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I wish someone had told me back then that you find ways to go on. You find happiness in the small moments. And somehow you find the courage to walk through the door and know that a person you have loved for your entire life will look at you blankly as if it is the first time they have ever seen you.

And you do it for them, because they are fighting for you. They are still there, for you. They are still smiling, for you.

It takes unimaginable strength to keep going. But she has.

Nana

Books

10 places every literary fan should visit

1. The Long Room at the Library of Trinity College Dublin

Built in the early 1700s, tourists come from all over the world to see this magnificent library. Located in the heart of Dublin city, its awe-inspiring bookshelves are lined with some of Ireland’s oldest books. You can also peer at the Book of Kells, an illustrated manuscript written around the year 800.

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Writing

Inspirational Women Series – #1 Sr Martina

I never imagined being besties with a nun.

In fact, this particular nun used to be rather intimidating to us as children. We’d don the white altar server robes and knot the gold belt before mass, and someone would peek out the door and spot her in the first few church pews, her sharp eyes scanning each of us to make sure we were properly presented.

Continue reading “Inspirational Women Series – #1 Sr Martina”

Journalism

Pádraig Pearse’s 1916 surrender letter goes up for auction

The Irish State has refused to purchase a surrender letter written by Easter Rising leader Pádraig Pearse one hundred years ago, saying it would not be an appropriate use of public funds to buy it.

The historic letter was withdrawn from auction this week after it failed to reach the guide price of €1 million. The highest bid was €770,000.

It is now most likely going to leave Ireland as the private owner lives overseas.

Here’s my report for UTV Ireland.

Theatre

From the West End to Broadway: Theatre in London and New York City

London’s West End and New York’s Broadway have become iconic for the quality of their theatre. The Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington is celebrating 40 years of the Olivier Awards and is marking this with a free exhibition called ‘Curtain Up’. Continue reading “From the West End to Broadway: Theatre in London and New York City”

Theatre, Writing

Shakespeare 400 years on: more myth than man?

Much mystery surrounds the legend that is Shakespeare. We don’t know much about his early life, how he began his career in the theatre, or even whether some of his most iconic creations are really his work at all.

The shadow of his status makes him more myth than man. But maybe that’s part of his appeal. That shroud of secrecy lends itself well to his legacy.

Continue reading “Shakespeare 400 years on: more myth than man?”