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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

I’m all for positive discrimination when it’s merited and, let’s face it, it very often is. Having witnessed the progress of women in Irish politics being systematically thwarted over the decades I fully support the proposed introduction of candidate quotas – many of the most enlightened and progressive democracies in the world have used them very effectively to introduce some much-needed gender balance into their parliaments.

However, I’ve always struggled with the notion of women only prizes in the arts, such as the Orange Prize for Fiction – due to be announced later today – or the MaxMara Art Prize for Women. To me the establishment of such closed competitions is tantamount to admitting “we can’t play with the big boys in the park so we’re taking our ball home to kick it around in the safety of our own back garden”. That sporting analogy prompts me to mention those sporting competitions where women are unable to compete directly against men but where they refuse to let this hold them back. For years women who competed at Wimbledon grudgingly accepted less prize money than their male counterparts despite thrilling fans with edge-of-the-seat showdowns time and time again. Finally in 2007 reasonableness prevailed and Wimbledon joined the United States and Australia in paying equal money across the board, from the champions down to the first-round losers in all events.

We can sing, draw, sculpt and write just as well as the next man.

It’s different in the arts. We can sing, draw, sculpt and write just as well as the next man. Any handicap we have suffered from in the past has been a lack of access to the funding and critical evaluation long taken for granted by men. For that reason I’m all for supporting women in the arts and introducing their work to the widest possible audience. I hate to see fiction trivialised when it happens to be written by a women while at the same time the latest considered and weighty tome gestated by some male, white middle-aged sage is fawned over and lavished with praise by the predominantly male reviewers writing in the quality press.

Loath though I am to give them the oxygen of even more publicity the recent musings of Nobel laureat and highly acclaimed author, VS Naipaul are relevant in this context. The venerable old gent is certain that there is no woman writer he could possibly consider his equal and that we are held back by our “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. This, he feels perhaps, cannot be helped. As Naipaul helpfully points out,”inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.” Do we really want to live in a society that encourages highly respected and accomplished men like Naipaul to believe that remarks like these are acceptable? Although patently and painfully antediluvian it is the existance of such distain that makes me believe that we should focus all of our attention on getting our work out there and beating them at their own game. For men who remain convinced that wimmin’s books are not for them Joylandmagazine.com has helpfully compiled a list of 250 gems that are worthy of their attention (and this is just for starters – there are many, many more).

We can undoubtedly kick ass. Whilst more men have carried off the prestigious Man Booker prize the women that have triumphed to date are undoubted stars – women like Anne Enright, Hilary Mantel, Margaret Attwood, Pat Barker and Iris Murdoch. The shortlisted authors for the 2011 Orange prize includes books that are arguably deserving of a place on any Man Booker shortlist – Room was in fact included – or international equivalent:  Emma Donoghue’s Room, Aminatta Forna’s  The Memory of Love, Emma Henderson’s Grace Williams Says it Loud, Nicole Krauss’s Great House, Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife and Kathleen Winter’s Annabel.

I’m far less ambivalent when it comes to the showcasing of women’s talent. Women have historically been denied the power, influence, resources and encouragement to produce and display our work to the widest audience possible and that imbalance needs to be redressed. Our art galleries are still stuffed to the gills with work produced, promoted and prized by men. Events like the inaugural Women of the World festival at London’s Southbank Centre provided the head-and-gallery space to allow a wide audience to view, critique and comment on the work of many hundreds of talented, imaginative, creative women who were all too often pushed into the shadows in the past.

These event and others like the Birds Eye View Film festival seem like a good idea to me. They are undoubtedly a valuable vehicle facilitating the promotion of oft neglected work. Feminist commentator Bidisha recently wrote in the Guardian, “people who loath women’s events do so because they loath women and cannot stand to be around them”. She adds that these events help to shatter the myth that women are in some way unworthy of hanging their work alongside that produced by man, saying, “women are not too shy, too talentless, too scarce, too petty, too this or that…or not enough of something else”.

This I applaud. My problem is with the prizes; the artificial pat on the back for the woman who sees off fifty percent of her peers without troubling the other lot. By all means push us forward, give us a platform, review our work on an equal basis, give us the gravitas and the column inches but when it comes to the prizes let us compete with the boys and not just amongst ourselves. I’d be genuinely interested to hear the counter argument or any comments as this is something that  has always caused me a degree of discomfort.

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Sorry I’ve been crap at blogging lately. I’ll try to be better. Here’s a short one to keep things ticking over… recommendations always appreciated.

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO:

Yuck – ‘Yuck’

Very taken by Yuck’s album… like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it’s totally derivative but the songs are GREAT. Bits of the Pixies, Pavement, Sonic Youth… and a great name for a band, too.

CURRENTLY READING:


Jonathan Safran Foer – ‘Eating Animals’

Only about halfway through, but it’s very good so far. This guy wrote one of my favourite books in recent memory, but this is a non-fiction account of how and why he decided to become vegetarian when his son was born. It’s not preachy in the slightest, but let’s just say that some of the cold hard facts about the ins and outs of the meat industry makes me extra-glad I’m a veggie.

CURRENTLY LOOKING FORWARD TO:

Primavera Sound 2011 – can’t bloody wait. Belle & Sebastian, PJ Harvey, Interpol, Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes,

Also:

Going to see Spamalot for the first time. Should be good!

Also:

The new series of The Apprentice started last week on BBC. Goodbye, life.

CURRENTLY WANTING:

Morrissey – ‘Very Best of’ on vinyl

€29.99 on vinyl in Tower Records! €29.99!! *weeps* Come to me, payday.

CURRENTLY WATCHING:

Game of Thrones [HBO series]

My boyfriend is in the midst of the series of books that this new HBO series is based upon, and says despite the premise (it’s set on the fictional continent of Westeros in medieval times, with a lot of gory head-choppings, mythical demons, fancy suits of armour, incest, bonking and inter-dynasty politics), it’s not something that a World of Warcraft obsessive would watch. With the added fact of Aidan Gillen starring, that’s good enough for me. Just three episodes in and it’s simmering quite nicely. Christ, even Sean Bean is good.

What’s on your radar? What’s currently floating your TV/musical/comedy/film boat?

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On Idiotic Movies

All right. I should have known better. I freely admit this: one does not go into a movie like Hall Pass expecting an empowering, feminist narrative. The fact that the title implies treating grown men like schoolboys – providing them with a ‘hall pass’ to excuse a temporary absence from marriage the same way one might be excused from class – is a dead giveaway.

But see it I did. So. Oh. Dear. Lord.

It’s not that it’s graphic – it is, but that’s not an inherent problem with movies. It’s not that it isn’t genuinely funny in places – it is, though sometimes the humour is of the ‘did they really just say/do/show that?’ It’s that it’s an inherently conservative movie which comes out wholeheartedly in support of marriage and monogamy while all the time having its characters resist all that goes with that. Sure, there’s something to be said for the idea of wanting what you can’t have – and for something becoming unappealing all of a sudden when a barrier is lifted. It doesn’t mean that the notion can or should serve as the entire basis for characterisation and plot.

The idea of two middle-aged men facing up to the reality of being able to hit on the kind of women they spend so much of their time ogling, and having that fail or be somewhat unsatisfying, lends itself to all kinds of comic potential. But a realisation on the part of Rick (Owen Wilson) that he doesn’t want to sleep with the girl he’s been chasing rings false. There’s more of a sense that despite permissions granted, marriage is marriage and that’s that. Which would be a fair enough point to make if we ever got a sense that Rick and his wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer) actually loved each other. A revelation at the end suggests there are some fairly obvious topics they haven’t even discussed during their years of marriage, and throughout the movie the occasional reference to the other never suggests anything binding them together apart from habit and familiarity. If this is real love, you can keep it.

I don’t mind schmaltzy. It’s idiot schmaltz that bothers me. I don’t mind movies turning out to be something different than expected – a love story hidden behind a wacky gross-out comedy – but it needs to work. I don’t mind a movie which suggests that actually women might ‘let’ husbands get away with certain behaviours because it gives them the opportunity to do the same. I don’t even – all right, I do mind that terrible conversation where the men congratulate themselves for making all their wives’ dreams (house, kitchen, children) come true, because there’s not nearly enough subtlety in the movie for this to be viewed ironically. I don’t mind rooting for two-dimensional characters – just as long as the film remembers that it’s dealing with stereotypes whose behaviour may be idiotic but should always make some kind of sense in context.

I don’t mind characters doing idiotic things – it’s characters who simply are idiots that bother me. The film knows the idiotic things are going on – that’s where the audience laughs. But the moments where it asks or expects sympathy or empathy towards the characters – where it asks you to root for them – that’s where it gets frustrating.

It’s not that I expect thought-provoking, moving storylines every time I go to the cinema. But I do expect even the most idiotic of films to have some sort of internal logic.

I know. I know. I should have known better.

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Darren Aronovsky’s Black Swan is probably the most hyped film of the year. Natalie Portman is tipped for an Oscar, having won the Golden Globe for best actress. This is a gothic fairy tale based on the ballet Swan Lake, telling the story of Nina, who gets her dream role as the swan queen. Her white swan is second nature – fragile, retiring, virtuous – but locating her inner black swan is somewhat trickier. Vincent Cassell’s manipulative and exacting artistic director will sacrifice anything, even his prima ballerina’s sanity, for the sake of his art. And then there is Lily (Mila Kunis) who seems to effortlessly be able to find all the danger and edge required for the black swan, that Nina so lacks.The film whips itself into a frenzy of psychological disintegration, sexual awakening and personal discovery, that reaches a tense and emotional crescendo, at which point you realise you’ve spent the last 90 minutes inside Nina’s head and become attached to her, very much emotionally invested in her, without being aware of it. This ‘portrait’ style of film, where the viewer is in the character’s mind, makes it a very unsettling film. Nina is not sure what is real and what is imagined, and so neither are we.

It is melodramatic in many ways but so is ballet and the stories it portrays. This film delves deep into warped mother-daughter relationships, repressed sexuality and what happens when we try to force women to remain virginal little girls and the cruel reality of being a woman in a profession that prizes beauty and youth above all else (Winona Ryder’s ageing ballerina becomes almost a Phantom-of-the-Opera character). This is definitely over-hyped but also one of the few films you’ll see this year to dare to look inside the murky mind of a sad, sad girl.  4/5 Edel Coffey

Go home, touch yourself, live a little, says sleaze-bucket Thomas Leroy, an abusive for the sake of art ballet boss to his could-be magnificent dancer, Nina. As it stands she’s too innocent & blanched for the lead part in Leroy’s semi-libidinous, risqué adaptation of Swan Lake. A bit like the proverbial beetle on its back being prodded by a spiteful school-kid, there comes a point in this film not too far in where even the audience can’t take the torture rack much longer, willing a shipload of diabolism into Nina’s heart so she can get to where she needs to in order to be a star. It’s extremely fast paced, compelling, horribly spooky as well as horny, overly dramatic and a bit silly, but nonetheless beautifully shot and packaged to keep you saucer-eyed to the end. Reviews have described it as a ‘psychological thriller’ but I’d say it’s really too predictable for that: more a textbook exploration of split psyche. As we do repression and the whole doppelgänger thing very well here in Ireland, there’s an uncomfortable familiarity to the mother’s character, played by Barbara Hershey. She desperately wants her daughter to live a successful re-run of her own life that she halted in order to have her daughter, while at the same time resenting any progress in getting there. Jealousy and megalomania spits and clappers all over this film, a bunny hop of meanness, mischief, misery and malevolence, even a touch of evil Sesame Street at times. A great lesbian sex scene as well, where for just a brief moment, Swan Lake turns into Swan Lick, cued with some erratic helpings of Tchaikovsky and The Chemical Brothers. I’d be nuts to say I didn’t love it though afterwards it made me feel deranged. 4/5 June Caldwell

Black Swan rehabilitates pop culture’s traditional use of pink in film.  Normally the hue is used to connote an ultra-feminine innocent allure, a non-threatening go-get-‘em-girl  moxie, or an excess of frivolity and consumption, as imagined in cinema fare such as Pretty in Pink, Legally Blonde or Marie Antoinette.  Aronofsky’s film gives audiences a fresh interpretation of the colour pink by illustrating its potential to marginalise women from themselves.  Nina (played by Natalie Portman) clad in a shell pink coat seems vulnerable on the subway to rehearsal, as well as among the roseate overtones in her bedroom, which magnify an arrested development, a woman trapped in a teenager’s world.  Nina’s desire for perfection is hampered by a struggle to cast off the thwarted pink existence.  There’s also how pink turns up in food to highlight the battle for Nina’s growth as an artist.  She can marvel and coo over her ‘pretty’ breakfast of half a pink grapefruit, a meagre start to a gruelling day en pointe.   But later, she can’t partake in the pink ballerina cake without either a blow up with her controlling mother, or else a guilty shame spiral over the calorie count involved.   Whether fruit or pastry, pink comestibles underscore the rigid policing at hand for any ballerina with her eye on centre stage. For once at the cinema, pink was made sinister, unmoored from the limp, simpering value it has historically carried.  When Nina embraces black and red, the Pink Swan of her girlhood has been conquered. 5/5 Megan McGurk

For those of us that merely watch from the wings, the world of professional ballet seems extraordinarily anomalous. Punishing self-sacrifice, the honing of a merciless stamina and the apparent eschewing of all else in pursuit of the perfect pas de deux or pirouette couldn’t be more alien to the powder-puff pinkness of little girls pointing their pretty toes, a gender appropriate after school activity that many of us may have experienced at one time.

Tales of bleeding, deformed feet and hideous, debilitating spinal injuries abound and the requirement for female dancers to be whippet thin has led to serious concern about the possible prevalence of eating disorders amongst young dancers. Irishwoman Monica Loughman, at age 14 the first Westerner to dance for the State Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Perm, describes her years of struggle in Russia’s Perm Ballet School in her book, The Irish Ballerina. Darcy Bussell, formerly the youngest ever principal dancer for the Royal Ballet, describes how she got an early insight into the damage that ballet can do when she met a clearly ailing and crippled Rudolf Nureyev who was struggling with hip problems. She did not take proper note of this “Instead, I danced when I was feverish and when I was so badly injured that I was in searing pain.” When she retired in 2007, aged 37 she was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying “Ten years ago, an orthopaedic surgeon told me that my hips were only 50 per cent as good as they should be for someone my age and that I would probably need hip replacement operations.”

It is this darker side of the ballet world that is so powerfully put under the microscope in Darren Aranofsky’s Black Swan, leading it to be hailed as a companion piece to his acclaimed 2008 film The Wrestler, as both examine the demands imposed by a driven individual on themselves as they pursue their overriding passion. Nina, a young, obsessive and frigidly uptight member of a ballet company lives with her overbearing, neurotic mother (Barbara Hershey), herself a former dancer who frequently reminds Nina that she ruined her career. She obsessively pursues perfection in her dancing and flashes of her disturbed state of mind are evident early as we learn of instances of self abuse and observe her unhealthy relationship with food and her frequent bouts of vomiting. When ballet director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) dumps his “ageing” prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (played by a hysterical Winona Ryder) Nina is given the chance to audition for the lead role of Odette/Odile in a new production of Swan Lake. Leroy, a sinister Svengali who preys upon his young ballerinas, tells her she is perfect to play the virginal Odette but lacks the passion needed in a convincing Odile, the evil Black Swan. Determined to prove him wrong and see off the competition, in the sensual form of sexy dancer Lily, played by Mila Kunis, Nina taps into her dark side and plumbs frightening depths in the process.

The use of shocking, Gothic imagery and intense, jerky, close-ups allows the audience to follow Nina’s inevitable breakdown from her own unreliable perspective as she increasingly fails to differentiate fantasy from reality. The shocking denouement seems inevitable from early on.  Dark, intense and with themes of Gothic horror throughout Black Swan is utterly compelling and explores the fragility of adolescent mental health in the face of intense, overbearing pressure; the dangers of living vicariously through your children; and the nasty outcomes when powerful, manipulative men prey on young vulnerable girls. All this makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking cinema experience, albeit one spent watching through splayed fingers, but may make you reconsider those ballet lessons for your tiny tot.  4/5 Eleanor Fitzsimons

 

 

 

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Press Photographer Paul Graynor (Darren Healy)

Shell suits shimmered. A middle-aged man munched Wotsits. Someone else gurgled a gollier up and down an out-of-view nose shaft. Lovers in fake fur jackets, cuddled. Cineworld Parnell Street on a Thursday night for Brendan Muldowney’s debut film: Savage, starring Darren Healy and Nora-Jane Noone. I was really apprehensive. Most films about Ireland – and especially Dublin – are of the Carrolls Gifts & Souvenirs variety. Jovial women with croissant-shaped curls scrubbing doorsteps, their bacon rumps facing the sky…orthopaedically-challenged husbands bandying down to the pub for a game of cards. Or when the shit-grit is tackled, it usually depicts gangland scangers as dotingly hilarious, in-between ripping nails off with a pliers or disembowelling with a blowtorch for a €200 cocaine debt while a St. Patrick’s Day parade carries on as normal outside.

I was apprehensive too because there’s a PC-tendency to deny what is freely available to the naked eye all over Dublin: junkies lurching  forward in Zombie mode spouting delirium (“scuzzzzzz meeeeee, hav yi got mi bus fayerrr”), Romany kids being led to beg for people who can’t look after them, homeless men covered in piss eating out of bins, mothers fag-choking their fetals to birth outside the Rotunda, shoplifters and car thieves creating ‘opportunities’ in a country where policy stolidly lacks them. And so on. Nothing is as scary as the streets of Dublin at night-time, even if you’re terminally twee and desperately want to pretend you’re blind.

There was a 300% rise in muggings in the city centre in the first quarter of this year, some of which were grotesquely violent (one guy had part of his ear bitten off in the process): the youngest perpetrator turned 12 a few weeks ago. Stab statistics are higher than ever with a notable rise in ‘unprovoked’ attacks. Murder stats are no better: 59 murders and other violent deaths in Dublin in the past two years. Almost as many guns now as hurley sticks begorrah: a gaggle of machine guns were seized by Gardaí last week on the North Circular Road, no doubt business aids for the burgeoning drug market. Staff at Mountjoy Prison staged a walk-out last month in protest against the rise in inmate violence. Out beyond in the suburbs a few bored thugs shoved a firework into a female terrier’s mouth and blew off her jaw. The same thing happened to a bunch of swans in a city park that were fed fireworks concealed in folded slices of bread. Shit City at its best…

…so would Savage be able to colour Dublin with just the right shade of gritty realism? The plot is plain-flour simple: a man tries to come to terms with a brutal random attack and its consequences:

To me this is a film about the effects of personal trauma using Dublin as a whirring backdrop. The cinematography is incredible (filmed in drained monochrome and with shades of oppressive gun-metal grey) which makes it even more of a horror film as you witness Paul, the main character, sink further and further into a Dantesque wheelie bin. There’s such an odd sense of detachment and otherworldly strangeness about him. It’s no surprise that Darren Healy, who plays this lead-role, received a 2010 IFTA nomination. His is a stunning and memorable performance. In many ways this victim turned killer is already a peculiar character before the life-changing assault. He floats above the daily drudge and its cruel realities….which is the life of many press photographers and journalists. The periphery actors who walk the track suit catwalk around Dublin’s mean streets at night, are also superb. They are idiotic and gratuitous and bored and dangerous and unaware. The city for them is a dystopian scrapheap from which to extract shiny bits of metal at any [human] cost.

There’s actually very little violence in the film, despite what you might hear (!), most is suggested but the nugget that is in-your-face will have you pulling your retina clear off. Sound is very cleverly used too (“a visceral rollercoaster ride”, Muldowney called it) assaulting the senses, dragging you wincingly and mincingly inside Paul’s mountingly paranoid trauma. The Director drew his inspiration from various real-life stories including that of New Yorker Bernhard Goetz, the ‘subway vigilante’. He shot four young men on a subway in Manhattan on December 22, 1984, after they tried to mug him. He’d been mugged before and starting carrying a gun ‘just in case’ but was accused in court of actively seeking out trouble. Also the brutal deaths of British soldiers Derek Wood and David Howes, dragged from their car in Belfast in 1988 during an IRA funeral, found later that day in wasteland beaten and executed and bloodied.

What works is that the revenge is not exacted on those who deserve it, but on mere incidentals. It happens a lot. It’s how and why we have victims of crime. Person A is desensitised by a mix of familial violence and lack of care. A meets B, from a similar background and they pathologically wreak havoc on F who spends the rest of his life wondering what happened, himself now desensitised, etc. Ireland grew this particular bacterial brand of densensitisation en-masse in the 1950s/60/70s, with a great deal of help from church-run institutions. Knead this with an ungovernable drug problem and you have a city that is as much about random acts of incredible violence as it is about bodhrans and dead heroes.

The filming, lighting and direction is superb throughout. Although for me, the script has holes in it. Female characters are poor, both in terms of their lines and the actors. Paul’s romantic interest with the nurse/carer Nora-Jane Noone is weak and spectral. “We’ve all been there, where we just have to hold someone’s hand until they’re back on their feet,” she said in an interview about her luvvy role. However, she seems to be a cipher rather than a living, breathing human being. It would’ve been a lot stronger without the crud romance thrown in for good popcorn measure. That being said it is a sincere film, a study of unbending aggression borne out of savourless trauma. Expect to look at city streets differently, especially on cold dank nights on cobbled paths, when a hooded teenager walks towards you and smiles for no reason.
June Caldwell  is a writer, who after 13 years of journalism, is finally writing a novel. She has a MA in Creative Writing and was winner of ‘Best Blog Post’ award at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. You can read this post on her own blog here:

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Eileen Walsh is currently playing the lead role in Medea by Siren Productions, at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin (ABSOLUT Fringe, until 25th September). Her theatre work includes Macbeth, Terminus (Abbey Theatre); The Gigli Concert (Druid); Disco Pigs (Corcadorca/Bush/Arts Theatre); Crave (Royal Court), The Drowned World (Traverse Theatre) and Mary Stuart (National Theatre of Scotland).  Film and television credits include Eden (Best Actress Award, Tribeca Film Festival), Pure Mule, The Magdalene Sisters, When Brendan Met Trudy, Miss Julie, The Last Bus Home, The Van and 33 x Around the Sun.

What’s the first record you ever bought?

Cliff Richard/The Young Ones – Living Doll.

What’s your favourite smell?

Molecule 01.

Have you ever had a nickname?

Smallie.

What is your favourite room in your house?

The coalhole (under the stairs).

What are your guilty pleasures?

E!

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Not much.

Who is your closest female friend?

My sisters.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings?

Birthmark on my arm known as my teatoo (hot tea burn when I was 3).

Where would you most like to live?

In a 70s’ build, flat roof, sunken living room and I’d be happy.

Who was your first kiss and where did it happen?

A very nice boy who said he’d like to teach me.

What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked?

Did you have to work out for the role? (Medea!) Obviously an American.

What’s the best present you’ve ever received?

A Kinder egg that had been tampered with so that when you put the toy jigsaw together it read I Love You.

What is your favourite word?

Wait.

Who was your first love?

I married him.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what might you have become?

Apparently a dog groomer was pretty high on my list when I was 10.

Is there a book you’ve bought several times as a gift for someone?

I bought several sisters the same book (as a student) and told them pass it on to each other… 100 Years of Solitude …no less!

What happens after we die?

We answer questions.

What female historical figure do you admire most?

Right now I’m smothered in Medea.

Sum yourself up in three words:

G.S.O.H./N.S./O.T.

And finally… What are you anti? What are you pro?

Anti-abortion

Pro- hunting…only joking.

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Actress Ruth Negga was born in Ethiopia and grew up between Limerick and London.  Having trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre in Trinity College, she got her first major break in 2005, when she was cast in Neil Jordan’s Breakfast On Pluto. Since then, she has maintained a steady career in theatre, film and television – already, in 2010, she has starred in the BBC series Five Daughters and the Irish film Trafficked. From September, she will be appearing in the role of Ophelia in the National Theatre’s production of Hamlet.  She recently starred in RTE’s four-part drama Love/Hate.

What was the first record you ever bought?
Nirvana, Heart-Shaped box (with the Marigold b-side where Dave Grohl sings).

What’s your favourite smell?
The smell of summer rain on its way and the smell of the person I’m in love with. Preferably a mix of the two.

Have you ever had a nickname?
Tooters, Roo… all my “weak” passwords, which I’ll now have to change.

What is your favourite room in your house?
My bedroom at around 5pm last Saturday when the evening light hit.

What are your guilty pleasures?
Real pleasures shouldn’t be guilty. I read that somewhere. Wish I could get it into my head. I’m always feeling guilty about something or other. OK, ALL of Paul Rudd’s films.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I know for a fact that people are sick of bloody actors banging on about being shy, but it is true for a lot of us. I am obsessed with the idea that the most important thing about someone is that which you don’t know. I read that somewhere too. I’m looking forward to having an idea or thought of my own.

Who is your closest female friend?
I have three and strangely enough they don’t really know one another: Pippa, Lou and Nadia.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
Neither. For now.

Where would you most like to live?
Kilshannig, Co. Kerry

Who was your first kiss?
When I was 6 or 7, with a lovely boy called Aaron. Think I could be totally making that up, though. I do that quite a lot with memories.

What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked?
Haven’t yet. Quite interested to see what’s ahead.

What’s the best present you’ve ever received?
An early edition of The Third Policeman. It was from my mother.

What is your favourite word?
Too many to mention, although I’m a natural Mrs. Malaprop so I probably wouldn’t know what it meant anyway.

Who was your first love?
I had an almighty crush on a boy with initials D.C. when I was 8. Makes me get butterflies even now. He had absolutely no interest whatsoever.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what might you have become?
An artist, I think. Or mad. Or less mad, probably. Who knows?

Is there a book you’ve bought several times as a gift for someone?
Yes: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton. Whom I keep mentioning in interviews in the vain hope of getting a job off him.

What happens after we die?
“The Undiscover’d Country”. Where there’s lots of sleep and beautiful dreaming.

What female historical figure do you admire most?
The courageous, good ones who never make it into the books.

Sum yourself up in three words:
Bewildered. Headstrong. Loquacious.

And finally… What are you anti? What are you pro?
This is a school essay question that I have nightmares about where I’m wearing my pyjamas – if I’m lucky! I’ll be brief: anti mean people; pro the nice ones.

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