Culture, Media, Radio, Deirdre Mcmahon, Brendan Behan, Miriam O Callaghan O'callaghan, Stephen Rea, Selina Cartmell, Tim Desmond, Richard Curran, Michael Colgan, Rté

Culture, Media

Miriam O’Callaghan runs close to caricature of herself

Review: By the end of a compelling interview, O’Callaghan positively embraces her self-parodying side

15/09/2019 12:30:00

Miriam O’Callaghan’s interview with Stephen Rea is compelling, and not just because it’s a roll call of the tics that have made her such a favourite with comic impressionists

Review: By the end of a compelling interview, O’Callaghan positively embraces her self-parodying side

Radio 1, Saturday), one can’t help feeling that if all public representatives had her sense and imagination things wouldn’t be in such a mess. While Cartmell’s creative talents seem obvious, the fact that she’s appearing on Curran’s business magazine show is testament to her more practical abilities.

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She tells her host about the challenges of running a theatre while dealing with the fallout surrounding the sexual harassment allegations against her predecessor,Michael Colgan. It’s not especially sensational stuff, but oddly it’s her prosaic pragmatism that’s striking. Such qualities too are often missing in the political arena.

There’s a different dramatic twist on Sunday With Miriam (RTÉ Radio 1) as Miriam O’Callaghan talks to actorStephen Rea, who is being honoured at the Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s a compelling encounter, and not just because it’s a roll call of the tics and tricks that have made O’Callaghan such a favourite with comic impressionists.

There are the hums of empathy and approval which greet her guest’s answers and the fluttery flattery that peppers proceedings: “You look great,” she tells Rea, who repays the compliment with knowing good humour.As for Brexit, it’s telling that Rea lets out an anguished howl

At other times, the presenter’s questions sound like they come from some class of Random Platitude Generator app. When Rea talks about growing up in 1950s Belfast, where his father was a bus driver, O’Callaghan asks, “Was your dad happy?” “Are you kidding?” replies Rea incredulously.

Later, the presenter appears to lapse into full auto-pilot mode. “Are you religious? Spiritual?” she inquires, the lack of conviction in her voice suggesting that even she can’t quite believe what she’s asking. Rea gamely engages with his host’s questioning, noting that while he can’t imagine an afterlife, his sister, “a mad spiritualist” once reassured him that his parents met each other again after they died. “It was like they’d been in some waiting room,” he says, fondly. By the end, O’Callaghan positively embraces her self-parodying side, inquiring of her guest, “Do you wake up happy?” “Let’s not go too far,” comes the wry reply. 

But all this is underestimated O’Callaghan’s tactics, for her approach yields an enjoyable and absorbing interview. She disarms Rea’s lugubriously diffident public persona, and instead teases out the reflective artist with an impish sense of humour. Rea is alive to what’s happening, noting with mock-alarm that his host has “a way” of getting him to talk about personal subjects. 

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It’s not all larks. Rea emphasises his outrage at the conditions in which people are held in Direct Provision, calling it “our Magdalene laundries”. (Full disclosure: he also reads a poem by my father, Seamus Heaney.) As for Brexit, it’s telling that Rea lets out an anguished howl when O’Callaghan brings up “the B word”. (Jones has earlier sighed deeply when the subject arises.) But it’s an honest reaction, one which only emphasises Rea’s hangdog integrity.

Read more: The Irish Times »

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