Irish arts took center stage in 2013, look strong for new year


Ronan give her best performance to date as a 200-year-old teenager in Neil Jordan’s atmospheric vampire drama Byzantium (also my pick for the best film of 2013). Ronan’s next big features in 2014 include the star studded new Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel and the highly anticipated Ryan Gosling helmed How to Catch a Monster.

This month Oscar and Tony winning playwright and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley will unveil his new Broadway production of his latest play Outside Mullingar. Shanley’s first play to explicitly address and feature his Irish background and Ireland itself, it stars Will and Grace’s Debra Messing alongside Brian F. O’Byrne with support from Peter Maloney and Derbhla Molloy.

Described as a theatrical Irish version of Moonstruck, the screenplay that won Shanley an Oscar, the story follows Anthony and Rosemary, two eccentric country misfits already pushing 40. Can Rosemary win the affections of the painfully retiring Anthony before that boat finally sails, or is the road heading straight for romantic catastrophe?

If you think it’ll be a knockabout comedy, remember that Shanley venerates the works of master Irish playwright J.M. Synge and the uniquely poetic cadences that make his work so unforgettable. This could well be another barnstormer Broadway success for one of the most celebrated American playwrights since Eugene O’Neill.

All and all it’s been a remarkable year for the Irish arts, but one lesson still needs to be implemented. If we had sense we’d make Gabriel Byrne and Column McCann our taoiseach (prime minister) and tanaiste (deputy prime minster).

After all, our president is already a poet, so why can’t we have an actor and a novelist play the two most significant roles in Irish public life on the world stage?