Are you watching The Good Wife?

After a number of political posts and an accidental month-long hiatus, it’s time for something completely different. Are you watching The Good Wife? The legal drama with Carol from ER and Mary-Anne from Cybil? GoodWife I became a bit obsessed with the show last year and sped through the first four seasons, then felt bereft when I got caught up and had to wait for new episodes.

The show is about Alicia Florick (Carol from the ER) who has to go back to work after her husband – the State’s Attorney – is arrested on political corruption charges. He’s also been involved in a number of very public sex scandals. After 13 years as a wife and mother Alicia has joined a big, fancy law-firm in an entry level position and has to get used to the world of work again, while competing with graduates half her age.

If that synopsis doesn’t have you rushing to Netflix, don’t worry – I understand. My sister has been raving about The Good Wife for years but I wasn’t interested. I over-did it on court-room dramas in the nineties – Ally McBeal, Murder One, Perry Mason – and I wasn’t interested in watching another show about lawyers. Even when I did start watching it, it took me four or five episodes to decide I actually liked it. Trust me, it’s worth sticking with it.

Here are four reasons why you should do yourself a favour and watch The Good Wife.

1. Great characters that grow on you
And at the beginning, Alicia is pretty annoying. She is the political wife who stands by her man; she’s a bit of a pushover, a bit too nice, a bit of a giant cliché. She gradually comes out of that bland, catatonic shell and starts kicking ass. It’s a joy to watch. The show is very good at making you like characters that you think you’re going to hate. Cary Agos – Alicia’s competition at the firm – is played by the same actor who played Logan in Gilmore Girls. At first he seems like the same annoying, spoilt brat who is used to getting his own way with a smile and a bit of smarm. And yet, somehow I ended up liking him. Nobody was more surprised than me. (I never really warmed to Logan.)

Even the non-regular characters are great. Clients like Colin Sweeney or other lawyers, like Louis Canning, a disabled lawyer who is a master of manipulation and regularly plays up his disability in court. They are awful people that you can’t held getting attached to. It doesn’t hurt that Canning is played by the magnificent Michael J. Fox!

And then there is the wonderful Alan Cummings who plays the State Attorney’s campaign manager Eli Gold. He is sublime. I’ve been a fan since Bernard and the Genie, but in this show, which has so many fantastic, female characters – Alicia, Kalinda, boss lady Diane, crazy hot-shot lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni, scheming Patti Nyholm (who is played by one of the Goonies!) – Eli Gold is probably my favourite. He is a bit of a man’s man who has landed in a world full of strong, bossy women. I love watching him learn that he can’t tell them what to do and then slowly figure out how to work with them.
EliGold

There’s also Alan Cummings excellent facial expressions.

2. It’s all about the relationships between the characters but it’s not about relationships.
The relationships between the characters are allowed to grow slowly, the grudging respect that blossoms between Alicia and Cary, the friendship between Alicia and Kalinda, the firm’s private investigator. Alicia’s rocky relationship with her mother-in-law Jackie is great to watch, particularly when Alicia squares up to her. Alicia’s relationship with her children is also given plenty of screen-time – we see her juggling all the different aspects of her life.

It’s a show that focuses on female characters yet doesn’t revolve around their love lives. It’s probably not a coincidence that I started watching The Good Wife around the same time that I got bored of Grey’s Anatomy. (How many weddings or almost weddings has that show had?)

3. It’s a very feminist show.
Often overtly so in the cases they take and the causes that Diane supports but it’s also great to see so many women on screen at the same time. When I ran out of episodes of The Good Wife to watch and switched to House of Cards, the lack of women in that show was jarring. It felt like something was missing.

All the main characters are allowed to be flawed and have messy, complicated lives.

As an extra boost to it’s feminist credentials, it’s been name checked in Girls and Broad City, both times in weirdly sexual situations, and you know Lorelai and Rory would be tuning in religiously.

3. Great storylines – both individual cases and season arches
We see a lot of the characters personal lives but it’s still a show about lawyers so we spend a lot of time in the court room, in briefing sessions and depositions. However, the cases are interesting in their own right and not just an excuse to get the characters in the court-room together. They cover really interesting, contemporary topics. I know more about the NSA because of The Good Wife. I have a half-formed opinion on bitcoin and how it can be used to circumnavigate the law. There was a case that focused on sexual assault in the military. They created their own search engine – ChubHum and take regular pot-shots at it, often about how it’s search results are manipulated. The most recent season featured a real life, covert detention centre that is on the edge of legality. (I didn’t know that it was real until I read this article in the Guardian – ‘We’re all news junkies': why The Good Wife writing team is one of TV’s sharpest. (WARNING: contains spoilers))

4. Great guest-stars
Surely I’m not the only one who gets great joy from seeing a familiar face pop up in another show. It pleases me to imagine that some of the guys from The Wire moved from Baltimore to Chicago and got a new job with a different drug dealer. Ugly Betty turns up in a couple of episodes, as does Chandler Bing. Gary Cole (who for me will always be the devil from American Gothic) plays a gunshot expert and Wallace Shawn (who was in The Princess Bride and Clueless) plays a frankly terrifying lawyer. Others famous faces include Nathan Lane, Rita Wilson, Parker Posey, Christina Ricci, Sarah Silverman, Jason Biggs, Jeffrey Tambor and Gloria Steinem, playing herself.

They are my reasons why you should start watching The Good Wife immediately. If you are still not convinced here’s another article from the Guardian, spoiler-free this time: Mad Men has the buzz – but The Good Wife is the better show

Dr. Mads Gilbert at PalFest Ireland

PalFest Ireland Arts Festival Supporting Palestine

Over the weekend, in Dublin and around the country, PalFest Ireland took place. It was a wonderful mix of events – music, poetry readings, lectures, meditation, a football match – all organised by volunteers. It was timed to commemorate the 51-day attack by Israel on Gaza in 2014. This was the fourth Isreali assault on Gaza since 2006. These bombardments are named military attacks, which I didn’t know.

2006 – Operation Summer Rain
2009 – Operation Cast Lead
2012 – Operation Pillar of Defence
2014 – Operation Protective Edge

And over the eight years, each attacks has been more brutal and the death toil for each assault has increased. During the 51 days in July 2014, over 2100 people were killed, 551 of them children.

I missed most of the PalFest events but I did attend the lecture by Dr. Mads Gilbert in the O’Reilly Theatre on Friday night, where I learnt all these facts. Dr. Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor from Tromsø and who has regularly worked in the Shifa hospital in Gaza over the last 15 years. He is a vocal opponent of the Israeli occupation in Gaza and the Israeli government have now banned him from entering the country. He is also a man who knows a lot about Palestine, about the Palestinian people and what life is like under the occupation and siege. He was in Gaza during the assault last year and has published a book of photos and stories about what he experienced. Friday night’s lecture was based on that book – A Night in Gaza. He had some terrifying statistics about the number of people killed and injured during those 51 days, the number of schools bombed, the paramedics who were targeted as they worked. 70% of those who died during the assault were civilians. The Israeli army claims the aim on their weapons is 90% accurate so we have to assume that these schools and hospitals, the medical personnel and journalists were all targets. Under international law, it is a war crime to deliberately target these people or buildings.

As well as the huge numbers of killed and injured there were also stories of those not included in those numbers.  Like the parents and three young children who got out of the house before the bomb fell on it and arrived in the emergency room uninjured, but completely terrified and homeless.

Dr. Gilbert was a passionate, engaging speaker, particularly when he spoke of his friends in Palestine, people he has known and worked with for many years, and their resilience. He talked about how they worked non-stop throughout the night during the worst of the bombings, about the inventiveness in the hospital because of the blockades and about their determination to rebuild their towns and cities. He has huge admiration for the Palestinian people; for their hope and their spirit under occupation. You can read more about his experiences in Gaza and an extract from the book in this Guardian article – ‘My camera is my Kalashnikov’.

Dr. Gilbert also gave the Noble Call at the Abbey after the performance of Carol Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children that was also part of PalFest.

Chris McCormack wrote an article for Broadway World last month The Art of Winning a Referendum, about how artists engaged with the Equality Referendum campaign and the effect it had on the vote. PalFest is in the same vein. It’s art with a purpose. It’s art that recognises a greater social context, art in solidarity with people who need to be seen and recognised. I think it was a wonderful thing to do, and I hope it does help the Palestinian to be recognised as part of the human family and be accorded the same human rights that the rest of that family enjoys.

I know the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is incredibly complex but there was a wonderful Malcolm X quote in Dr. Gilbert’s lecture which for me, makes things very simple.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

YES! Ireland makes history.

Just before we leave the topic of Marriage Equality, here are a couple of links about the historic weekend in Ireland.

 

Miriam Lord in the Irish Times does a wonderful job of describing the events of the day as the Yes tallies kept rolling in.

And a shout out to all those who came Home to Vote, it couldn’t have happened without them, espeically the amazing Joey Kavanagh who lead the Get the Boat to Vote initiative.

And finally, I really like Una Mullally’s article on being who you’re meant to be and how the world will change around you when you allow yourself that freedom.

Now – as President Bartlett would say, “What’s next?”

A Noble Call for Marriage Equality

YesCampSome wonderful sights and sounds from the Noble Call for Marriage Equality at the Abbey last Wednesday. It sounds like a joyous morning full of love and support and enthusiasm. The video is just a little taster and then the SoundCloud is a recording of the entire morning’s events. It’s 90 minutes long and full of passionate speeches, joyful songs and performances from people including Roddy Doyle, Marina Carr reading from Molly’s soliloquy from the end of Ulysses, and Wayne Jordan performing a section of Sarah Kane’s Crave, the wonderful Sonya Kelly and loads more lovely people.

Top Tip: Paul Reid and Sarah Greene singing

Paul Reid and Sarah Greene singing “We’re All on the Edge” from Alice in Funderland is at 33 minutes, 50 seconds.

Happy birthday Smock Alley

SmockBirthday A couple of weeks ago, Smock Alley Theatre celebrated it’s 3rd birthday, or it’s 303rd birthday depending on when you start counting from. The refurbished theatre as it is today, opened in 2012. The first play I saw in the newly opened Main Space was Pan Pan’s A Doll House. I loved the show and I also loved the new theatre with it’s long, green seats and it’s smell of new wood. During the long years of transformation, Smock was often used during the festivals, so I had visited the space a few times over the years. The Belgium company Ontroerend Goed made great use of the Main Space for The Smile Off Your Face in 2010, when it was still an empty cavern and only recently excavated, ideal for being pushed around in a wheelchair while blindfolded! The Boys School was the Fringe Festival bar in 2009, when I did most of my volunteer shifts in Smock Alley and hung around the theatre for a week. Four years later, I spent both weeks of the Fringe Festival in Smock Alley, first with Come As Soon As You Hear’s Whelp (my first ever job as producer) and then working on Moving City. Most of the shows I’ve produced have been in Smock Alley and I’ve spent a lot of time in the theatre over the years. I was very proud to see my first play performed in the Main Space in February. On the night there was a lovely exhibition set up all around the walls of the Boys School as you walked up the spiral rams –  posters and programmes from all the shows that had graced the stages of the Smock Alley over the years. It was lovely to be reminded of the many great shows I’ve seen there, as well as spotting a couple of productions that I worked on! It’s a theatre that’s close to my heart. I am always happy to pop in and see what’s happening. All of which is to say that I am very fond of the place and was delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate their success. As well as being a great place for theatre, Smock Alley is also very good at food and drink. On the birthday night they were serving a new Smocktail – a pale green concoction with elderflower cordial, vodka and cucumber syrup. It was very tasty, very summer-y and went down far too easily! I also had delicious sausage rolls and a couple of tiny, boozy brownies. So if you haven’t yet been to Smock Alley, or you just haven’t been there in a while – go! There’s loads of Writers Festival events there over the next week, as well as lots of other things.

Fabulous Marriage Equality Events

Fabulous Marriage Equality Events

There are two lovely Marriage Equality events over the next couple of weeks that I can’t go to because I have a day job now. It’s so unfair – I feel like I’m being discriminated against! Though I suppose it serves me right for being out of the country on the day of the vote.

Most of the time, I’m delighted to have a job. Being self-employed can be hard work and it’s nice letting someone else be the boss for a change. Instead of constantly trying to keep myself motivated and deciding the best way to spend my time and energy, I just turn up and do what I’m told. It’s nice feeling like I accomplished something at the end of the day, just because I went to work. And because I did that, I know there is a pay-cheque coming along very soon. That’s nice too!

But sometimes there are fun things happening in the middle of the day and I’m sad that I’m not my own boss any more. I can’t go but if you can, you should! (Similar to my plea – I can’t vote, but you should!) These are two events that are definitely worth leaving the house for. (This is always a bit of a struggle for me when I’m self-employed. I tend to become a bit of a hermit.)

ELOVEnesesFringe are holding ELOVEneses tomorrow morning, Friday May 8th. This is their usual Elevenses coffee morning with a Marriage Equality twist! As well as hot beverages, delicious cakes and lots of theatre chat, there will be donation buckets and Yes Equality paraphendilia. Fringe Elevenes are always lovely – very welcoming and chatty, this sounds like it will be more of the same and then some!

Next week, Wednesday May 13th, the Abbey Theatre are hosting A Noble Call for Marriage Equality. I’m very sorry to be missing this. It’s at 11am on the Wednesday morning, tickets are free and available on a first come, first served basis from 10am on the day. They are promising actors, playwrights and surprise guests as well as songs from Romeo and Juliet, The Risen People and Alice in Funderland. I think it will be a total love-fest and I hope the Abbey is jam-packed for it.

VoteYesSo if you do find yourself at a loose end on either morning, whether it’s due to unemployment, under-employment, shift work or whatever, do along and have a ball.

And don’t forget to vote on May 22nd!

Live Collision 2015

LiveCollision15I am always very appreciative of festivals who bring international artists to Dublin, especially smaller, more niche performers who generally don’t tour that often. This year’s Live Collision programme is a great mix of Irish and international artists. Visiting artists are also doing workshops or collaborating with Dublin-based performers, which I think is a great way to keep a festival vibrant and meaningful to local artists and audiences. This blog post is late – Live Collision started on Wednesday, so it’s half over at this stage, but there is still lots to enjoy.

There is an Artist Salon workshop on Friday afternoon with UK artists Curious. You have to bring with you some sort of ‘information’ about your body that is invisible to the naked eye. The workshop will involve writing and movement to create work both solo and collaboratively. Tickets are €15/20 and it’s on in Fringe Lab.

There are also lunch time talks taking place in Project on Friday and Saturday. These are public discussions, with questions from the audience. Friday’s theme is We are in Public, with Nic Green and Massive Owl and it’s about artists who create participatory work. Nic Green is part of this year’s festival and also did Trilogy in the Fringe in 2010, which I participated in. Massive Owl are doing an Artist Exchange with three Dublin-based performers as part of Live Collision. Saturday’s panel, We Are Only Human with Francis Fay, Amanda Coogan, Kris Nelson & Vaari Claffey will explore current trends in live art.

Irish artist Amanda Coogan is performing Smoking in Bolero in Meeting House Square on Friday night at 7pm and it’s one of the many free events happening across the festival. Another one is Nic Green‘s Abhann Liffe on Saturday evening. The meeting point for that performance is outside Project and it will take place at low-tide, which will be around 5.15pm.

There is also a performance in the Science Gallery as part of their new exhibition Home/Sick. It’s a live, interactive installation called 97 Years and will happen on Friday and Saturday at 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. Tickets are €8 and available from the Science Gallery website. It’s nice to see the festival spread across the city.

And of course, there’s the main events of the festival – the double bill performances in Project Cube. On Friday night these are Workshy and 27 and on Saturday you can see Stud and Dickie Beau Unplugged. Tickets are €15/13 which means you’re basically getting two shows for the price of one!

And if none of that tickles your fancy, there’s also a strand called We Are Dancing which includes 27 Club drinks in Project Bar on Friday night and Yes Yes Yes at Mother on Saturday.

So go – enjoy some Live Art! You might find it odd or irritating or inspiring but it’s worth giving it a go – it’s not scary.