How was it for you? Marjorie Brennan looks back on 2018

Marjorie Brennan looks back on the year that was and selects her highlights of 2018.

Three best events

Hamilton at the beautifully restored Victoria Palace Theatre in London was one of the cultural highlights of my life, not to mention this year. Finally seeing Lin Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece of musical fusion realised on the purpose-built stage was a spine-tingling experience that will endure in my memory.

The premiere of the stage adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s novel Asking For It at the Everyman Theatre in Cork was huge, and it lived up to expectations. 

This exploration of the impact of rape was more than a theatrical performance, bringing the audience on a nerve-shattering and emotional journey through the aftermath of a sexual assault.

For someone who can still remember the tingle of excitement on viewing the ground-breaking video for ‘Take on Me’ on Saturday morning telly, finally getting to see A-ha in the flesh at the Marquee was all pleasure, no guilt. 

The mullets may be long gone but the Scandi boys still have what it takes to entertain.

Best exhibition

Not one exhibition as such, more a series of wonderful and thought-provoking offerings from the Crawford Gallery of Art in Cork, which really knocked it out of the park this year under the stewardship of Mary McCarthy. 

The various exhibitions and family-friendly initiatives made it a great year for the Cork institution.

Best books

While Sally Rooney was once again the name on everyone’s lips, with her

second novel, Normal People, deserving of all the plaudits, this was the year Irish creative non-fiction exploded. 

Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self and Arnold Thomas Fanning’s Mind on Fire were standouts, both works an intoxicating blend of breathtaking writing, hard-won insight, and painfully sharp observation.

Best TV

The Bodyguard marked a break from the overwhelming glut of Netflix and a refreshing return to appointment television. 

On RTÉ, The Game was a stunningly produced overview of our national sport, prompting many viewers to dig the hurleys out from under the stairs and go for a puck-around.

One that got away

I had serious FOMO when it came to Flight of the Conchords’ rescheduled gigs at 3Arena in June.

Best film

At the start of this year, who knew singer Lady Gaga would be an Oscar- worthy actor and actor Bradley Cooper a Grammy-worthy singer? 

While Cooper dropping his voice by several registers was a tad disconcerting, A Star is Born was a throwback in the best sense, to when movies were word-of-mouth events.

Memorable interviews

It was an honour to engage with the daunting intellect of that titan of Irish poetry, Eavan Boland. 

John Connell, author of the wonderful The Cow Book, was a funny and engaging interviewee and also probably the only one who spoke to me from a tractor.

Also, I couldn’t help but admire character actor par excellence Stephen Dillane’s elegantly firm deflection of my attempts to discuss Game of Thrones ahead of his appearance in Beckett’s How It Is at the Everyman Theatre, in which he and Conor Lovett gave outstanding performances.

Lowlight

How did such an era-defining and suspenseful series as House of Cards end on such a low?

Looking forward to...

Bracing myself for the return of one of the most memorable TV characters in recent memory, the delightfully depraved Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) in the long-awaited revival of the western Deadwood after its much bemoaned cancellation 13 years ago.

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