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Karl Shiels giving his all to ‘fast and furious’ Penelope



Date Published: {J}

By Bernie Ní Fhlatharta

Karl Shiels loves what he does. He loves it so much that when he’s not doing it, he’s thinking about it. And when he does it, it has to be right.

The Dubliner is in Galway rehearsing for the Druid Theatre Company’s production Penelope, an Enda Walsh play directed by Mikel Murfi, that will be part of this year’s Galway Arts Festival, and he is loving every minute of the experience.

This is Karl’s first time appearing in a Druid production and indeed his first time in an Enda Walsh play. But he has been an admirer of the playwright’s work for years, particularly loving The Walworth Farce and Disco Pigs.

Penelope, a contemporary take on Homer’s Odyssey, is “fast and furious” in Karl’s words and a fantastic play that is a hilarious with a dark side.

“It has fantastic logic and I love that about it. Enda said he wrote the play with the actors for the four male characters in mind. One of them was me. There’s also a female character,” he says.

Karl has an acting CV as long as your arm, with an impressive list of stage, film and TV work, that doesn’t seem to tally with his thirty-something years but once he decided he wanted to act, it seems he fell from one job to another.

And he wasn’t always an actor. He is actually a qualified electrician but the draw of the boards was too much for him and in the early nineties he went to the Gaiety School of Acting to learn his craft, having first got the acting bug while still at secondary school.

He played drums in a band and was asked to play the drums in a panto. The rest is history and in 1999 he won the Best Actor Award at the Dublin Theatre Festival for his role in Comedians.

Karl’s film credits include Batman Begins where he played Cillian Murphy’s sidekick but it was duelling with actor Christian Bale on set that was really cool, he says.

He has worked alongside a host of stars including John Hurt (in Meeting Che Guevara and The Man from Maybury Hill) Cate Blanchett (in Veronica Guerin), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) and the star studded cast of Batman Begins.

He had a shot at Hollywood, including meetings with director, Jerry Bruckheimer but they came to nothing when the Actors’ Union put a stop to non-American, non-members getting involved in the project in hand.

He says he has no regrets but he has worked in the US as Artistic Director of Semper Fi (Ireland) when he brought his production of Ladies and Gents to New York where the play was located in the public toilets in Central Park. There was a lot of red tape about that but it was worth it, he said.

He loves performing in unusual spaces but says there are no public toilets large enough in Galway for him to bring that play to the city.

Karl is resourceful. During a dry patch for him and other Dublin based actors, he acquired a space in his native city and called it Theatre Upstairs which produced plays that were critically acclaimed, but that closed when the landlord decided to change the space into apartments.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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