His voice is as familiar to film lovers as many of the cinematic productions he has reviewed over the years. It’s a voice that has conversed with many of the great stars of the screen in the decades when he fronted the B.B.C.’s weekly movie review show and when he ambles into view on the stage of the An Grianan Theatre on Sunday night, there’s a reception for him that might not have been out of place had some of his own heroes from the film world dropped in for a chat.
For that’s what Barry Norman brings to the evening - a friendly engagement with his audience and one that provides an insightful perspective into a world that, for the great majority of us, is confined to cinema and television screens.
“They were a lovely audience,” he says yesterday. “The whole thing really depends on them. If you get a good audience, it’s not hard work to do,” he maintains.
Speaking to the ‘Donegal People’s Press/Donegal Democrat’, prior to continuing his tour of a number of Irish venues, he talks of his first, albeit fleeting, visit to Donegal in positive terms.
Now a sprightly 78 years old (though hardly looking it), the last time he came close to the county was, he recalls, “quite a few years ago” when he, along with his wife and two daughters, holidayed in Sligo over an Easter weekend. A holiday with a mission as it happened.
“One of my daughters was thinking about purchasing a house called McGinty’s Retreat. It had been described as a property with a gate and a fence and a stream running nearby. Unfortunately it looked as if the stream was running through the house!”
Result: no purchase - but nonetheless an enjoyable weekend in the North-West of Ireland though without managing, as far as he’s aware, of making it to Donegal.
He describes his career as a film reviewer as a “totally mis-spent life”, admitting to, or perhaps happily confessing to, having watched between 12,000 and 15,000 movies.
“It doesn’t feel like working,” he says. But that’s simply because of the easy manner in which he carries it through.
His sense of humour is always evident throughout his story laden evening in the An Grianan. Referring to one of his favourite films ‘Gone with the Wind’ and its producer David O. Selznick, he quips: “not one of the Letterkenny O. Selznicks!.”
The opening part of the evening is taken up with the former B.B.C. presenter highlighting, with the help of clips, some of his favourite films including the afore-mentioned offering, ‘Casablanca’, ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ and ‘Dirty Harry’.
A question and answer session follows and the only question he’s reluctant to answer is the one from local actor, Kieran Kelly, who wants to know what he thinks about the B.B.C. review programme since his departure. But Norman is afraid his response could be misinterpreted and moves along swiftly to the next query.
And why not? (Even though he never actually said that, not back then and certainly not on Sunday night).