The week ahead

Well, now that the dreaded Blue Monday is out of the way - funny, I was actually in a good mood until I was bombarded with articles telling me I should feel depressed and ended up making myself miserable just to fit in - arts venues in the region seem to be cranking up their schedules. Which is nice. It certainly makes this column a tad easier to write.

Today is officially ‘Feel Good Thursday' as both Andrew O Neill at The Balor and Kevin McAleer at the Millennium Forum are guaranteed to cheer you up. Letterkenny Pantomime Society's Charlie and The Magic Carpet should also raise the spirits. It continues its run in An Grianan until Saturday.

Blind clairvoyant Sharon Neill is at The Alley on Friday and there's comedy drama with The Aul Fella at The Millennium on Saturday. If it's music you're looking for to soothe your soul this week, Kintra are at The Alley in Strabane and Tommy Fleming is at The Millennium (both on Friday). You can see The Henry Girls and The Fox Hunt in either Sandino's in Derry on the Saturday or in The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny (behind An Grianan) on Sunday. Also on Sunday, Isla Grant appears at The Millennium with The Blind Boys of Alabama taking to the stage there next Wednesday.

If you're more into playing than listening, there's also the first Tommy Peoples fiddle workshop of 2011 at the Balor at 3pm on Saturday.

The second half of the week sees two plays by Love and Madness Theatre Co. at An Grianan - Richard III is on on Wednesday followed by Accidental Death of an Anarchist on Thursday - while Jasango Theatre Co. Bring their award-winning comedy Bombshells to The Abbey, Ballyshannon on Wednesday and to The Balor, Ballybofey on Thursday.

The Accidental Death of Richard III...

Love & Madness have come up with a novel way of cutting down production costs - tour two equally brilliant but completely different plays at once and staging them on successive nights in the same venue.

First up is Shakespeare's classic Richard III next Wednesday, February 2 at An Grianan with Letterkenny actor Iarla McGowan in the lead role. It's the classic tale of a brilliant scheming hunchback who murders and seduces his way to the British throne. Al Pacino made a documentary film about the play - oh it must be about 20 years ago now - which was one of the most compelling documentaries I've ever seen and certainly gave me a whole new appreciation for the piece. Well worth watching - have a look at it before going to the play and I practically guarantee it'll double your enjoyment.

Then, on Thursday, February 3, it's Dario Fo's brilliant satire Accidental Death of An Anarchist concerning the case of anarchist railway worker Giuseppe Pinelli who, it was claimed, ‘fell' to his death from a police headquarters window in 1969. Fo has always put a premium on entertainment, and this updated version by Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante carries on this tradition. Well worth viewing.

Tickets for both plays are €15 apiece (€10 concession) and available from An Grianan Box Office on 074 912 0777.

Stranger Than Fiction

The way the last couple of football seasons have gone it's hard to believe but Beating Berlusconi - which tells the story of a Liverpool fan's unique experiences as Liverpool win the Champions League final - is actually based on a true story.

Despite threats from his wife and bank manager, middle-aged Kenny Noonan travels to Istanbul to watch Liverpool play AC Milan in the Champions' League final. He carries the scars of thirty years as a Red and of living in a city which has been demonised. With the team 3-0 down at half time, a somewhat morose Kenny goes in search of a consolation beer and somehow manages to blag his way into the AC Milan VIP box where he proceeds to help himself to free champagne and salmon. When Liverpool fight back to equalise, Kenny can't suppress his feelings, Berlusconi loses his temper and the two square up. Hauled away by Turkish security guards, Kenny is amazed to be taken to the Liverpool VIP area - they had mistaken him for a Liverpool VIP. It's hard to know which is more amazing - the actual story or the fact that a Liverpool team containing Djimi Traoare actually won The Champions League.

Beating Berlusconi is more than a play about football however. Writer John Graham Davies captures perfectly the Scouse attitude towards much of the establishment, ensuring that nobody from Jose Mourinho to Margaret Thatcher is spared a touch. It's brilliantly performed by Paul Duckworth who first came to prominence as Ringo in Backbeat. The end result is a play about so much more than football that you don't have to be a Liverpool fan, or even a football fan for that matter, to enjoy.

Beating Berlusconi is at The Balor on Saturday, February 5 at 8.30pm. Tickets are €15 and available from The Balor box office on 074 91 31840.

Here Come The Girls

A big congratulations to Jasango Theatre Company whose play Bombshells has just been announced as the winner of Best Play and Best Ensemble in the 2010 Bethlehem Press Awards in the US.

Bombshells is a rip-roaring, explosive and hilarious evening spent with several generations of women on the edge - from the fame-seeking teenager to the frenetic young mother to the simmering widow and the exultant, terrified bride - in a series of vivid monologues. It wowed audiences with a successful run at Galway's Bank Of Ireland Theatre before going on to be one of the highlights of the Theatre Stage Mindfield Programme at Electric Picnic.

Described as "jaw-droppingly good" by The Sunday Times, Bombshells is a wild and passionate comedy that will surprise and delight you.

Bombshells is at The Abbey Centre, Ballyshannon next Wednesday, February 2 (071 985 1375) before heading up the road to The Balor, Ballybofey (074 91 31840) on Thursday, February 3.

Fiddle Workshops

A quick reminder that the first monthly fiddle workshop with Tommy Peoples takes place at The Balor this Saturday (January, 29) at 3pm. These free workshops are open to all regardless of age or ability. They represent a marvellous opportunity to learn the art of traditional Donegal fiddle playing from a true master of the craft. In the interests of sucking up in order to (hopefully) retain funding I should mention that the Balor Traditional Musician In Residence Programme is supported by The Arts Council.