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Saturday, May 21, 2022

On my radar: Siobhán McSweeney’s cultural highlights | Siobhán McSweeney

The Irish actor and presenter Siobhán McSweeney, 42, earned a science degree from the University College Cork before moving to London to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She performed at the National Theatre, then landed her breakthrough TV role as Sister Michael in the hit Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls, which returns soon for its third and final series. Later this year, she stars in ITV’s adaptation of Graham Norton’s debut novel, Holding, directed by Kathy Burke. McSweeney presents The Great Pottery Throw Down, the grand final of which airs tonight at 7.45pm on Channel 4.

1. Theatre

London international mime festival

Proper theatrical spectacle… Thick & Tight’s Short & Sweet at the Barbican.
Proper theatrical spectacle… Thick & Tight’s Short & Sweet at the Barbican. Photograph: Rosie Powell

Every January, all the freaks come out to play and it’s wonderful. So much theatre is just like shit telly, but audiences are smart and want proper theatrical spectacle – this festival provides it. Everybody rolls their eyes, assuming it’s like Marcel Marceau trapped in a glass box, but mime just means theatre that’s more visual, often non-verbal. This time, I went to Thick & Tight at the Barbican. I have a clowning past myself: I studied with Philippe Gaulier at his institute, and I loved it. Being shouted at by an old Frenchman for months, what’s not to enjoy?

2. Film

The Real Charlie Chaplin (dir James Spinney, Peter Middleton)

Charlie Chaplin in City Lights.
‘Can you separate the art from the artist?’: Charlie Chaplin. Photograph: Allstar

I saw this fantastic documentary at the Curzon last week. I love silent cinema and have been a Chaplin nut for ever, but there’s an uncomfortable part of his life that we don’t want to look at. Can you separate the art from the artist? The film is beautifully balanced, pragmatic and non-judgmental, just laying it all out clearly. It opens with this great quote: “Don’t try to grasp the real Chaplin. There isn’t one. It’s just who he decides to show you at the time.” I loved Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, all those lads. Child Siobhán thought they were hilarious. Teenage Siobhán thought they were hot.

3. Music


‘It’s jolly country pop with lyrics about Marian Keyes and KFC buckets’: CMAT. Photograph: Sarah Doyle

She’s a disgracefully young Irish singer-songwriter. I discovered she was only 25 the other day. I was absolutely livid, partly because I hate the youth but also because she’s so funny. There’s real wit to her lyrics. She’s in the big-hair-and-long-talons tradition of country: the higher the hair, the closer to God. Her songs are so brilliant and ear wormy – it’s jolly country pop with lyrics that namecheck Marian Keyes and 80-piece KFC buckets. There’s a great wit to female music right now, which I adore: Self Esteem, Wet Leg, Pillow Queens.

4. Exhibition

Collect at Somerset House, London

Works by Marianne Huotari on display at Collect at Somerset House.
‘The work and time spent are visible’: works by Marianne Huotari on display at Collect. Photograph: David Parry/PA

I went to this craft and design fair last weekend. There was amazing stuff on the Irish Design & Crafts Council stand: resin with floating primordial red seaweed shaped into an obelisk; tiny specks of porcelain sewn into balls so they looked as fine as paper. Thanks to Pottery Throw Down, I’m beginning to appreciate the actual craft of makers. The work and time spent are visible, unlike a lot of art which is concept-led. I wanted to buy everything and bring it back to my flat. Or better still, live in Somerset House and take my tea in a different ceramic each day, while wearing glass-blown jewellery and tapestries.

Sentimental Garbage.

5. Podcast

Sentimental Garbage
Anne Rice recently died and I was a big fan of hers but always felt a bit naff saying so. This podcast made me ponder why. It’s hosted by a writer from Cork called Caroline O’Donoghue, and it’s about stuff that women feel embarrassed about liking because society deems it not serious, highbrow or worthy enough. I love the rococo of Rice, the excess of it all: I tend to reread her every winter because she suits candlelight. Caroline herself wrote a great YA book about witches, All Our Hidden Gifts. Anyway, I’m no longer ashamed of my love for Anne Rice.

6. Designer

Vin + Omi

A model walks the runway at a Vin + Omi show at London fashion week.
‘Sustainable, bonkers and beautiful’: Vin + Omi at London fashion week. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

I discovered this duo via Debbie Harry wearing those capes with “stop fucking the planet” embroidered on the back. They were custom-made by Vin + Omi, these two mad old punks. They’re conceptual artists who are very mischievous and great craic. All their clothes are sustainable, bonkers and beautiful: they develop new eco textiles, then design from that. I have a few of their pieces now – a tree dress and another one printed with water molecules so it looks like something under a microscope. It’s made out of recycled water bottles from the Thames. They also celebrate larger sizes in a non-patronising way.

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