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Archive for the month “April, 2015”

Portia Coughlan: a Q&A with Susan Cummins


Shelley Marsden speaks to actor Susan Cummins, who plays the protagonist’s mother in a London revival of Marina Carr’s powerful Irish play.


Irish playwright Marina Carr’s ferocious and haunting tale Portia Coughlan is coming to Islington’s Old Red Lion this May, and it’s going to be a must-see for lovers of compelling theatre.

Portia lives in a monstrous limbo, haunted by a yearning for her twin brother, who drowned in the Belmont River, and unable to find any love for her wealthy husband and children, seeking solace in soulless affairs, deeply afraid of what she might do.

Written to celebrate the centenary of Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital, Portia Coughlan packs quite a punch. It’s not always easy to watch, but it has got to be seen. Last performed at The Royal Court Theatre in 1996, this exciting new revival is directed by Bronagh Lagan – Rags-in concert (West End), Girlfriends (Union Theatre), Henry VI Part 1 (Rose Theatre). Portia Coughlan is part of a double-bill at the Old Red Lion with the world premiere of new musical The Verb, ‘To Love’.

Describe Portia Coughlan in a sentence, please!

It’s about families not dealing with a variety of issues and, in particular, grief.

Is Carr’s tale a reminder that everyone can have their demons?

Yes, because in many ways Portia seems to have it all, the ideal existence, yet she isn’t happy. The grass isn’t always greener, you know?



Which elements of the play spoke to you most?

It was the sheer quality of the writing that really got under my skin, from the get-go: “From here-on-in it’s only bitterness and gums.” Blaize Scully is such a character, as is Maggie May Doorley when she says things like, “Senchil wasn’t born – he was knitted on a wet Sunday afternoon.” The writing just lifts off the page. It is so incredibly vivid you can’t help but become immersed in the story.

The dialect and theatrical style of dialogue reflect the waterlogged Irish Midlands where Carr grew up, and has a sluggish quality which reflects her character’s twin’s watery death years previously – how hard is it to enter into that haunted world of hers?

You know, it wasn’t hard at all actually, because her words are just so lyrical and have such a natural flow to them. The play may be considered ‘dark’ but I feel the style and dialect lend themselves incredibly well to the piece.

Where does your character, Marianne fit into this haunting tale?

Marianne is Portia’s mother, who doesn’t really listen to what her daughter has to say, and dishes out a lot of ‘tough love’, let’s say. She hasn’t had a particularly good life herself, with her mother-in-law treating her shoddily and her husband not standing up for her in the slightest. She is also grieving for her son, but in general isn’t very good at showing her emotions. She’s quite a complicated person, but aren’t we all when it comes down to it?!

The stifling village of Belmont which Portia lives in is a character in itself with its cast of larger-than-life characters. Who’s your favourite?

The Belmont Valley definitely has a life of its own, which could only produce larger than life characters. One of my favourites is unsurprisingly Portia herself, as she often seems to be the character who is the most honest and truthful.

She’s one of Ireland’s foremost playwrights, but Carr has attracted criticism for her portrayal of ‘damaged’ women…

Marina Carr is most definitely one of our leading playwrights – she just tells great stories about real things that happen to people. I don’t think the women are any more damaged than some of the men. She writes truly great parts for women, full stop.


What other projects are you involved in?

I am in pre-production for a short film being shot in August called Jack Mulligan. It’s a ClanLondon/Andy Nolan production and it’s a gritty London Irish crime drama,  being directed by the award-winning Tom Begley. As one of the co-founders of INDA UK (Irish Network of Dramatic Arts) we have commissioned an Irish playwright to write a piece for the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. So, exciting times ahead!

Portia Coughlan runs at The Old Red Lion, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ, London EC1V 4NJ from Tuesday 28th April to Saturday 23rd May 2015 8.45pm. Tickets £16/14 available from or 0844 412 4307.






Parma Ham Celebration @ Briciole, Marylebone

Briciole is an Italian trattoria, café bar and deli under one roof, in the heart of Marylebone.



Last night I attended a celebration of its Parma ham: it had won the prestigious title of ‘UK Parma Ham Specialist of the Year 2015’, introduced by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma.

 The menu for this event, hosted in hospitable Italian style, included many variations to tempt the tastebuds. The visual displays were impressive too, for this Briciole Parma ham celebration: there was grissini wrapped with Parma ham, crescentina fritta and Parma Ham, piadina filled with stracchino rocket and Parma ham; a salad of broad beans, asparagus and Parma ham; a delicious fried croquette with Parma ham. My favourite was a delicate plate of avocado with Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano, then to finish off – a wonderfully satisfying risotto mantecato with fresh peas, mint and Parma ham.




The prize was an authentic and traditional slicer .


 A distinguished guest was the wonderful Antonio Carluccio. I was fortunate to be able to have a conversation with him and complimented him on his handsome carved cane – or stick. He explained it was one of a type used to search for mushrooms – one end of the stick to poke with, the other forked end to trap a dangerous snake – or other dangers – in the awoken undergrowth. As you can see from the photograph it is a tall stick and indeed beautifully carved; Signore Carluccio told me the carving of such sticks was a passionate hobby. Such an insight into parochial values!

I have been searching for a favourite (local) restaurant and this could well be it. Briciole is unpretentious, classy and not over-priced. It’s also romantic, somewhere you’d be happy to bring your partner.

Shaun Traynor


Images by  John Holdship


MFLL Weekend Music : Louisville Leopard Percussionists – Crazy Train

“The Louisville Leopard Percussionists is a non-profit organization offering extracurricular music opportunities to local children at little or no cost. ”


Everything about this music project is brilliant! Enjoy!

See on Scoop.itMusic for a London Life

Booking now! PORTIA COUGHLAN @ Old Red Lion

Aria Entertainment presents


Portia Coughlan


Directed by Bronagh Lagan


A ferocious, haunting and beautiful Irish tale by Marina Carr writer of By The Bog of Cats, The Mai and Ullaloo.



Portia Coughlan lives in a monstrous limbo, haunted by a yearning for her spectral twin brother lying at the bottom of the Belmont river, unable to find any love for her wealthy husband and children, seeking solace in soulless affairs, deeply afraid of what she might do…

‘Portia Coughlan packs a hell of a punch. It hurts to look at it. But it has to be seen.’

Irish Independent

Last seen at The Royal Court Theatre in 1996.


The performance at 3.30pm Saqturday 23rd May is Extra Live! Click here for more info.

28th April – 23rd May 2015

Tuesday – Saturday at 8.45pm

Saturday matinees 3.45pm

Sunday matinees 3.45pm



 Tickets £16.00 (£14.00 Conc.)



Rehearsals are in full swing for this important revival of a modern Irish classic. 


London Life will be reviewing the play at the beginning of May.. An interview with one of the lead actors coming soon!

See on Scoop.itLondon Life

Ten grand London houses

As the country’s great mansions get set to open for the summer season, we find ten of our favourite historic houses in London.


And eight of them are free with the  National Art Pass!

See on Scoop.itLondon Life

Gig Of The week @ MFLL Music : Spiro – The City and the Stars


Spiro launch their new album @ St Pancras Old Church on April  8. Recommended.


Find out more about this instrumental four piece and the bewitching music that will cast its spell on lovers of classical/folk.

See on Scoop.itMusic for a London Life

It’s April! The April Maze – I’ve Seen The Rain

“I’ve Seen The Rain will feature on The April Maze Album ‘Sleeping Storm’ out Feb 2015. Single out now at and iTunes. ”


‘Mayhew’s masterful guitar, Agam’s visceral, growling cello and her own dark twisted vocal…mean much of this is a series of inky-black fairy tales.’

Mojo Magazine (4 Star review)


“Indie alt-folk, much influenced by the sound (and fashions) of 70s San Francisco, Agam’s voice a rich cocktail of dark molasses and sweet honey.”


Another exciting new discovery for MFLL .

We love this Gower Coast video from Oxford/Melbourne based alt folk duo The April Maze and will definitely be checking out one of their live shows once they go on tour In 2015. They are also available for house concerts. Oh what a night that would be!

See on Scoop.itMusic for a London Life

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