Tales from the Northside is a three-part drama anthology produced with support from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It was the first audio I had knowingly heard come out of Ireland, so I was quite interested to hear it. My reactions were mixed to the first two plays and I have not yet heard the third.
The Reading by Helen McNamara was dark and intense. It was a subject you might see in a stage play, but seldom on TV: at least in this way, without being jazzed up by sex and scandal. Maura is Niall’s “common-law” wife, nursing him through the end of a debilitating illness while his children from a previous marriage keep out of the way, at least until his death, when they carve up his property and leave Maura homeless. This subject is not a new one; Dickens did it in Martin Chuzzlewit. Nevertheless, the three (female) actors are strong and offer a new voice. Unfortunately, at over 40 minutes, this play is too long by half.
Poodles by Denis Byrne is more effective and more varied, but suffers from the same problem: it’s about 20 minutes too long. The story is set entirely in a small café owned by Marie. She has a confrontation from two unlikely young people, one a junkie and the other his damaged and abused girlfriend. Despite a very dark premise, Poodles ends in an upbeat way. The characters are interesting and well-played, though a general excess of everything—emotion, tongue-tying speeches, repetitive dialogue—hinders Poodles’ effectiveness.