Monday, December 13, 2010


I think I've made my feelings pretty clear on musical on this blog before...I don't particularly like them.

I ignored my gut instinct and was pleasantly surprised when I attended Hairspray in November, so when the girls from the theatre offered me a ticket to see Scrooge I was a little excited. I've always been a bit partial to the Christmas tale of the man who hated Christmas.

Not being a huge fan of the festive season myself and Scrooge have a lot in common. But like him and unlike the weather my feelings on it have thawed in recent times. Speaking of weather, the walk to the theatre from the Grand Canal Hotel was treacherous. Office shoes are not made to walk on ice and snow covered pavements.

I tend to drive everywhere because walking is for people who have too much time on their hands so I hadn't really prepared myself for the conditions. On walking out of the hotel I was immediately in trouble...a bit like Bambi was I. At one point I was hanging onto the side of the railings guiding myself very slowly along the path...that is until I was humbled by the site of a woman casually walking along the ice beside me while talking on the phone. So I manned up and tried to walk unaided. It was difficult but the 8 minute walk did take 25.

On arriving in the Grand Canal Theatre I picked up the tickets said hello to the girls and made myself home at the bar with a lovely glass of red. I have to say my seat couldn't have been better. I shared an isle with Pat Kenny, Gay Byrne and Brian Ormond, all of whom looked enviously on at my central location while they were seated in the wings. Thanks girls.

Air conditioning under the seats if you don't mind!!! I was really at home. The show kicked off with some singing...not sure about that, but I quickly warmed up the Tommy Steel's brilliant performance as Scrooge. I believe the man is in his 70's? Well he certainly uses all his experience in the show. His facial expressions and body movements alone are enough to keep the audience entertained. Funny and entertaining in equal measures Steele certainly knows what he's doing...but after over 1,500 appearances in the West End you'd expect him to.

But there is much more to this musical than Mr Steele. The set is stunning and really does make you feel like you are in the 1800's, not that I know what it feels like it to be from that era but you get the point. I know these guys have probably been performing this show in London for a couple of hundred years but their timing was really on the money, especially considering this was just their third show in Dublin.

I read earlier that day that the special effects guy that worked on Harry Potter is involved in the production so I was interested but a little skeptical to see what he could do on stage. I was blown away. People appearing, disappearing explosions, ghosts and mirrors that were there but not there. Stunning stuff.

Don't ask me to name check any of the songs or the actors because I have an awful memory and I was too cheap to buy the brochure but there were fine performances all round. None more than little Darren Dixon who plays Tiny Tim.

So all in all if you are looking for something to get you into the Christmas spirit...if you excuse the pun, than Scooge is your man. Walking out into the snow covered Grand Canal Square made it all the more apt and enjoyable...that is until I tried to take a step and nearly ended up looking at the stats. Which brings me to my biggest tip for anyone looking to venture down to see Mr Steele...don't wear office shoes.


Thursday, December 9, 2010


Well the Session (Celtic Tiger) is well and truly over and Alka-Seltzar is being administered for the hangover. I’m sure you’ve heard that the Irish government have decided the cure, sorry Budget, needs to be strong.
The effectiveness of the cure, we’re told, has more consequences than just for the Irish people. It is hard to imagine that this small country can hold the faith of the Euro in our hands but if you are believe the media it is true. Europe held its breath as our finance minister, Brian Lenihan, announced the details of the budget to the world.
If your thinking about or actually coming do Dublin in the near or distant future DON’T worry. We're not French or Greek for that matter, so don't believe those images in the international media of riots and protests in Dublin. The reality is that the only thing we have in common with our French cousins is a Gaelic heritage and a strong love for wine (mine's a red thank you). Indeed the only large protest that happened here recently was the senior citizens and despite their best efforts it past off very peacefully.
So what does it mean to the visitor coming to Dublin...this Budget? Well believe it or not it’s all good…for you guys at least. I've taken the time to offer a tourist guide to what the budget and the IMF/EU bailout means to our visitors.
Tax - While the poor souls of the Republic of Ireland have been handed severe tax burdens from the budget our overseas visitors will be delighted to learn that Mr Cowen has actually reduced the travel tax into Ireland from €10 to €3, something that the Chief Executive of Ryanair, Mr Michael O'Leary, will no doubt be encouraged by...any chance of those 5,000 jobs you promised us Michael. So to cut a long story short the cost of flying to our beautiful island is now cheaper.
VAT - there were no VAT increases on food or services in the budget so the continued downward cost of alcohol and eating out is reduced further...we've learned our lesson.
Minimum Wage - again while the unfortunate in society face the prospect of having the minimum wage reduced by €1 and therefore may have to depend on charity from friends and neighbours the traveller will by encouraged by the cost of services being reduced and consequently the cost attractions, restaurants, hotels etc.
More Historical Sites - Tourism Ireland likes to portrait Dublin as a fun loving city, easy to get around with over 1000 years of history. It uses images of Haypenny Bridge, GPO, the Spire, Grafton Street, Guinness etc to help promote it. But what has the recent Celtic Tiger added to Dublin? History will spend a lot of time covering events of these times. There will be chapters in future school history books called "Celtic Tiger" and "Boom to Bust".
The banks billions have given us some fantastic and truly spectacular buildings. I'd even dare say that Dublin has a stunning skyline. The Ulster Bank towers in City Quay, the Convention Centre and it's Red Bull like dome, the O2, the Point Village, the Grand Canal Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Samuel Beckett Bridge and much more. But ironically enough, while these buildings and structures will attract many an admiring glance the historical significance of the recent period lies wedged between the CCD and the O2. Sticking out like the mole on Enrique Inglesias face is an unfinished shell of a building.
This was to be Anglo Irish Banks (yes the bank that could bring down Europe) new head office. Tourist should be brought down past the half empty glass buildings of the Irish Financial Services Centre and toward the Dublin Wheel to see this iconic ghost of the Celtic Tiger. It is essentially a building site with cranes still in place. Looking at it you almost expect the cranes to start moving...but nothing will happen here for a long time. It should be part of the Dublin Bus Tour...indeed it my be.
Meet the Dubliner - One of the sadder (yes I just made up a word) elements of our economic problems has been the exodus of foreign nationals from Dublin. As any visitor to the island in recent times can attest that it was most unusual to come across and Dubliner serving in a restaurant or a hotel for that matter. You had to look hard to find one of those funny talking, wise cracking natives. We have much to thank from our international residence and we do still benefit from the ones that remain. But it is all good for the visitor!!!
They have made our Capital a much more cosmopolitan place to visit, but fear not because on your return you are going to meet the Dubliner, a character so brilliantly captured by James Joyce and Roddy Doyle in their famous novels. Think Colin Farrell (mostly without the looks), think the Commitments, think Colm Meeney, Brendan Gleeson (minus the eye patch), think Coronation Street and Boyzone’s Keith get my drift. Real Dublin is easier to access in debt ridden Ireland.
So there you have it people. While the citizens of Ireland face the music and deal with the hangover from the Celtic Session...sorry Tiger, tourists have a lot to look forward to.
Dublin can now compete with any city in Europe in terms of price competitiveness...just have a look at to see the value. Eating out is cheaper, the booze is cheaper, the flights will be cheaper and it is only going to get even cheaper.
But don't take Ollie McGrath's word for it. Come and visit. Go to any bar, ask any taxi man, talk to the man on the street...everyone has an opinion. The best things about Dubliners is that we love to talk.
Yours Ollie McGrath.