Brighter days are helping to lift some of the nation’s spirits these days, yet there is still some distance to travel before we are unshackled from all forms of lockdown. The need to be distracted and entertained remains a priority.

To this end I have put together a couple of events that might help you to get through these challenging times. One is available for some time to come online at IFI@Home, the other is due for broadcast on Sunday, 4 April.

First up for mention is Town Of Strangers, an 80-minute documentary which was originally intended as a work of fiction. Thankfully the director, Treasa O’Brien, changed direction and instead came up with an engaging piece from Gort, now very much a multi-cultural oasis. Indeed, the Galway town has a greater percentage of its residents born outside Ireland than any other place in Ireland.

According to the film’s makers, the piece is “at times humorous, at times heartbreaking, and is a testament to human strength and vulnerability. The themes of isolation and the need for connection and community are more relevant than ever in the times we are living through at the moment.” Viewers are presented with an opportunity to see the world in one town.

When Treasa O’Brien arrived in Gort, she announced by loudspeaker that open auditions would be held in the town hall for a new film. She invited the locals to: “Come and tell me your stories, your dreams, your lies, your memories, any gossip. All genders, nationalities and languages welcome. No acting experience necessary.” From that this beautiful child was born.

Romeo and Juliet

What a trajectory the career of Kerry-born Jessie Buckley has been. From the stage of her local Killarney Musical Society, to being turned down to study drama in London. But while in that same city for the weekend, she auditioned for a reality television show, hosted by Andrew Lloyd Webber, for a production of Oliver. She finished runner-up, and thus began a successful stage career.

Branching out, she started to make a name for herself with television roles in War & Peace and Taboo, and very quickly attracted the attention of filmmakers. A real breakthrough came in the shape of the 2018 film Wild Rose. Not only was Buckley a member of this star-studded cast, which included Julie Walters, but she wrote many of the songs. Buckley followed this with a supporting role to Renée Zellweger in the 2019 movie Judy.

She was born to the arts, the daughter of a storytelling and poetry-writing father, Tim, and her mother, Marina Cassidy, is a professional musician and music therapist, specialising as a harpist. You could say that Jessie Buckley was bred to be a performer.

Romeo and Juliet premieres at 9pm on 4 April on Sky Arts.

Last September, the Charlie Kaufman movie I’m Thinking Of Ending Things was released on Netflix, with Buckley as the female lead. Adapted from a novel of the same name, the film has been lauded, and Buckley’s role has been universally acclaimed.

Now we get another chance to see the Irish actress when Romeo and Juliet premieres at 9pm on 4 April on Sky Arts. This is a case of theatre and film merging to create a magical production of this well-loved tale. The lovers risk everything to be together. In defiance of their feuding families, they chase a future of joy and passion as violence erupts around them.

In a British National Theatre presentation, desire, dreams and destiny collide to make Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy sing in an entirely new way. Buckley co-stars with Josh O’Connor who played Prince Charles in The Crown.

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