Donal O’Hanlon is a celebrated Irish actor and director who heads and performs with the highly regarded Newpoint Players theatre group in Newry—a city that straddles Co Down and Co Armagh in Northern Ireland. He is also one of the best spoken-word artists anywhere, and is known for his clever, nuanced and often humorous delivery that reflects his many years treading the boards as a card-carrying Thespian. Recently, Donal recorded a spirited reading of “The Conversation” (taken my second collection of poems, Idiolect) for inclusion in a series of recorded readings offered and made public, electronically, by the South Armagh Poetry Group. That group is led by renowned, Belfast-based journalist and poet Eamonn Mallie.
As might be obvious from its title, “The Conversation” involves two voices and Donal takes both, namely, that of a bewildered father (on camera) and his challenging and somewhat ungovernable teenaged daughter (off camera). The video composition of the two-part reading called for some very deft editing and electronic splicing. In keeping with the gradual evolution of the poem’s somewhat difficult subject matter, Donal’s brilliant treatment begins with humour and gradually shifts into a darker register. I am immensely grateful to Donal and Eamonn for choosing “The Conversation” for inclusion in the South Armagh Poetry Group’s latest program of public readings.
The Donal O’Hanlon reading of “The Conversation” first appeared via Twitter in a tweet that was posted by Donal on 21 December 2022; gratifyingly, only 36 hours later it had already attracted more than 3,000 views via that platform! (By August 2023, that number had risen to 19,000.)
Donal’s reading of “The Conversation” has been uploaded to YouTube and you can access it via this link.