Reviews - 16 May 1985

A review of the fortnight in Art, Music, Television, Cinema, Books
The smallest of the three multiples in Maria SimondssGooding's show at the Taylor Gallery, a tiny rectangle of plaster inscribed with her disstinctive spare line, measuring a mere three inches by five, is called, simply, "A Place'. The same title could be appplied to every work in the gallery. Whether using fresco pigment on plaster, oil paint on paper, or making etchings or lithographs, she is invariabbly concerned with land and people's relationship to it.

Apart from one selftrait, there are no images of people in her work, but marks of their presence are everywhere. Like Patrick Colllins, she focuses on gestures of appropriation and the traces that remain, almost inncidentally, as evidence of human presence. The central image is of a field marked out in a void, an enclosure that gives an intimidating environment a reassuring, human shape. In pictorial terms these tenuous but doggedly deterrmined lines articulate the space.

While Collins has tended to concentrate on a specifically Celtic notion of place, ,Simonds-Gooding is a travelller. Born in India, she seems to incline towards arid terrain. The plaster paintings invite associations with the sunnblasted, white-painted builddings of the Mediterranean, and equally with the bare rock of the region. They have the stuttering, speculative quality of excavated archaeoological sites, tracing and reconnstructing the lines of dwellings and territorial boundaries. The stub born assertiveness of the marks contrasts ironically, even poignantly, with their fragility: mere scratches on the skin of the earth that will, in time, heal and dissappear. These subtle indicaations of lost civilisation and simple, pastoral lifestyle are delivered with a kind of primitive elegance, fraught with a desire not to clutter things up.

The oils on paper are saturated with a very Irish greenness, a rich, rain-soaked greenness. But the concerns are the same. Masses of land press and enclose fields and tracts of cut bog. Haystacks and grazing sheep have a square-cut, immutable quality, as if they are part of the land, hewn from rock. In a way, these pictures are easier to ennjoy than the white plaster compositions. They have a juiciness, a lushness of colour that is immediately attractive. But, 0 ddly , viewed in relation to the white works they begin to seem almost too -easy , Stark and spare in their way, they are, comparatively speaking, feasts of colour. Not too difficult, one begins to feel, to make solid, attracctive pictures given such a wealth of material, the real challenge lies in the calm, ascetic white paintings, which are all about packing the maximum range of associaations into the most minimal of statements.

The Blasket Island etchings occupy a middle ground. They are black-and-white, but they employ a host of textural effects. Forests of marks fill out the dark, looming mass of the island. These works are the closest Simmons-Gooding comes to straight naturalism. Fields, houses, boats are picked out against land and sea. The aerial viewpoint she favours is used to override perspective, in the manner of the best Tory Island primiitives. The images have an immpressive, brooding power.

The backbone of SimondssGooding's art is her percepptiveness in tracing common patterns of human habitation - in the widest sense of reaching an accommodation with nature and ensuring surrvival - from place to place and culture to culture. Impliicit in her work is an appeal for the achievement of a sane, balanced arrangement that will benefit both people and earth. In a world where such modest aspirations and natural resources are both under atttack, it is an urgent message.

Aidan Dunne


Imprisoned during the War of Independence, the late Maurice MacGonigal resolved that if he should get out alive he would never again do anything he didn't want to. The experience of prison was a decisive one. MacGonigal was a first cousin of graphic and stained glass artist Harry Clarke, and he had worked in the Clarkes' stained glass studios in Dublin. When he returned there on his release from prison, however, he found that the routine and physical constricction of the studio was another kind of prison, and left. He settled in the West of Ireland and became one of the foreemost Irish landscape artists of his time.

The Grafton Gallery has organised an exhibition consissting of a handful of late oil paintings (among the last painttings he made) and drawings and watercolours spanning his career. On his death, MacGonigal left a relatively small amount of work in his studio. He was in the habit of perioodically destroying pictures that he wasn't quite satisfied with. If they were around, he claimed, the temptation was to work on them. And he was against over-painting. He liked to work on a fresh, pristine surface. MacGonigal's soft colouring and fluid, informal style are instantly recoggnisable. Though he became president of the RHA, he was markedly tolerant of all styles and forms of artistic expresssion. "There's abstraction in every picture," he noted in an interview with R TE, "because every picture has to be made. "

He liked the open space and Irishness of the West but, as even a cursory glance at his work makes clear, he was not trying to escape from the human presence. People, animals, houses and machinery feature prominently in his paintings. As he put it himself: "I react to where the human has worked. "

The Grafton exhibition includes work made in the West as well as later drawings and watercolours made round DUbblin. All of it underlines his interest in landscape as modified by man, though a lot of the areas that feature in the pictures were, even when he painted them, on the point of disappearring under the drabness of the housing estates which have since been built.

MacGonigal was no doctrinaire stylist, and the informaality of his work makes it easy to like. His affection for the countryside, and for the relaxed lifestyle that he liked to depict, comes across in everything he did. Technically he was a j7uent, accomplished painter who worked to capture the spontaneity of an initial vision. The Grafton show is clearly modest in scale, nothing like a substantial retrospecctive, but it does provide a welcome opportunity to see a representative selection of his work, particularly from the later years.

Aidan Dunne

Rock - Power and Passion

Before the Beatles, most pop albums consisted of little more than one or two recent hit singles by the recording artists, cashing in on their success by getting their fans to buy the singles all over again in the '" expensive form of an album which padded out the few esstablished hits with glorified B-sides, songs that would never have sold otherwise.

Now there is the more sophisticated and even more lucraative gimmick, perfected by Frankie, of recycling hits in remix after rernix.)

Then the Fab Four prooduced albums of such consisstent quality that groups and solo acts fell over each other in the rush to cover them and get their own slice of chart success. Those who succeeeded rarely managed to follow up with albums of any stature.

In those days it was a compliment to an album to say that every track was a potential hit single. But given what has passed for quality in the singles market in recent years, that would hardly be a complimentary statement anyymore. However, 1985 already has seen a substantial number' of quality hit singles again pfrom Simple Minds, Billy Bragg, Bruce Springsteen, the Commodores, Alison Moyet, and if you are lucky enough to find their current hits in an Irish record shop, Paul Hardcastle and Phyllis Nelson.

And now comes an album positively packed with potenntial 45rpm success' - Be Yourself Tonight (RCA) from the Eurythmics- although it's unlikely that the group has the following that would ensure singles success for the entire album, as Michael Jackson achieved in his heyyday way back when with Thriller.

Never mind. Save. your money and buy the album now. It features the central duo, vocalist Annie Lennox and versatile musician Dave Stewart, at the peak of their form. They also Co-wrote all nine numbers on the LP, and Stewart produced.

It's a busy, tight, exhilaraating production that jumps at you from the turntable right from the first track, as Ms Lennox defiantly enquires, "Would I Lie To You?" already climbing the singles charts. The troupe of illusstrious but unobtrusive guest stars begin to troop in from the next song, the infectious "There Must Be An Angel", which features a familiar but distinctive harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder.

This album moves the band further away from the electronics which dominated their earlier work, and it's a wise and refreshing move that sees them blending rock and soul with power and passion. Annie Lennox has never beefore been in finer vocal form, whether duetting with Elvis Costello on the engaging ,"Adrian", with Stewart's wailling guitar on "Conditioned Soul", or best of all, on the spirited track that closes side one, with the great Aretha Franklin on the delirioussmaking feminist celebration, "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves", six min utes of sheer bliss.

Be Yourself Tonight is a joy and a welcome return to form for the Eurythmics after their disappointing, admitteddly unofficial last album, 1984, which was commissioned by Virgin to boost the commerrcial prospects of their film of the book of the year, amidst much controversy.

Returning to singles and a real curiosity, from Virgin, a company which seems to speecialise in curiosities of late, "Walk On The Wild Side" is an, cr, unique treatment of the Lou Reed sleaze classic performed by Gerty Molzen, a 79 year-old grandmother from Hamburg. Gerty, we are told, has had a long and colourful career in showbiz which included performing for both Adolf Hitler and for the British troops during World War II. Can she be related to the Royals of Buck House, I wonder?

Sadly, her version of Lou Reed's song omits most of the exuberant singalorig dooppdee-doops which permeated the original, but there is a certain charm about her perrformance, a certain Je ne sais quai about the way she croons "Valk on ze Vild Side". Whatever, they love her verrsion at the Pink Elephant disco where DJ Paul Webb seques her 12" record into Reed's version, and that, I believe, is the proper order of things.

Michael Dwyer

Theatre - Doing their bit

Rough Magic's production of Howard Barker's No End Of Blame is excellent theatre. The play concerns the adult life and travels of Hungarian cartoonist Bela Veracek from his native land through Russia to end up drawing cartoons for the Daily Mirror. It is very much a play about conceptions of freedom and it takes place in a world of revolution, of physical and institutional violence and of political struggle. Veracek's journey, though, takes him to the conclusion that "I know what the real fight is ... it's against the surrender of the self. " Barker shows us a world of icons and iconooclasm where everyone is innvolved in a "surrender of the self" - the blind worship that ultimately invalidates them all.

Even in "socialist" Russia where Veracek hopes to find a new conception of freedom he finds humanity numbed and anaesthetised by the psychological power of worrship. "I want Comrade Stalin to enjoy another forty years of health," one Russian annswers when asked about his deepest wish ... "people will talk about him for thousands of years ... that's how I cope with pain Comrade."

This notion of blind adherrence and loyalty is equated with, I suppose, the central theme of the play - the role of the artist in a political world and the constraints placed on his work by the attitudes of that world. Veraacek leaves the "free" world because that world says that art is to reconcile, to smooth over the cracks in the facade.

Despairing of "reconcilers painting peasants in the sun" he realises that true art must be subversive, must expose the "reconciliations" of a corrrupt aesthetic and a corruppted world. "No artist can be wrong," Veracek testifies, "or else he's not an artist."

Expecting these ideas to be held in Russia he goes there only to find his work being vetted by bigots and ideologues (one rem em bers how Barker's play "Victory" discussed how revolutionaries become oppressors) speaking the language of worship and of tyranny. "Lenin sees much further than we do," they say. Veracek needs his art controlled because it is "a gift which may be beyond the control of genius itself."

Moving on to live in Britain, Veracek finds he is subjected to the most subtle and therefore the most effecctive form of tyranny - that of state bureaucracy. He finds that this land of freedom is actually one where a newsspaper can be closed down over one cartoon which "Winnston doesn't like." Demoocracy, he is told, is about a plurality of opinions - but that must be kept within "an accepted frame of business."

This play exposes the myth of bourgeois parliamenntary democracy but it also attacks state centralised forms of government. Veracek 's journey is the journey of man to find meaning and real participation for himself in a world torn apart by alienaation and despair. Barker subbtitles his piece "Scenes of Overcoming" and this is apt as we see his protagonist struggling against the values of a world kept going byydependency and narrow connceptions of worship.

This is an important play, well acted and directed by Rough Magic. Martin Murphy is persuasive as Veracek and captures almost perfectly the increasing disillusionment of the character. Anne Byrne too is excellent in a number of different roles. The only possible criticism is of the set, the detail of which cannnot be seen properly. But with the drama as tense and sharp as this is, one hardly gets time to see it anyway.

One of Barker's characters says ". . . in those people somewhere is the one who, by miracle or accident or because his brain is kinked will see through the flannel. Let's not desert him, eh? Let's do our tiny little bit!" Barker and Rough Magic have done it here.

From the first moments of the current Abbey production The Drums Of Father Ned, the set serves merely to alieenate the audience and instill in them a sense of the fiction they are seeing. The set is something of a cross between a Cecil B. De Mille epic and Jury's Irish Cabaret, strewn with images of round towers, celtic crosses, spears, smoke filled skies and pictures of rustic gaels looking like dissaffected Motorhead members.

O'Casey wrote this play when he was seventy years of age and obviously past his best. It concerns the effect that the first "Tostal" festival has on the small village of Dunavale somewhere in the south of Ireland. Every single Hollywood stereotype of Irishness is at work in this play. We have the umbrella swinging priest foaming at the mouth when he sees people enjoying themselves - we have bigoted drunkards fallling over the furniture and ranting about Ireland's dead martyrs, we have the Young People of Ireland (orO 'Casey's perception of them) who are portrayed as a group of essentially brainless idiots, nicely progressive in a sort of Young Fine Gaelish way ¸the sort of "Young People" that were in those awful Elvis Presley/Cliff Richard movies during the 1960s Èbright eyed and bouncy and almost totally naive.

The play is confused and sloppy. The image of the merry peasant glorifying in his own marginalisation is as historically inaccurate as it is insulting. O'Casey's play proopagates the myth and even the rhetoric of de Valera's Ireland, where images of comely maidens dancing at crossroads with athletic youths were allowed to be a substitute for social particiipation and freedom. Ireland in the 1950s was not the Finian's Rainbow Ireland of this play. It was a nation on its knees, rotten with unnemployment and emigration, atrophying for want of social change.

And while the American tourists who flock to see this play in the coming months may swallow the myth, it must be recognised that this play is not at all representaative of the scalding iconooclastic drama of Ireland's greatest socialist playwright. To forget that is to misunderrstand his work completely.

On a lighter note, the Team Theatre Company and Grips Theater of Berlin are staging a play for children translated from German by Bernard Farrell. "One Two Three 0 'Leary" is a tale of friendships and ghost stories and playgrounds and all of the things that adults think children are interested in. This reviewer's assistant in reviewing the piece was Eoin O'Connor (age 8) who said that "it was good, but it wasn't really, really, really brillian 1. " Which probably says a lot.

This reviewer found the piece rather lifeless and flat in parts but the several hunndred crisp-eating, cokeIng, screaming, wolf-whistling children who attended it seemed to approve.

Joseph 0 'Connor

Cinema - A Warm Glow

Thank Hollywood for Falling In Love. A good,old-fashioned love story is always welcome but this particular one, coming straight on the heels of the cynically amoral "Thief Of Hearts", is doubly so. One left the cinema after "Thief Of Hearts" with a bad taste in the mouth, a feeling that one had just been sold something slick and nasty. One leaves "Falling In Love" with a warm glow. Warm glow is, of course, what one is supposed to leave "Falling In Love" with. No matter. It's preferrable to slick and nasty any day of the week.

That producer Marvin Worth and director VIu Grossbard have deliberately crafted "Falling In Love" to produce that warm glow feeling in the punter is undeniable. One is aware throughout the movie that a tried and tested forrmula is being worked through, that after one hour and fortyysix minutes the warm glow will have spread right down to the to es. Yet it is so well done that one doesn't really mind.

The script by Michael Christo fer is adequate for the task. The main idea seems to have been: keep it simple yet intelligent. Two strangers, graphic artist Molly and archiitectural engineer Frank, commmute into Manhattan on the same train. We follow their separate perambulations throughout the day. We see they are both nice, middleeclass, intelligent people. We feel they are bound to bump into each other. They do. Bump into each other. The oldest plot device in the book but what the hell. This Brief Encounter - and the parallels with that movie are many èleads haltingly but inexorably to the Love Affair.

The Love Affair is not  as they say - unproblematic. They are both cornfortably , if increasingly unhappily, marrried. Frank even has kids. Can they give it all up, dare they give it all up for each other and true love? Not as easy as it looks, even in these godless times, for mature, responsible people like Molly and Frank. Molly can't even bring herself to make love in these circummstances. The pressures mount, the misunderstandings grow.

We are, as we are meant to be, well and truly hooked. Come on, Molly and Frank. Find a way. Consider everyybody's feelings; agonise with guilt; torture yourselves and us with partings ... but find a way in the end. And quietly, modestly and sensibly they do. Without recourse to inncurable diseases, tug-of-love kids or even, as far as I could make out, divorce. It's lovely. It sends you home with a warm glow.

Not, let's face it, primarily because of the storyline though: a good modest forrmula but embarrassingly transsparent. Neither because of the direction which keeps things moving nicely but little more. No, it's the stars, of course: Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. What can one say? To my mind they are the two best Hollywood actors around. That they gell together was obvious in "The Deerhunter" and is confirmed in "Falling In Love". It's ultimately why the movie works: it's not really Molly and Frank we are rooting for, it's Meryl and Bob.

Well-acted and well-crafted though "Falling In Love" is, it remains always within the Hollywood "good, olddfashioned love story" formula. It's a formula not designed to profer many insights into the human condition. The fault is that of the Hollywood forrmula, not the good, olddfashioned love story. This is proved by a fine movie, with a similar love story theme, made by a director operating well outside the Hollywood formula system: Baby, It's You, directed by John Sayles.

At first sight, "Baby, It's You" would seem, in fact, to belong to a different, though as restrictive, Hollyywood formula: the Teen Movie; specifically that subbformula that concerns itself with 60s teen beat nostalgia (the seminal movie here being "American Graffiti"). The period is the middle to late 60s. The soundtrack is an integral part of the movie. The protagonists are high-school kids. The scene is Trenton, New Jersey. The theme is Young Love.

We appear all set for the usual high-school boppin ', hot-rod ding, dating and makking fantasy trip. Nothing very wrong with that too, dependding on the music. But "Baby, It's You" doesn't pan out that way at all. Scene set, we are very quickly into a serious and intelligent unravellling of a particular story of young love that is profoundly shaped by the teen society of the times but not absolutely determined by it.

"Sheik" Capadilupo is a working-class I talian -Arn eriican dude kinda in the same high school as Jill Rosen a middle-class Jewish girl on her way to college. For some crazy reason - it happens xSheik, the ace dude who can, and does, have any girl, falls heavy and permanent for Jill. Jill, flattered and curious, succumbs. It's not the same for Jill though: it's too heavy, she needs to move on. As the times change from Sam the Sham to the Velvet Underground , so does she. The Sheik remains forever with his Main Man: Frank Sinatra. Maybe they'll make it someetime, more likely not. Maybe Jill has things more right, more likely Sheik (personal opinion).

John Sayles unfolds this love story quietly but surely enmeshing it concretely in the activities and concerns of kids in the 60s. It makes for truth as with his previous look at the 60s from a diffferent angle: "Return Of The Secaucus Seven". Sayleswrites his own scripts. The man has obviously been there. It  helps.

So do his actors. Rosanna Arquette as Jill and Vincent Spano (brilliantly) as Sheik. So does the choice of music used sparingly, almost realisstically, throughout the movie: regressing, as Jill does, from the Shirelles and the Miracles to some duo called Simon and Garfunkel (personal opiinion).

"Baby It's You" was made three years ago; only now has it found a commercial release in Ireland. Ten times as many people will see Streep and De Niro, that's the name of the game. They will have a pleasant evening, little more. Those who dig out Arquette and Spano have, however, a ""small but valuable treat in store. See them both. Love is a many-splendoured thing ðexcept in "Thief Of Hearts".

John Ferguson

Books - Spiritual Exploitation

J.F. Powers is neither a proolific nor a proclaimed writer. Born in Illinois in 1917, he has written only one novel and three collections of short stories. Although he has his enthusiasts, his work is genee.rally ignored in the standard literary histories and guideebooks. The recent . Oxford Companion to English Literaature, for example, cannot find space for him in even one of its double-column 1,150 pages. Yet he is arguably one of the best writers of English prose that America has .prooduced in this century. The evidence to support such a claim is now readily available in two paperbacks which the Hogarth Press have published as part of its aim of reprinting all Powers' work.

His first book of short stories, Prince of Darkness (Hogarth Press, UK£3.95) collects fiction written in the 1940s. It reveals an outstandding talent at work. Powers has a distinctly sensual style - an eloquent tongue capable both of celebration and conndemnation, a sharp nose for the deceptive ease with which his characters conceal their predicaments, an acute ear for the nuances of American speech, an alert eye for the socially exact detail and a sure touch in handling the disparate elements of his craft. He can write himself into the mind of a young baseball fan and into the limited language and vision of an old boxer's pool-room sidekick. While some of the stories are underrstandably clever, some are superb. There is a powerful account of the social tensions and human dilemmas revealed during a race riot. There is a gentle love story, full of weariiness and grace, about the compromises an old man and his wife have to make in the cruel world of unemployment. And there are the stories about priests.

If Powers' work is unduly' neglected, it is perhaps beecause he is mistaken for a chronicler of the clergy. Most of his fiction concerns Ameriican priests and the lives they lead. His clerical cast have feet of clay. They drive fast cars, swear, drink beer and bitch about each other. Hennpecked by housekeepers, their domestic arrangements are a comic parody of American family life, an irony emphaasised by their mode of adddress - "Father", "Mother", "Sister", "Brother". Few of his priests show any interest in theology. They prefer golf. And yet Powers is not content to mock. In exploiting the gap between what they profess and what they practice, he is exploring a theme which reemains central in all his work: the contradictions inherent in the spiritual life.

This enduring theme reeceives its clearest expression. in "Lions, Harts, Leaping Does", a story of elegaic intensity about the death of an old Franciscan priest. As Father Didymus prepares for his d~mise "he saw what he had made of his life"; he now feels what he had earlier known - "in trivial attachhments, in love of things was death, no matter the appearrance of life. In the highest attachment only, no matter the appearance of death, was life." But the highest attachhment is not easily attained and even on his death bed the old priest is plagued by trivial attachments. "They were to be expected, he knew, as inndelible in the order of things: the bingo game going on under the Cross for the seammless garment of the Son of Man everywhere the sign of the contradiction and always. When would he cease to be surprised by it?"

Powers never ceases to be surprised by it. The signs of contradiction are everywhere apparent in his only novel Morte d 'Urban (Hogarth Press, UK£3.95) which was first published in 1962. And the contradictions are acknowwledged in an epigraph from J.M. Barrie: "The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another ... " The eponymous hero, Harvey Roche, otherwise known as Father Urban, a member of the fictitious Order of St Clement, may mean to be a priest in the service of Christ but he acts and talks like a travelling salesman in the religion line. "Me, I've always been in the preaching end 8travelling out of Chicago which I guess I still think of as home." In developing the contrast which exists between Urban's ends - spreading the gospel - and his means àselling the story, in depicting the bingo game going on under the cross, LF. Powers has created a comic masterrpiece.

The success of the novel is essentially a matter of style. The plot is episodic, many of the secular characters are mere caricatures and the farce is sometimes forced. But the language is a sheer delight, perfectly tuned to the pitch of American speech. Father Urban is a man trapped in the unpriestly locutions he has at his disposal. He talks in tag lines: "How's it going?", "What the hell", "How 'd you make out?", "Who closed the deal?" His conversation is full of crackerbarrel confidence and showbusiness cliches: "I preach a pretty clean mission. I keep the razzmatazz to a minimum." And his am bitious thoughts are expressed in the language of American capitaalism: "Nice if another diocese were opened for spiritual exxploitation. "

It is a measure of Powers' skill as a novelist that he can maintain sympathy for the sinner while deriding the sin - the impoverishment of a great language. Father Urban's heart is in the right place, but his brain has been addled by the linguistic influences to which it has succumbed. He is a good man speaking a broken language. It is approopriate that the most ceremoonial conversation in the novel, that of his election as superior of the Mid western provin ce of the Order, should be connducted entirely in Latin.

In many respects Morte d'Urban is a modern version of a medieval romance. Reepeated references to Arthurian legends help to place Father Urban as a spiritual knight in quest of the holy grail. A. victim of contradictions beeyond his understanding, he is a man out of his time. Pledged to an ancient, noble task, he has only modern, meretricious means to accomplish it. And yet there is success of a sort at the end of his mission. He retains his quixotic integrity, his chastity and his religious vows when he politely and comically refuses to be seeduced. While he readily acccepts gifts from a wealthy benefactor, he shows there is a limit to his gratitude when he dumps the vulgar millionnaire in to a freezing lake rather than allow him drown a stag and present its mounnted head to the Order. And he has some of the slick stuffing knocked out of his pate when, in a literal bolt from the blue, he is hit on the head by a flying golf ball on the golf course he has accquired and landscaped for the benefit of the church.

Father Urban's quest ends in a pious acceptance of human folly. It is a stance befitting his vocation and one that reflects the humane satire of his human creator. In this novel, in these short stories, J.F. Powers presents a cruel and recognisable world with a subtle and compasssionate humour. Their reeappearance in print, after so much neglect, may help to ensure for their only begetter an eminence he so richly deserves.

Conor Kelly

Television - The ShoW Goes On

Bishop Cumiskey , Pete Townshend and Ciaran Fitzgerald appeared to be nice enough people on the Late Late Show. Gay Byrne likes to bring on Well Known People Who Are Interessting In Themselves, give the punters a chance to see something of the real person behind the public image. No serious stuff. This was one of those nights.

Fitzgerald was the least interesting, exuding blandness. How, Gay asked, was he coping with fame? "It's a ressponsibility you have to ... " In his youth he checked out a career guiddance book and plumped for the army. He has now risen to the position of aide to President Hillery. This lad will go far. Maybe even as far as South Africa.

Pete Townshend is looking well for his age. He seems to spend half his time these days telling kids not to have as much dangerous fun as he used to do ("it was part of my rebellious nature") and the rest trying not to look too preachy.

The higgie on the show was a humorous and determinedly nice, Bishop Cumiskey. All this stuff about the bishops being 0 bsessed by sex was an invention of the media. Yes, Bishop. Anything you say, Bishop.

The late John Charles McQuaid got short shrift. Gay said there was suppposed to be some similarity between the two - then added, "There's no resem blance whatever, I assure you." Bishop Cumiskey smiled at the very idea. (What is this? Has John Charles become a non-person? Was there someething wrong with his strictures? If so, shouldn't there be some formal retracction of them instead of this nudgeenudge - we're - all-liberals- now - winkkwink?)

The bishop got his chance to show the difference between himself and John Charles when a phone caller got through with an exquisitely-phrased question on contraception. He did. He dodged the question, referring to what he called "the official teaching of the church", thereby leaving an inference to be drawn that there might be some unofficial teaching, nudge-nudge. John Charles never tried to be a nice guy, he answered questions straight and if you didnt like the answers you could go to hell.

When the bishop dodged the quesstion Gay looked wistfully at the phone and regretted that the caller had hung up. For a second it looked like Gay might himself push the issue. Then he moved on to something else.

The cosiness was over when the final guest appeared. David Yallo p told his tale of crooked cardinals and bent bishops and the alleged murder of John Paul I. He was savaged. From the audience Fr Brian D'Arcy did a fair imitation of Dermot Morgan's hurleyywielding bigot as he screeched a defence of Cardinal Cody of Chicago. Brian was "the only journalist in the world" to whom the Cardinal talked, there we must take the gospel according to Brian. It didn't seem to occur to Brian that this might be because he was the only journalist in the world whom the cardinal could trust to swallow his line.

The kids who might have wondered why The Who were such a big deal might have wondered what all the fuss was about the Late Late. Well, chilldren, on another night the caller would have asked that extra question of the bishop, or someone from the audience might have, or Gay might have decided not to be so cutesy and do the job himself. And then the show would have stopped being cosy entertainment and become the someething else it sometimes is.

Over on Channel 4 Clive James was telling Irish jokes on his chat show. "Aristotle O'Nassis", he giggled. Clive, you see, is a wit. Then another Irish joke, someone whom Clive called Ednar O'Bry-an, came on. Ednar stroked her hair and talked about Being A Writer. "Tell me more about that convent education," said Clive. Oh, God, did she ever.

Clive, being ignorant of official Catholic teaching, thought it hilarious that Ednar had worked in a chemist shop, with all those "pharmaceuticals". Ednar, having all the sense. of humour of a slow puncture, stared blankly at him. Clive stopped gigling and asked a Literary Question. "Was it useful 'to you as a writer, knowing something about chemistry?"

Then Anthony Burgess came on and said he loved the Irish. He told the Telegram On A Tray anecdote. Said it happened to him ina hotel in Cork. John Hurt told the same anecdote a few weeks ago on the Late Late, said it happened to him in the Gresham. Someone has already pointed out that Hurt stole the anecdote from someone else who told it on another chat show. These are the kind of people who make Bishop Cumiskey seem as frank as John Charles McQuaid.

The embers were still hot at Braddford City stadium when Match of the Day gave the football pools results. The game was entered as a "no-score draw". The show must go on .

Gene Kerrigan