ArtBeat: Jamie Dornan, accents, NI Opera, Ruth McGinley and Carolyn Dobbin, plus Rosemary Jenkinson's Marching Season

Notes and musings from the arts scene as it emerges from lockdown, by Jane Hardy

Jamie Dornan's latest acclaimed turn as The Man in BBC drama The Tourist is reminding those beyond these shores of the charms of the Northern Ireland accent. Picture by PA Photo/BBC/Two Brothers Pictures/Ian Routledge
Jane Hardy

DON'T troll or write in, please, but I am about to be controversial - very controversial.

Jamie Dornan is clearly a good actor, from his role as the sociopath in The Fall to the abusive character with 50 shades of sneer in EL's misunderstood bestseller, and I enjoyed his performance as the amnesiac dude in the early stages of The Tourist... but I don't find him attractive.

There, I've said it. However, Mr Dornan is almost single-handedly reinventing the Northern Irish accent as potentially sexy. I've often questioned actors from our patch over whether their distinctive vocals held them back.

After this and Line of Duty and Derry Girls (featuring The Voice McElhinney, veteran actor Ian as the granda), no more.

Interestingly, Northern Ireland Opera have encouraged performers to sing and act using their own, largely local accents in what promises to be a stellar production of the late Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods at the Lyric Theatre next month.

Why, or indeed why not? Sondheim's appeal reaches across vocal boundaries.

Cameron Menzies, director of Into The Woods, has encouraged the actors to perform in their natural accents, explaining "there's a musicality and rhythm to the Northern Irish accent which complements the songs and dialogue in this show perfectly".

True, and Menzies's clever idea will no doubt broaden the appeal of this wonderful, bittersweet show based on some of our best loved, and of course psychologically scary, fairy tales.

Heading into a thicket of Covid-19 related issues, our ace arts sector is having a challenging time.

One artistic director confided, possibly euphemistically, 2021 had been "exhilarating" and said he hoped for more of the same. Who knows?

Sadly, the Out to Lunch festival, the inspired baby sibling of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, is now mainly postponed or online from its scheduled January live run in the Black Box (

Pianist Ruth McGinley, whose skills must be heard to be believed, was doing a crossover concert but is happily back performing with great mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin on January 22 at the Portico in Portaferry (

If you need a fictional pick-up in these grey days, Rosemary Jenkinson, one of our star short story practitioners, has a new collection out.

Titled Marching Season (Arlen House), it dissects contemporary Belfast with an empathetic insider's scalpel. The title story presents the rituals of the Unionist Twelfth as seen by a group of drag queens and my favourite fiction, the As, Bs, Cs and Ds of Modern Living shows you can't go back in time.

Yet, as our protagonist discovers, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try."It struck me there were no a, b's, c's and d's in life, only a's; no reasons not to, only reasons to, and you had to act fast or lose everything."

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