TV Viewpoint: Don Rodolpho and The Mighty Ocean

A BBC Two comedy pilot with an Irish connection is a well-timed escapist tonic

SUMMER in Spain, c. 1664 or thereabouts, a woman is tucking into her fourth or fifth whole goose in a dimly lit tavern. The servers look on with palpable distaste as she calls for yet another, but when they suggest she wrap it up and settle the bill, she proudly professes that her master will be along shortly to take care of it all.

Enter, right on cue, Don Rodolpho, to distant jeers and taunts from an approaching crowd, to collect his companion and resume their quest to find the elusive Six-Armed Man. Rodolpho is a swarthy character, always ready to recount his story to any crowd that will listen (willingly or otherwise), and so begins the tale of his journey so far.

I had the fortune of seeing Don Rodolpho in its earlier incarnation as a one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in 2018. It was genuinely the funniest thing I saw there that year, and rightly earned Drogheda born performer Ciaran O’Dowd, creator, writer and star of the show, the coveted Best Newcomer Award.

It’s expanded here to include a larger cast, but the monologue is re-worked cleverly to account for the new characters. The squire goes by the lofty name of Burke, so although she has sticky fingers (literally, from the meal and figuratively, as we glimpse her surreptitiously stuffing candlesticks into her bag) and can eat a gaggle (though not an entire flock) of geese in one sitting, she does appear to be the true brains, and voice of reason, behind the operation, so I can relate.

Ciarán O’Dowd is Don Rodolpho

Not all the dialogue is crystal clear, thanks to the truly ridiculous faux Spanish/Irish hybrid, but the mangled mumble is part of the silly charm, and anyway all the best lines, of which there are many, are delivered and received.

In 15 minutes, the pilot introduced the plot and it would be such a shame should it not be picked up to series. It’s very funny, witty and with great moments of spectacular comic timing and skilled physical comedy; basically, pure escapism. O’Dowd is certainly one to watch – regardless of how this experiment goes, I guarantee we’ll be seeing more of him in time to come.

Sunday saw the world premiere of The Mighty Ocean, a suite of music commissioned by Galway 2020, and shown on TG4 to coincide with the final week of Galway’s tenure as European Capital of Culture.

Composed by Mairtin O’Connor, it is primarily an ode to the sea he grew up alongside, that is at tremendous risk now from climate change and pollution. Among the at time magnificent camera shots of the west coast that interspersed the programme, are also poignant images like those of plastic bags floating in the water.

Performed by O’Connor on accordion alongside the ConTempo Quartet, Galway Music Residency’s permanent ensemble in residence, and other music legends such as Garry O’Briain in St. Nicolas’s Collegiate Church in the heart of Galway city, the music is rousing and lively, perfect in the hallowed surrounds of the church but wouldn’t at all be out of place in any of the city’s noted session pubs.

Máirtín O’Connor

Not only is the music a wonderful new addition to the world of Irish music, but the programme itself was a lovely watch. Seeing the musicians together, working with each other individually to become a whole, was a timely reminder that we’re all connected in some way, and can work in tandem using our own skills and talents to create a unified ‘something’ bigger than ourselves.

The structure of the programme, with the exquisite aerial shots and beautifully intimate shots of the performers, brought that idea even further; the musical suite itself is a reflection on what is at stake in the ocean, and human kinds’ role in what is happening.  

We all have a relationship with our environment, which should be treated with more respect and reverence than ever, especially considering our now heightened realisation that nature can turn on us as we have turned on it. Re-establishing the connection through soulful mediums like art and music is a novel and effective way of making that start. A worthwhile watch, The Mighty Ocean can be viewed on the RTE Player.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 28 04 21

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