On my radar: Denise Gough’s cultural highlights

The Irish actor on the hope in Sally Rooney’s novels, Oprah’s inspiring conversations and a terrifying look into the birth of reality TV

Denise Gough was born in Ireland in 1980. She has worked in TV, film and theatre, and in 2012 was nominated as outstanding newcomer at the Evening Standard theatre awards for her performances in Our New Girl and Desire Under the Elms. She has won two Olivier awards: for best actress for People, Places and Things (2015) and best supporting actress in 2018 for her portrayal of Harper in Angels in America. She stars alongside Keira Knightley in Colette, in cinemas now.

1. Film

The Favourite

Olivia Colman in The Favourite.
Olivia Colman in The Favourite. Photograph: © 2018 Fox Searchlight

So, so good. It’s a film where the three main characters are women – Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, her lady-in-waiting Rachel Weisz, and social climber Emma Stone – and the men are the ones worried about their makeup and hair. Colman is just gloriously vile through the whole thing, and it made me think about the conversation we’re having with #MeToo. The film really stuck in my head because it’s about the nature of power and what it does to a human being, male or female – women are capable of being just as gross when given power.

2. Documentary

The American Meme

Paris Hilton and Josh Ostrovsky in The American Meme.
Instagram stars Paris Hilton and Josh Ostrovsky in The American Meme. Photograph: Netflix

It’s on Netflix and it’s a terrifying look into the birth of reality TV and Instagram stars. It begins with Paris Hilton, who started that whole thing of becoming famous just being herself. There’s this misogynistic guy who’s an internet sensation, and underneath all that he just seems really unhappy. It made me think of how corrosive fame can be, particularly if it comes only as a result of something vacuous. I’m not on social media because the whole thing terrifies me. It makes me sad that we live in a world now where that’s what we idealise.

3. Book

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Irish writer Sally Rooney.
Irish writer Sally Rooney. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/The Guardian

This is the story of a relationship over the course of many years, and it’s incredible. Sally Rooney is 27, and writes about an Ireland I didn’t grow up in but wish I had: much more free-thinking, not as repressed. It makes me hopeful for the future of the country, especially for young women. Her books are so completely believable, but it’s more the way she looks at relationships that is interesting to me. I’m just not used to reading that from Irish writers. Voices like hers doing so well makes me feel like we’re moving in the right direction.

4. Gig

Florence + the Machine in New York

Florence + the Machine.
Florence + the Machine performing live in New York. Photograph: Al Pereira/Getty Images

This was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I was completely floored by her. Florence Welch is like a warrior: she kept throwing herself around, running off the stage and into the audience. It was like a spiritual experience, seeing her own her power like that. I love her new album [High As Hope]: it’s much more intimate, much more stripped back. It’s like you’re being invited into her room with her and she’s telling you secrets. She is a true artist.

5. Podcast

Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations

Oprah talking to actor Salma Hayek.
Oprah talking to actor Salma Hayek. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

It’s brilliant. In it, Oprah interviews all sorts of people, like Malala Yousafzai, and her latest one is with Michelle Obama. But her best, I think, is with Maya Angelou, who is the kindest and most well-mannered and just beautiful human being. Angelou tells an incredible story about her and Tupac Shakur. They’re all just inspiring conversations about loving yourself and being kind to yourself. I can’t get enough of that sort of stuff, especially at the moment. As far as I’m concerned, Oprah is queen of the world.

6. Theatre

The Inheritance at the Noël Coward theatre, London

Vanessa Redgrave and Samuel H Levine in The Inheritance.
Vanessa Redgrave and Samuel H Levine in The Inheritance. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

It’s a play-within-a-play inspired by Howards End, about a gay couple who we meet towards the end of their relationship. I really wanted to experience what people say they did when they saw Angels in America: this seven-hour epic. So I went and it was one of the most beautiful days at the theatre I’ve ever had: heartwarming and beautiful, and the performances were gorgeous. It felt like such a celebration and an honouring of the gay community in New York.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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