Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weird & Wonderful

Only how many days to Christmas? Natch the place is coming down with pantos and carols, but why not do something weird and wonderful instead. At Project you can get inside the Head of Hamlet, an installation courtesy of the inimitable George Higgs - part mask, part instrument, part theatre, part machine, resounding with electricity, wood, flesh, language and metal amid snatches of harmony, discord, rhythm and chaos – definitely a bit weird (free, til 19 Dec). Also at Project, a duet for fiddle and film features Caoimhin O Raghallaigh and virtual guests, with hardanger, 5-string viola, singers, dancers, spoken word and stop-motion animation (11 Dec). And Triptik, a collaboration between Ciotóg and Macushla Dance Club, is a dance triple bill featuring 3 internationally renowned choreographers, 5 professional dancers, 2 showband musicians and the ever-sprightly members of the Macushla Club for over 50s (16-19 Dec).

Or how about Christmas with Elvis at the Helix (16 Dec), featuring Mario Kombou who in 2005 was voted The Best Elvis Performer in the World, no less. And in a weird kind of ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’ effect, Elvis will be joined on stage by Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe and Roy Orbison; and weirder still, it’s also playing at the Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford.

Send the kids to the panto and give yourself a saccharine-free treat at Bewleys, where PurpleHeart are back with last year’s hit show The Santaland Diaries. Writer David Sedaris draws on his own experience to chart the wickedly funny journey of Crumpet, starving artist turned Macy’s Santaland elf, with humiliation turning to battle-weary bitterness as Crumpet is forced to contend with cranky parents, bratty children, career elves and drunken lecherous Santas. (til Sat 22).

With all eyes on the North Pole at this time of year, the NCH (Kevin Barry Room) is heading to the other end of the snowy world on Mon 14 Dec for Nearest the South Pole, an event to commemorate the lecture given by explorer Ernest Shackleton in that very spot on that very date 100 years ago. Along with a presentation about the Antarctic and a rare recording of Shackleton’s own voice as he discusses the Nimrod expedition, there’ll be poetry by Derek Mahon, T.S. Elliot and Leland Bardwell among others and a new piece of music-theatre from Michael Holohan, Where a single footprint lasts a thousand years, performed by Donal O’Kelly. Could be quite wonderful.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sundays at Noon

Coming up at the Hugh Lane Gallery: on Sun 6 Dec soprano Roisin O’Grady teams up with Malcolm Proud on piano and harpsichord for songs by Purcell, Mozart and Haydn, plus Handel’s Suite No 5 in E; on Sun 13 you can hear clarinetist John Finucane, soprano Gabriela Istoc and pianist Dearbhla Collins in a music by Schubert, Burgmuller and Archduke Rudolph (Austria's Crown Prince back in the 19th century); and on Sun 20 the Contempo Quartet play string quartets by Haydn and Mendelssohn. All concerts are free, starting time is 12 noon but get there early.

Bottlenote Festival 09

If experimental jazz is your thing, the Bottlenote Collective promise to simultaneously stimulate your brains and ears with 2 nights of brand new improvised music from Bottlenote members Seán Óg, Simon Jermyn, Shane Latimer and Justin Carroll, in collaboration with visiting artists from Norway, Paris, Denmark and London’s Loop Collective. That adds up to 2 double bills featuring newly commissioned music for 4 new groups at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz, as well as music from established Bottlenote groups, Bang Hazard and Lead Soup, laptop sets from Estonian sound artist Alo Allik and Dublin’s Eomac, and 2 free workshops open to the public. The festival runs at the Twisted Pepper on Fri 4 and Sat 5 Dec.

Beat the Sunday Night Blues

The intriguingly named Centre for Creative Practices at 15 Lwr Pembroke St has come up with an spot-on way to beat the Sunday night blues and escape the tyranny of I’m a Celebrity X Factor with a spontaneous House Concert tonight (29 Nov 9pm). Irish and Polish musicians including Brian O hUiginn on uilleann pipes, Andrzej Bauer on cello and Michal Bunio Skrok on experimental electronics get together for an informal evening of experimentation, exploration and improvisation. It’s a tenner in, and you can byo refreshments.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The National Campaign for the Arts

I’ve no idea how many people are employed in the arts, but without a doubt the arts have a huge impact on all our lives – on an immediate level in terms of the music, film, literature, theatre, visual art etc that surrounds us, and on a broader level as part of our cultural and national identity. The National Campaign for the Arts is looking for a measly 10,000 signatures in support of their petition which asserts the fundamental importance of the arts to economic recovery and calls for the retention of Culture Ireland and the Irish Film Board, maintaining existing funding to the Arts Council, keeping the artists’ tax exemption (that might be a thorny one) and a commitment to keep the arts portfolio as part of a senior cabinet post. There’s already over 9,400 signatures but there should be way more, so get up off your backsides, sign the petition and make your voices heard.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Helter Skelter/ Union Square

A neat double-bill from PurpleHeart Theatre Company @ Bewleys should enliven your lunchtime, though writer Neil LaBute’s penchant for sticking the knife in and then giving it an extra twist might not exactly aid your digestion. In Union Square a lost out-of-towner looks for directions from an unseen street person, gradually revealing his true purpose as he blithely confides in someone who doesn’t matter. Helter Skelter sees an apparently innocent shopping trip degenerate into full blown marital breakdown as a tussle over a mobile phone gives way to the spouting clichés of a faithless husband and the brutal honesty of a heavily pregnant wife. Ably performed by Dermot Magennis (Union Square), and Les Martin and Olga Wehrly (Helter Skelter), and directed by Stewart Roche.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dr Hauschka

Have just been listening to Hauschka, aka German pianist/composer Volker Bertelmann, who weaves a hypnotic web of pianistic intrigue with echoes of Steve Reich, Debussy, Philip Glass, impressionistic melodies and minimalistic counterpoints – Mojo magazine namechecks both Erik Satie and Kraftwerk when describing his music. Prepared piano is Hauschka’s preferred instrument, damping the strings with felt or rubber, sharpening the hammers with tinfoil, softening the edges with low-key electronics, and other such playful interventions. Catch him at the Sugar Club tomorrow night (Thur 19 Nov) in a Note Productions gig, or if you’re heading south, at the Triskel in Cork on Fri 20.,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Music

Contemporary music is apparently alive and well and living in Dublin – at least for the month of November anyway. There’s already been something of an outpouring in the new music arena, with concerts from NewSoundWorlds and the Contemporary Music Centre, and lots more to come. First the freebies: the final concert in the CMC’s Salon series is at the Goethe Institut on Sat 19 Nov @6pm, when the Cashell Trio play Raymond Deane’s Marche Oubliee and Benjamin Dwyer’s Quasi una fantasia. Contemp mus veterans Concorde are at the Hugh Lane on Sun 22 Nov @12 noon playing works by Judith Ring, Massimo Davi, Feis Ceoil prizewinner Hugh Boyle, Finnish composer Erkki Jokinen (featuring Dermot Dunne on accordion), and Sungji Hong – the Korean composer will attend for the Irish premiere of Shades of Raindrops. Meanwhile the Fidelio Trio’s Schumann Plus series also features Ben Dwyer’s Piano Trio on Sun 29. And finally, it’s not contemporary but it is free - All you ever wanted to know about Wagner but were afraid to ask, a daytime session at the Merrion Hotel on Sat 21 Nov as part of Opera Ireland’s 2009 Season, a musical analysis of the Ring Cycle by composer/pianist Derek Watson, plus an exhibition of rare Wagner Memorabilia. Booking via

Meanwhile the Irish Composers Collective’s Ensemble ICC are at the NCH on Mon 16 Nov with no less than 7 world premieres. Cellist Kate Ellis, percussionist Maeve O’Hara and singers Liz Hilliard and Marian Hughes perform works by emerging Irish composers. Siobhan Cleary’s NewSoundWorlds continues a fascinating exploration of all things contemporary with The Medical Composers at the NCH on Tue 17 Nov, music from composers who’ve also had careers in the field of medicine. Clarinetist Carol McGonnell and flautist Erin Lesser play works by Cleare, Furrer, Gaussain, Hurel and Nono on Tue 24 and on Tue 1 Dec there’s a solo show from the very creative Jennifer Walshe, with works for voice, violin, psaltery, cd and dictaphones. And the RTE National Sympony Orchestra give the world premiere of Cleary’s Cokaygne at the NCH on Fri 27 in the company of works by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky.

A couple of interesting gigs from Note Productions include Hauschka – billed as a cross between Erik Satie and Kraftwerk - on prepared piano at the Sugar Club on Thur 19 Nov, and (like him or loathe him) Iarla O Lionaird at St Audeons on Sun 29, playing with Steve Cooney and Graham Henderson. ArtPolonia’s Lutosphere brings experimental music to Liberty Hall on Wed 30 Nov, with a mix of jazz piano, classical cello and experimental electronics inspired by the works of Lutosławski. Coming up, Dec 5 sees the launch of new all-female vocal quartet Ergodos Voices at the NCH performing five new works by Irish composers including Linda Buckley, Judith Ring, Garrett Sholdice, Seán Clancy and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Knives in Hens

Smock Alley Theatre
There’s bucketloads of atmosphere in this show: staged in the cavernous empty space of Smock Alley, the audience seated on three sides on church pews or bare benches, a peat-strewn floor, rough wooden structures, hazy lighting and a live musician - plus a terrific script and three very fine actors. But it doesn’t quite all add up. As much about the power of words as the struggle for power, on the one side is the status quo of the earthy village ploughman (Vincent Regan) with his precious horses. On the other is the distant miller (Lorcan Cranitch, maybe a tad miscast), despised and reviled for his difference and his living off the labour of others. In the middle is the ploughman’s wife (a magnificent Catherine Walker), luminous in her thirst for knowledge and her wonder at the world, voicing what she sees – bird, cloud, tree – almost like some aboriginal naming ritual. Making great use of the huge performance area, the opening scenes are quite enthralling, but there is a gradual nagging feeling that instead of developing and growing everything stays more or less the same. Despite her credentials, flautist Eleanor Dawson is the production’s weakest link. What starts out as evocative and haunting becomes a bit monotonous and dreary after a while, and the vocal elements just feel incongruous.

Monday, October 19, 2009


The Contemporary Music Centre are pulling out all the stops in celebration of the 60th birthday of the grandaddy of Irish electronic music Roger Doyle. Running each afternoon from Oct 22-31 as part of DEAF, Soundscapes features a dramatic outdoor sound gallery playing electronic and piano music that spans Doyle’s prolific and frequently award-winning career. Among the works you can hear are tracks from his new CD Cool Steel Army and excerpts from the fake radio station featured in his magnum opus Babel. Admission is free, more info @

Knives in Hens

Coming up soon, Landmark Productions are at Smock Alley Theatre with a new production of David Harrower’s highly acclaimed first play Knives in Hens, previewing from Wed 4 and opening on Mon 9 Nov. The line-up is something of a dream team, with Alan Gilsenan in the director’s chair, design by Joe Vanek, and a cracking cast that features Lorcan Cranitch, Vincent Regan and Catherine Walker. Set in a God-fearing, pre-industrial rural community, this fierce and uncompromising play about love, desire and the power of words sees a young woman growing in awareness of her place in the world, as she comes to terms with an ancient hatred and an unexpected betrayal.

Clowning Around

Following last year’s utterly delightful Circus, Barabbas are back in town with another circus-based show, Johnny Patterson, The Singing Irish Clown which plays at Project from November 4-14. Directed by Raymond Keane and written by Little John Nee, who also plays in the show alongside Roger Gregg and Bryan Burroughs, it pays homage to the forgotten genius of once celebrated circus performer Johnny Patterson from Co Clare, who started his circus life as a humble drummer boy and went on to achieve great things across the Atlantic, becoming one of the highest paid entertainers of his time. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, and Patterson met with a sorry end. Charting the highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies of an extraordinary life, the show was originally inspired by an exhibition of circus paintings by Jack B Yeats at the National Gallery.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dublin Theatre Festival Reviews

Gaiety Theatre
And so the Theatre Festival begins, with the most exotic of shows. Chances are you have never experienced anything like this – 40 traditional musicians all singing and playing the ancient songs of their native India. But it’s not just about the sound, there is much to catch the eye as well. The set, a cylindrical semi-circle, reaches nearly the full height of the Gaiety stage. Four stories high, red velvet cubicle upon red velvet cubicle like some giant kalaidescope, and within each one a unique musician. One by one the curtain of each cubicle is drawn back to reveal some new treasure, cross-legged, be-turbaned and dressed in white, sometimes adding to the ensemble, sometimes performing alone, but always part of something greater. All male, they range in age from the very old to the very young – the latter quite captivating. Clearly the songs, performed with elaborate hand gestures, are telling a story, but there’s no surtitles so read your programme beforehand if you want to know what they’re about, though that’s not really the point. The music comes from the soul, and has a genuine feeling of authenticity – no concessions to the western ear – and the presentation is intrinsically dramatic, though the presence of an almost dancing conductor seemed a bit unnecessary, and his relentless underscoring of the rhythmic sections with the hard sound of kharthals (castanets) became a bit grating. Nonetheless a brilliant glimpse of something totally different.

Oh to be a teenager… The intro to this visceral, multi-award winning Flemish show features a perfect specimen of teenhood, all shiny leggings, denim and bouncy ponytail. With a spot-on mixture of gaucheness, supreme confidence and pity she warns us that watching them will make us feel old (it does) and fill us with envy (it does). Then she and her 12 noisy mates embark on a chaotic routine of crazy horseplay – teen spirit personified – repeated, often to quite hilarious effect, to different soundtracks. So we have the ballet version, the script version, the loved-up, male-only, props-only, stoner, mommy and daddy and finally the side-splitting supersized version. Performed with terrific energy by the edgy young cast, very astute and at times very very funny.

Ionad an Phiarsaigh
This is a great venue for this entertaining promenade show, where the audience follows the action from room to room of an atmospheric Georgian house – there’s even a courtyard and mini theatre out back. Billed as a historical romp, it does exactly what is says on the tin, as the eponymous (and pompous) magistrate Buck Jones pits himself against the heinous bodysnatchers, led by the notorious Larry Clinch. More panto than play, it abounds with double entendres, silly names and sillier disguises. Subplot piles upon subplot, with the busy cast double-jobbing with gusto. Enjoyable, undemanding fare from the pen of Ken Bourke, and tho the links between the scenes could have been stronger and the setting could have been exploited a bit more, the novelty value carries it along.

Gate Theatre
Everyone knows something of the story of The Birds: the strange gathering of large flocks that gradually start turning on people, attacking and ultimately killing them. In Conor McPherson’s version the unthinkable has already happened and we are left with the aftermath, a sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare inhabited by three strangers as the outside world disappears into oblivion. Some opening nighters were complaining about the slow pace and the lack of dramatics, but as someone who has neither seen the Hitchcock movie nor read the Daphne du Maurier story, I was fascinated by the whole thing. Instead of milking this fantastical premise for all its melodramatic possibilities, the playwright has chosen to largely forgo the fireworks and the histrionics and focus instead on what becomes of us when the extraordinary becomes the norm, how people thrown together in a desperate bid for survival become a sort of surrogate family, and how tensions and jealousies still seep through. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of high drama – there are, particularly in the second act – and even some light relief, but the overall feeling is one of mood and atmosphere and the dark inner workings of the soul. The lighting is murky and the fluttering soundscape is menacing and oppressive and at times quite scary. With actors of the calibre of Sinead Cusack and Ciaran Hinds, expectations are bound to be high, but the performances are so fine that the next day I found myself thinking about these characters as though I actually knew them.

There’s a Hansel and Gretel for kids at The Ark; Pan Pan’s The Crumb Trail is the adult version. It’s already played to rave reviews in New York and Dusseldorf, and we’re treated to excerpts of said reviews before the cast introduce themselves – no illusions there, then, as we are led into the dark heart of the Brothers Grimm. Post-modern and deconstruction are words that have become increasingly clichéd, but they’re hard to avoid around Pan Pan, as this fairytale of abandonment is cracked open to reveal an even murkier agenda, interspersed with moments of utter frivolity. Snatches of Hamlet and a particularly queasy dose of skype sex vie with mad dancing, discourses on intelligent tights or the notion of transforming a discarded womb into a dreamcatcher. A clever mix of hi-tech and lo-tech combines live music with the shadow-like filmed version, You Tube out-takes and video, while old-fashioned overhead projectors, framed by dried grass or bits of coloured paper, provide a very effective lighting design.

This could almost be seen as a companion piece to Enda Walsh’s other play for Druid, The Walworth Farce: the intense claustrophobia, the incessant acting out of old history, a family locked in time, an outsider providing just the briefest possibility of change. But where The Walworth Farce was largely male, all vengeful anger and dirty chaos, this is female territory, all sponge cakes, pink shoes and backstabbing jealousy. And where The Walworth Farce was set in a dingy flat where the outside never seeped in, here a little fishing town exists beyond the sittingroom, where Ada heads off to her job in the cannery each day, Patsy the fishman stops compulsively at the front door with his box of fish and his garbled tidings, and the narrow streets with the houses leaning in on you become part of the collective imagery. But the rituals follow the same ordered precision, in this case the events of that fateful night some 40 years ago at the New Electric Ballroom, mecca for dreams and despair, and haunt of the Roller Royle with his gravity-defying quiff and the loaded promise of ‘you meet me after’. Donning the gaudy costumes of their long-lost youth, Breda and Clara relive their stories turn by turn, word for word, with their younger sister Ada torn between orchestrating and escaping.
Brilliant writing as always from Walsh, capturing the rhythms and poetics and dark humour of a strangely recognisable hyper-reality, and terrific acting, particularly from Rosaleen Linehan as the elderly Breda, who conveys all the yearnings and arrogance and sexual longings of a hot-blooded teenager with a simple shrug of the shoulder or curl of the lip.

Samuel Beckett Theatre
This is a strange kettle of fish. Another slice of eastern promise, it couldn’t be more different from The Manganiyar Seduction. Billed as documentary theatre, the emphasis is very much on the documentary side – which might work fine on the telly but makes for quite a dry piece of theatre. It is interesting though; the performers are part of the large community of Cairo Muezzins, who lead the Muslim call to prayer throughout the many mosques, and whose presence is regarded as one of the defining elements of the city. They’re under the spotlight because the government wants to streamline their activities, replacing the thousands of very individual voices with just 30 chosen Muezzins, whose sung prayers will be delivered by simultaneous broadcast – changing an entire way of life in one fell swoop. The three performers, one of whom is blind, tell us something of their history and take us through their daily rountine, while jumbled images of the city play on video screens behind them. The most affecting moments are when they sing the prayers, their voices fluctuating and diverging. And the most telling moments are the cultural differences – no women to be seen, and everything officially overseen by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Abbey Theatre
Sebastian Barry’s new play certainly looks pretty and sounds lovely, but apart from that there’s not too much going on. We’re greeted by an unseasonal sweep of daffodils, and then the curtain rises to reveal – more daffodils. In fact, so many that there’s not much space left for performing. That’s part of the problem, in a play that hovers between ghostly apparitions and the clouded reality of some lost corner of south Wicklow, forever caught in some kind of time warp. At the centre is Nicholas, a lonely Protestant bachelor farmer – we know he’s Protestant because he gives out about Catholics – whose innocent relationship with young neighbour Evans is thrown into question when Evans is found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The opening scene, where Nicholas and Evans chat around the kitchen table, Nicholas giving advice and telling stories, is full of promise, but what then evolves is just too unlikely to be in any way convincing. Through a series of short scenes we meet some of the other characters in Nicholas’s life – his sister Tania, Evans’ father Andrew, but it’s as if they just don’t make a connection (with each other or with the audience) in any meaningful way. Some of the dialogue is quite beautiful, poetic and evocative, but it’s more like speeches than conversation, and the language is definitely from another era. In fact everything about the play feels old-fashioned, including the directing. In spite of valiant efforts from Stephen Rea as Nicholas and Aaron Monaghan as Evans, the best thing about this production – possibly because he has the best lines – is Liam Carney’s Andrew, a late addition to the cast.

There’s terrific attention to detail in this latest show from The Corn Exchange. Taking a step back from the noisy boisterousness of their trademark commedia style, Freefall is a thoughtful, funny and moving piece of theatre which sees a middle aged man struggling to make sense of his disintegrating life through the fog of memory and an imperfectly working brain. It’s the morning after the night before, with a vengeance – his marriage has just ended, his body has given up on him, and we view his imploding situation through the bewildered eyes of someone who can no longer communicate with the outside world. The narrow focus of a tiny video camera cleverly recreates his new reality, while scenes from his past, both recent and long gone, show the shaping of his life. The very effective use of simple props – plastic curtains and hospital trolleys – and sound effects performed live by the cast, even down to the warbled whistling of a mobile phone, gives the show an added dimension, but there’s definitely room for cutting some of the more superfluous scenes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Culture Night

Fancy a slice of culture but you haven’t got the cash? Check out Culture Night next Friday (25 Sept) when you can stay out late, travel around the city on special buses and get all the culture that you want – and it’s all free. Co-ordinated by Temple Bar Cultural Trust, this year over 120 cultural venues are opening their doors to one and all, some until midnight, with dollops of visual art, architecture, dancing, family activities, music, poetry, street performance, painting, talks, walks, theatre and traditional culture.

To make things more accessible, the city has been divided into various quarters. Highlights of the Heuston/Museum Quarter include the Guinness Storehouse, the James Joyce House of The Dead and the National Museum at Collins Barracks, where the Dead Zoo will come to life. Lots of galleries in the Historic Quarter are open til midnight and there’s a fair bit of music as well, notably in Christ Church and St Patrick’s Cathedrals, with sound installations and performances at the Contemporary Music Centre. At Dublin Castle you can visit the exotic Chester Beatty Library and be intrigued by the Revenue Museum and Garda Museum (did you even know they existed?).

Oxfam Books, Connolly Books and the Winding Stair (Temple Bar & North of Liffey area) have music and readings, there’s animation workshops in Filmbase, drama workshops in the Gaiety School of Acting, and Seamus Nolan is in Project with his Corrib Gas exhibition. And there’s some great stuff happening in Meeting House Square, including a screening of This Other Eden (1958), a midnight Voyage to the Stars featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and a short CoisCeim-led dance show Night of the Living Debs.

There’s more music in the North Georgian Quarter – you can hear some of Ireland’s leading pipers in Na Piobairi Uilleann; a sprinkling of Joyce and John McCormack at the Teachers Club (they both took singing lessons there); choral music in the Pro-Cathedral; a preview of the Hugh Lane Gallery’s Sunday concerts; Conor McPherson at the Gate; readings at the Irish Writers Centre and Dublin Writers Museum; and free postage at the GPO. In the Trinity College/Docklands area there’s a chance for free tickets for Enda Walsh's play at the Peacock – available from 10.30am. In Trinity you can see Ireland’s Last Great Auk at the Zoological Museum and the Book of Kells in the Library. The Bubbles exhibition is in the Science Gallery, there’s experimental music videos in the Instituto Cervantes and you can hear everything from Bach to the Beatles at the RIAM.

Finally, in the South Georgian Quarter you can take part in an instant orchestra at the NCH, and you can also get free tickets to two RTE concerts ( Cor na nOg are at the National Gallery, there’s an open-mic session at Poetry Ireland, Sean McSweeney at the Taylor Galleries, Yeats at the National Library, wine-tasting at the Alliance Francaise and an Antiques Roadshow for Books at the RDS. And as if that wasn’t enough Astronomy Ireland are in Phoenix Park, there’s a Giant Whale and a Climbing Wall in Wolfe Tone Park, and 3epkano accompany a live screening of Nosferatu in Dartmouth Square.

Pick up a brochure@ Temple Bar Info Centre or find out more@

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Music

New music from the Irish Composers Collective at the NCH on Tue 22 Sept. David Bremner on piano and electronics and Maeve O’Hara on percussion play music by Michael Gallen, Natasa Paterson, Laura Kilty, Ian McDonnell, Louise Harte, Amanda Feery, Shane McKenna and the world premiere of D E McCarthy’s Electronics Sonata. And on Wed 23 Ergodos present the well-known duo of Maya Homburger on baroque violin and Barry Guy on double bass at St Audoen’s Church, playing music by Bach, Biber, Guy, Simon O’Connor, Garret Sholdice and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fringe Reviews

One Penny Operas
6 dancers and a one man band – double bass, guitar, electronics, saws and bowls of various sizes – get together for this playful piece of dance improv. At first there’s a lot of walking about but when the performers find their feet, so to speak, what evolves is an engaging 30 minutes of individual and interactive dance coupled with some very interesting sounds. The location, on the top floor of DanceHouse with its big walls of glass high above the trees, gives it an exotic feel. What a great way to spend your lunch hour. The show alas is finished, but DanceHouse is worth a visit any time.

Power Point (Camden Court Hotel)
Name-tagged and system dairy in hand, you find yourself in an anonymous boardroom, waiting for who knows what. Mary Point, overweight and sweaty in her ill-fitting suit, introduces her heroes; the evangelical Jack and Jill Power descend on you like locusts and WHAM - there you are, in corporate motivational hell. Cliches have never sounded so scary nor exhortations so empty – Hands Up! they yell as they bombard you with questions, twisting metaphors and logic as they go. But then the cracks appear and their perfectly coiffed surfaces begin to implode, with Mary like a little piggy in the middle, torn between adoration and terror. This is fast and furious stuff, very funny and cleverly written, though it does meander a bit when the long lost son turns up. There’s a nice touch of humanity at the end.

A Useful Play (Project)
Conceived as a working model for a film he might make, Gerardo Naumann’s play is like a prolonged rehearsal, with all the minutia involved in such a project – shooting the lead parts from different angles, using printed t-shirts or slices of (increasingly burnt) toast as storyboards and generally employing the cast of nearly 20 extras as props. Based on an unknown woman’s discarded diary, the story itself is mildly interesting but what tends to hold the attention is the way the extras reveal something of their personalities in the process. Punctuated by occasional live shots from the street, it’s quite clever and at times quite funny, but it’s also a tad self-indulgent and in the end it doesn’t add up to very much. Naumann himself wonders whether it should have in fact been called A Useless Play – draw your own conclusions.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's the Fringe

Can’t make the Picnic? Pick a Fringe show instead. There’s lots of free stuff, like French choreographer David Rolland’s The Readers at St Patricks Park on Sat 12; Jago Ni Murchu’s Meadow beside City Hall this Sunday; Bedrock’s Garage in Arnott’s window; the Monumental Gathering in Smithfield on Sun 19; the ever resourceful Whiplash with Spartacus: To Hell and Back at the Civic Offices on Sun 13; and the Gorilla Chorus popping up where you least expect them.

Taking a stroll through the Fringe programme, the new satirical show from the excellent Volta, All of Human Life is Here could well be referring to what’s on offer. Die Roten Punkte showcase their lipstick-smeared sonic collisions; The Lost Pirates seduce with their campaign of musical debauchery; and Nico Muhly bedazzles with his eclectic creativity. Waterworn invites you to step onboard a barge; Wondermart gets you stepping out in a supermarket; Basin brings you the hidden mysteries of the Blessington Street Basin; One Penny Operas give you instant dance composition from the likes of former Fringe director Wolfgang Hoffman, while other dance includes an Aerowaves double bill with shows from Germany and Belgium. Cirque de Legume conjure up the excitement, danger and sensuality of cast-off vegetables; The Blanch brings you the contemporary shopping experience in all its gory glory, and in complete contrast, Beckett’s Act Without Words II takes to the streets, directed by Sarah Jane Scaife and designed by Aedin Cosgrove.

Chilean director Jose Miguel Jiminez attempts to rewrite history in Who is Fergus Kilpatrick? and, in one of the main international contributions, Argentinean director and filmmaker Gerardo Naumann experiments with his new film on stage in A Useful Play. The Angry School lets you get angry; The Enemies explores Jorge Luis Borges’ sublime short story ‘The Secret Miracle’; and cultural paranoia is alive and well in the provocative juxtapositions of Terror of Living. Shows from a trio of Fringe regulars include Power Point, the Performance Corporation’s stylish take on corporate deviousness; Loose Canon’s Anatomy of a Seagull, dissecting the cruel essence of Chekhov; and Semper Fi’s site-specific Black Bessie, exploring the rituals of a homeless woman.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Music 21

New music promoters Music 21 have an interesting series of concerts coming up at the NCH. This evening (Mon 31 Aug) @8pm pianist Mary Dullea plays music by George Crumb, Szymanski, Conlon Nancarrow et al, and the Irish premiere of Dai Fujikura’s mormoro for Piano, Video and Electronics, with visuals by Julia Bardsley. On Tue 1 Sept the Callino Quartet are joined by pianist Hugh Tinney for piano quintets by Schnittke and Thomas Adès, along with works by Sofia Gubaidulina and Benjamin Britten. The series continues with three Fri lunchtime concerts: on Fri 4 flautist Susan Doyle and pianist Izumi Kimura play works by Japanese composers Kazuo Fukushima, Toru Takemitsu, Akira Miyoshi, Somei Satoh and the world premiere of Benjamin Dwyer’s Four Japanese Prints. On Fri 11 London-based Irish composer Deirdre Gribbin is profiled in a concert given by the Fidelio Trio, and the Callino Quartet are back on Fri 18 for Benjamin Dwyer’s Guitar Quintet, featuring the composer on guitar.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival

Q When is a bank not a disaster area? A When it’s engaging in a spot of much-needed arts sponsorship. Roll on the 2009 Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival which runs from 24 Sept-11 Oct and fields a strong Irish and international programme, plus seasons of physical and documentary theatre. International productions include The Manganiyar Seduction, a colourful and inspiring show direct from the deserts of India and featuring over 40 Indian musicians and singers spanning three generations. Cheek by Jowl’s Declan Donnellan is back with his elegant and poetic take on Chekhov’s Three Sisters, and the amazing Robert Lepage follows up his far side of the moon with The Blue Dragon. A big hit it the UK last year, art, class and politics collide in Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters, the true story of a group of miners who take painting classes and become an unlikely success (National Theatre UK). Cet Enfant, from rising star of French Theatre Joël Pommerat, explores the emotional ties that bind parents and their children together. An enormous model of Auschwitz is the setting for Hotel Modern’s acclaimed production of Kamp, a fusion of animation, puppetry, visual arts and music featuring thousands of miniature puppets representing the prisoners and their executioners, while the actors move in and out of the scene with handheld cameras.

Sebastian Barry and Conor McPherson (the two extremes of new Irish writing?) lead the fray in terms of home-grown shows, with Barry’s Tales of Ballycumber at the Abbey featuring Stephen Rea and Derbhle Crotty, and the Gate premiering McPherson’s adaptation of The Birds, with Sinéad Cusack and Ciarán Hinds. Freefall is a new show from The Corn Exchange, PanPan present the Irish premiere of Gina Moxley’s Hansel & Gretel-esque The Crumb Trail, and Druid stage Enda Walsh’s The New Electric Ballroom. The ReViewed section offers a second chance to see successful Irish productions including Buck Jones and The Body Snatchers, Nomad Theatre’s adaptation of Pat McCabe’s The Dead School and Featherhead Productions’ Slat.

International physical theatre comes courtesy of DV8’s To Be Straight With You, an unflinching exploration of tolerance, intolerance, religion and sexuality; and The Age I’m In from Australia’s Force Majeure, with a cast aged from 14-80. Documentary theatre includes Stefan Kaegi’s Radio Muezzin, featuring four of Cairo’s Muezzins and exploring the changing culture of the men who lead the Muslim call to prayer; and multi award-winning Flemish show Once And For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen, featuring a cast of 13 teenagers poised on the brink of adulthood. There’s also late night theatre in Project, a Family Season at the Ark and a lively programme of special events.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hearts and Bones

The legendary Moving Hearts are back on the road again, bringing their infectious brand of musical dynamism to venues in Wexford, Cork, Limerick and Dublin (NCH Sat 13 Sept). Recently reformed, the line-up reads like a veritable who’s who of the music world, with Donal Lunny on bouzouki, Davy Spillane on uilleann pipes, Eoghan O’Neill on bass, Keith Donald on saxophone, Noel Eccles on percussion, Liam Bradley on drums, Anto Drennan on guitar and Graham Henderson on keyboards. Joining the band as special guests are accordionist Máirtín O'Connor and, adding a vocal dimension to all this instrumental wizardry, sean nos singer Iarla Ó Lionáird.

Absolutely Fringe

A new name, a new director, and the Absolut Fringe is set to rock the city again from Sat 5-Sun 20 Sept, unleashing 16 days and nights of multi-disciplinary mayhem and featuring a healthy mix of Irish and international performers. The most visible face of the Fringe is the Spiegeltent, back for one last hoorah at George’s Dock, and hosting the popular La Clique as well as some very interesting music including Julliard graduate and Philip Glass protégé Nico Muhy, whose credits include collaborations with Antony and the Johnsons, Bjork and Sigur Ros and most recently the film score for The Reader; and Synth Eastwood Has You Surrounded with their daring mix of music, art and technology. But you can also catch a show in a supermarket or in a hospital, new work from Loose Canon, the Performance Corporation and Volta Theatre (who brought you the hilarious Gerry and the Peace Process), a bilingual play by Manchán Magan and international shows including the world premiere of Gerardo Naumann’s A Useful Play Edit Kaldor’s Point Blank and Ranters Theatre’s Holiday. Watch this space…

Talking the Talk

It doesn’t have quite the cachet of a masked ball, but it sounds like an intriguing event nonetheless. Culture and the City – the Debate is an initiative of Temple Bar Cultural Trust and Exchange Dublin, calling on citizens, funders, public representatives, artists and other interested parties to ponder the question Is This City Fit For Purpose?, exploring among other things issues such as control and regulation of space. People are being invited to leave their associations behind and speak as individuals, with the requirement for everyone to wear white upper face masks providing a degree of anonymity (and a theatrical frisson) in a city where everyone tends to know everyone else. It’s all happening on Wed 19 Aug @6.30pm in Meeting House Square, which will don a tented roof for the occasion. Masks available on entry.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Festival of World Cultures

Although this year’s Festival of World Cultures is only a two-day event, there’s a brilliant line-up for that precious last weekend in August, when Dun Laoghaire becomes the centre of the universe. Highlights include Malian superstar Oumou Sangare, songwriter, social commentator and soul diva, who headlines the free outdoor concert on Sun 30; the mystical Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan; French chanteuse and social campaigner Jane Birkin (forever associated with the heavy breathing of ‘Je t’aime’) singing from her new album ‘Enfants d’hiver’; spiritual mystic and Sufi devotional singer, Sain Zahoor; Nick Page’s Dub Colossus, a sultry blend of traditional Ethiopian music with ethiojazz and club reggae featuring some of Ethiopia’s finest musicians; the intensively percussive Les Tambours de Brazza; and the amazing Warsaw Village Band, making their second visit to the Festival. Lots of these concerts are free, and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a rake of food fairs, art exhibitions, workshops and cultural demonstrations, the always lively Festival Club, and a Bollywood Disco as part of this year’s Mela.

Silver Lining

As somebody famous once said, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, so let’s not talk about the weather any more. There’s plenty of silver linings about and la load of stuff to look forward to, so read on.


Things are hotting up at Bewleys where singer Susannah De Wrixon has teamed up with pianist Conor Linehan for a lunchtime cabaret show that rejoices in the many facets of the female psyche, with music from the likes of Benjamin Britten to Noel Coward, Stephen Sondheim, Randy Newman and Suzanne Vega. Nighttime shows in Aug include Honor Heffernan, a 130th Birthday tribute to the Ukulele courtesy of the Sick & Indigent Song Club, and world/jazz music from Francesco Turrisi.


The folks at Dublin Electronic Arts Festival aren’t taking any chances with the weather when they set up their DEAF Fundraiser in Meeting House Square on Fri 21 Aug (6pm). Not only will there be a full bar but the whole shebang will take place under a temporary roof, so you can leave your brollies at home. A spicy line-up includes The Jimmy Cake, Dark Room Notes, Boxcutter, Spilly Walker, Channel One, Thread Pulls, Sarsparilla and Patrick Kelleher & his Cold Dead Hands, all playing for free, and with tickets at only a tenner that’s a mere €1.25 per band. The festival proper runs from Thur 22 to Sat 31 Oct.

The Poor Mouth

There’s something weird and wonderful happening right now at the New Theatre, where Musiclee are reviving their award-winning adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s The Poor Mouth, first staged at the long gone An Beal Bocht pub back in 1989. If you think things are bad right now, spare a thought for the recession-ridden inhabitants of Corkadoragha, a miserable hole on the western seaboard long long ago. A mad comedy in two surreal acts, it features Paul Lee (who wrote the adaptation) as the Ould Grey Fella and Ciaran Kenny as Bonapart O Loonassa. Also at the New Theatre, from 24 Aug a celebration of New Writing includes Epilogue by Jane McCarthy and Shafted by Arnold Thomas Fanning.

Opera in the Open

Treat yourself to a blast of free Opera at the Civic Offices Amphitheatre at lunchtime each Thursday until Sept 3. Presented by Dublin City Council Arts Office, these specially adapted performances include Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel and Mozart’s Idomeneo.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Free Music at Farmleigh

There’s free music again at Farmleigh this summer, courtesy of the OPW and Improvised Music Company. Between Tue 21 July and 11 Aug the Farmleigh Salon Series features composer writer singer Julie Feeney, Manchester born jazz pianist John Taylor, the amazing Martin Hayes & Denis Cahill, and a final night of cultural crossover with Francesco Turrisi's Tarab, a melting pot of Turkish, Mediterranean and Irish music, and Chinese trio The Xi'An Si, performing Irish airs on exotic instruments. Check out for the free ticket lottery.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Making Strange are at Project from 9-18 July with The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by New York playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis (a regular collaborator with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s LAByrinth Theatre Company). ‘A gloriously intoxicating brew’ said the Guardian of this passionate and poetic play, set in Downtown Purgatory, where a lawyer who believes in divine mercy above divine justice is appealing Judas Iscariot’s sentence of eternal damnation. Matt Torney directs a large cast that features Mark Lambert, Eleanor Methven, Hilary O’Shaughnessy, Karl Quinn and Megan Riordan among others.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

After Miss Julie

The resilient PurpleHeart Theatre Company celebrate their 10th birthday with the Irish premiere of After Miss Julie at Smock Alley Theatre Studio, previewing from Tue 7 July and opening on Thur 9. This is Patrick Marber’s (of Closer fame) take on the Strindberg classic, updated to a sweltering July in 1945 and relocated to an English country house, where celebrations for the British Labour Party’s landslide election victory are in full swing. Tensions rise and tragedy beckons as Miss Julie hangs out below stairs amid a whirlpool of class suspicion and resentment, sexual desire and repressive social mores, with Marber’s skillful drawing of believable and
psychologically astute characters fleshing out Strindberg’s original. Ronan Leahy directs, and the cast includes Maeve Fitzgerald, Stewart Roche and Fiana Toibin. Runs until Sat 25 July.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer in the City

You don’t have to leave town to get into the festive spirit, there’s plenty of fun to be had right here, and lots of it is free. Over 50 world-class circus performers will take to the streets and squares for an expanded Temple Bar Circus Festival (9-12 July), which includes some nifty workshops in Circus Skills, Acrobatics and Clay Animation. Highlights include the comic trapeze and giant balloons of the Loyal Club, Australia’s Von Trolley Quartet with their musical slapstick, eastern European circus phenomenon the Great Vasili’s Eruption, the colourful aerial circus of the Barren Carrousel, and a trip up the Liffey with Brendan Byrne’s Magical Circus Cruise. All shows are free tho some require booking.


For some great trad (and other) music in August check out the National Concert Hall where the 10th ESB BEO Celtic Music Festival runs from 22-29 Aug. Making his NCH debut, singer-songwriter Luka Bloom kicks things off, sharing the stage with stunning Scottish vocalist Eddi Reader, and the following night it’s the turn of Paul Brady who’ll be mixing old favourites with new material as part of his solo Travelin’ Light Tour. The 80-strong Meitheal Orchestra are joined by the inimitable Sharon Shannon for a lunchtime gig on Wed 26, and on Sun 29 you can hear the hugely influentialWaterson Family in what could well be the festival highlight. Ambassadors for British folk music for almost half a century, the extended Waterson Family includes double Mercury Prize nominee Eliza Carthy, her da Martin Carthy, whose settings of traditional songs with guitar have influenced everyone from Dylan to Paul Simon and Billy Bragg, and her mother Norma Waterson – all three played recently as part of Hal Wilmer’s Rogue’s Gallery.

Farewell to Spiegel

Coming up in September, it’s your last chance to Spiegel at this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival (5-20), because from next year the popular Spiegeltent will be no more – it might have been a lot of fun but it wasn’t really very Fringe. The main Spiegel show as always is La Clique with its heady combination of cabaret, burlesque, circus and contemporary vaudeville. La Clique regulars Captain Frodo, Mario Queen of the Circus, The English Gents, hula-hooper Marawa and bathtub acrobat David O’Mer play alongside lycra-clad opera-singing diva Le Gateau Chocolat and highspeed rollerskating acrobatics The Skating Aratas.

Out of Town

Time to spread the wings a bit, as the festival season takes over. Clonmel’s Junction Festival, (4-12 July) has established itself as one of the most inclusive festivals around, remaining faithful to its local base but also definitely worth travelling to (about 2 ½ hrs from Dublin). Making excellent use of empty spaces, one of this year’s innovations is a series of drop-in cafes where you can do everything from entertaining your canine friend to donating your precious baubles to a shrine. A lusty music programme ranges from Delorentos and Duke Special to Martin Hayes & Denis Cahill and Les Espoirs de Coronthie from Guinea Bassau. Other performance highlights include an Aerial Dance double bill and The Angel and the Woodcutter, a haunting folktale from Korea (also playing at the Pavilion in Dun Laoghaire on Sat 11). More info @

The big one of course is Galway (13-26 July) which needs no introduction. Suffice it to say the city will be jammed for the likes of Bon Iver, Femi Kuti, Spiritualized, Michael Clark (dance), some riotous Shakespeare from the UK’s Propeller, physical theatre from Australia’s Circa, the Kronos Quartet, the New York Dolls and Booker T.

In August it’s Kilkenny (7-16), with Peter Brook’s take on Shakespearian sonnets, baroque choral ensemble Le Concert Spirituel, Serbian pianist Alexsandar Madzar, writers Garrison Keillor, Seamus Heaney, Eugene McCabe et al, world music from China and West Africa, indie sounds from American band Low and left-field Icelandic group Amiina and a wide range of visual art. And at the tale-end of the summer (Sat 29 & Sun 30), Dun Laoghaire’s incomparable Festival of World Cultures, of which more anon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Benefactors @ Beckett

Rough Magic’s Lynne Parker takes up the director’s reins for the latest offering from B*spoke theatre company, the Irish premiere of Michael Frayn’s Benefactors (Parker previously directed the British playwright's intriguing Copenhagen), which previews at the Samuel Beckett Theatre from tomorrow (Tue 30) and opens on Thur 2 July. A social housing scheme is the focal point for Frayn’s wry take on liberal London do-gooders, as architect David and his sociologist wife Jane set about rehousing the working classes, while also sorting out the lives of their hapless friends Colin and Sheila. Written in 1984, Benefactors received an Olivier for Best New Play and the New York Drama Critics award for Best Foreign Play - it’s an interesting sign of the times that both Bedrock and B*spoke have chosen plays that hark back to the dreaded ‘80s, albeit on opposite sides of the Atlantic. On stage will be some familiar faces including Peter Hanly, Ali White, Jennifer O’Dea and James Wallace. Runs until Sat 18.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Is Our Youth

This latest show from Bedrock (at Project til Sat 27) is definitely worth catching. Written in the 90s (by Ken Lonergan) about the 80s, it’s surprisingly up to the minute, and although it takes a while to get going and is a bit hampered by the small performance space, you’re left with plenty to savour. There’s some really succinct writing and snappy dialogue from Lonergan, who manages to be entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. The interaction of his three characters – self-obsessed Dennis, restless, awkward Warren and preppy, nihilistic Jessica, spoilt slackers all – creates a much bigger picture, cleverly setting off the shallowness of Dennis against the troubled desperation of Warren, and spiking them both with the seemingly trite, but on reflection quite sharp observations of Jessica.

The first half hour or so is fairly amusing but not exactly riveting, but stick with it, as things really kick off when Jessica appears on the scene. Director Jimmy Fay draws great performances from a well-chosen cast, with Conor Madden’s narcissistic Dennis a truly monstrous creation, Charlie Murphy sparkling as Jessica, and Ciaran O’Brien in particular excelling as the struggling Warren, capturing all the nuances of his painful coming-of-age.,

Monday, June 15, 2009

Free Midsummer Fun

Lots of free stuff to do this weekend (see also Street Performance below) with a burst of Midsummer Fun in Temple Bar, as Meeting House Square is transformed into an urban meadow with a carpet of real grass, and the Summer Solstice is celebrated with fire, feasting and film. Events kick off as the sun sets on Sat 20 with the fire dancing and juggling of Brightspark Fire performers, followed by an outdoor screening of Dead Poets Society, beautifully shot and deeply engaging, filmed back in the days when Robin Williams was still bearable. Bring your picnic blanket for Sunday’s Midsummer Fair, when all three outdoor markets will be in full flight. Maypole dancing, magic shows, Punch & Judy, dance-alongs, and music from trad Irish and samba bands, or for something a bit more sedate, local historian Pat Liddy leads a Summer Solstice Walk, leaving Dublin Castle @6pm. You can also catch Music for Midsummer at the Contemporary Music Centre on Sat @6pm.

Street Performance World Championship

The art of street performance reaches new heights in leafy Merrion Square this weekend, when the AIB Street Performance World Championship gets underway on Thur 18 June. Over 30 world-class professional jesters will vie for your attention (and your small change), among them strongwoman Betty Brawn, the headspinning USA Breakdancers, Titan the robot, contortionists Alakazam and Bendy Em, Canadian cabbage catapultor Mike Wood, and Rob Williams with his foot-sandwich restaurant. Runs til Sun 21, more info @

This Is Our Youth

After a bit of a gap – their most recent appearance was last October with the surreal Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons – Bedrock are back in town with the Irish premiere of This Is Our Youth, an acerbic New York comedy from the pen of Kenneth Lonergan (of Analyze This and Gangs of New York fame). It’s 1982 Manhattan, and 3 narcissistic slackers with rich parents and no direction waste away their pampered lives in a mess of doped-up squalor, early harbingers of the quick-fix, greed is good generation. Lonnergan’s 1996 play – his first big success – is a darkly satiric mix of the cruel and compassionate, both witty and devastating. It’s directed by Jimmy Fay, back with Bedrock after an impressive stint at the Abbey (including Sam Shepard’s Ages of the Moon and Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer) and features Conor Madden, Charlie Murphy and Ciaran O’Brien. It previews at Project on Wed 17 June, opens on Thurs 18 and runs til Sat 27.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

KBC Music in Great Irish Houses update

One of the hot tickets for this year’s festival has been British cellist Natalie Clein – her Beaulieu House concert on Friday 12 June is sold out, but a second concert has been scheduled for Thur 11 @8.30 at the Freemasons Hall on Molesworth Street, this time with accordion wizard Dermot Dunne. They play Bach, Pablo Casals, de Falla, Piazzola and the Irish premiere of Fyfe Dangerfield’s Eggshell Walker (great names!). Also as part of the festival, the inaugural Support Act tutoring and mentoring programme brings together pianist Philippe Cassard and violinist Laura Samuel with a number of upcoming chamber musicians, culminating in 3 lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery (Thur 11-Sat 13 June).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

RTE Summer Music

Plenty of music from RTE at the NCH over the summer, ranging from light lunchtime fare of a Tuesday to more meaty programming for the evening concerts. The big screen makes an appearance in some of the more unusual concerts: Hitchcock – Dial M for Murder on Sat 20 June sees the RTE Concert Orchestra perform live to spine-tingling excerpts from some of the movie maestro’s most popular films including To Catch a Thief, Strangers on a Train and North by Northwest. And for something completely different, on Fri 7 and Sat 8 Aug the RTECO teams up with Warner Bros for the smash hit show Bugs Bunny on Broadway – the superstars of Looney Tunes cavorting to the music of cartoon composer extraordinaire Carl Stalling, including such delights as What’s Opera, Doc? and The Rabbit of SevilleMeanwhile Anuna bring their ethereal sounds to the NCH on Fri 17 July in a concert with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra; on Fri 31 the RTECO are joined by boy choir Libera, who have sung with everyone from Bjork to Pavarotti; and on Fri 14 Aug the brilliant Altan raise the roof with the RTECO, livelying things up with their sparkling trad.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Concorde @ National Gallery

There’s more new music from contemporary ensemble Concorde on Sun 7 June. Two specially commissioned works from composers Stephen Gardner and Judith Ring get their world premieres – Gardner’s klezmeria is a lively, klezmer-inspired duo for clarinet and violin, while Ring’s sextet Within an Egg of Space incorporates a layer of tape music. Also being performed is Angulos, another sextet recently commissioned from Mexican composer Alejandro Castanos; an earlier Ring piece Whispering the Turmoil Down for bass clarinet and tape; and Swedish composer Torbjorn Lundquist’s Duell, for accordion and percussion. It’s all happening at the National Gallery @3pm, and it’s all FREE.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Great Irish Houses

For most people the music is the thing, and it’s an added bonus if the venue is special too - but it’s the best of both worlds in the KBC Music in Great Irish Houses Festival which runs from Sun 7 – Sat 13 June. Some great chamber music in some fab houses is the order of the day, and while some of the venues are well beyond the Pale, most of them are within relatively easy reach of Dublin. Cellist Daniel Müller–Schott and pianist Robert Kulek kick off proceedings at Emo Court in Laois, playing Shostakovich, Schubert and Mendelssohn on Sun 7. Closer to home, two concerts at Kilruddery House in Bray bring together pianist Hugh Tinney, clarinetist John Finucane and upcoming mezzo Tara Erraught for Schubert, Brahms and Spohr on Mon 8; and on Tue 9 the Navarra Quartet play Haydn, Shostakovich and Schumann’s delicious Piano Quintet with pianist John O’Conor

Sought-after Paris-based Quatuor Ebene make their Irish debut with hugely popular French pianist Philippe Cassard playing Beethoven, Ravel and Dvorak at the National Gallery on Wed 10, with a repeat performance at Fota House in Co Cork on Thur 11. A fascinating combination of guitar and cello featuring Xufei Yang and Natalie Clein playing everything from Vivaldi to de Falla is at Beaulieu House in Co Louth on Fri 12, and the final concert at Castletown House is an all-Schubert affair, with the Belcea Quartet playing the sublime Death and the Maiden quartet followed by the String Quintet with cellist extraordinaire Valentin Erben.

Crash @ the Beckett

Double Portrait is the latest concert from internationally acclaimed contemporary music collective Crash Ensemble, showcasing the music of composers David Lang and Louis Andriessen at the Samuel Beckett Theatre on Fri 5 June. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for The Little Match Girl Passion, David Lang is co-founder of New York’s legendary Bang on a Can. Crash will perform his Forced March (a Crash commission) and Cheating Lying Stealing, alongside the work of hugely influential Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, including the exuberant free-form Workers’ Union, scored for ‘any loud-sounding group of instruments’. Expect lots of high-octane sounds in this incisive double bill.

The Fold 4

It’s the final Fold session on Thur 4 June, new improvised and experimental music at St Audeons Church, presented by Note Productions. For this grand finale Caoimhín O Raghallaigh plays trad and contemporary folk music on fiddle, hardanger and 5-string viola; Threadpulls features electronica from Gavin Duffy of Cap Pas Cap and Peter Maybury aka Hardsleeper; and there’s an intriguing spoken word performance from one time Microdisney/Fatima Mansions frontman Cathal Coughlan.

Write On!

A spot of something for everyone in this year’s Dublin Writers Festival which runs from Tue 2 to Sun 7 June at Project, Liberty Hall and the Abbey. Not surprisingly, Seamus Heaney at the NCH is sold out but you can still indulge in such high-profile delights as Zoe Heller (Notes on a Scandal), BBC journalist and New Yorker critic Simon Schama, Orange winner Anne Michaels, ITV’s Melvyn Bragg, Booker and Orange nominee Sarah Waters, and our own Colm Toibin and Brendan Kennelly. A total of 24 writers, among them poets, novelists, memoirists and social commentators, will  share their thoughts with an enthusiastic public, covering a diverse range of subjects from Victorian crime detection to immigration, homecoming, losing children and coming of age. ‘The power of the word’ may be this year’s theme, but a combination of words, music and archive imagery should pack a powerful punch in The Frost is All Over on Sat 6, a celebration of the poetry of Dermot Bolger featuring accordionist Tony MacMahon, piper David Power and actor Eamonn Hunt.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Murphy @ the Abbey

Hot on the heels of Tom Mac Intyre’s Only an Apple comes another new play at the Abbey from one of our foremost playwrights, Tom Murphy – his 17th work to premiere there. The Last Days of a Reluctant Tyrant features Tony Award-winner Marie Mullen as Arina, the once ruthless but now ageing matriarch of a disintegrating family, whose power and wealth is gradually slipping from her grasp and into the hands of her greedy and conniving son. Family morality is put under the spotlight in an epic piece of theatre that is both haunting and darkly humorous. Connall Morrison directs a large cast which includes such stalwarts as Tom Hickey, Des Cave and Mick Lally, as well as Frank McCusker, Declan Conlon, Ruth McGill, Caoilfhionn Dunne et al. Previews from Wed 27 May and opens on Wed 3 June.

Sundays at Noon

It's your last chance to hear free music @ City Hall before the Sundays at Noon series returns to its home in the Hugh Lane Gallery. On Sun 24 the Eolina Quartet from Bulgaria are joined by folk singer Valya Balkanska and Petar Yanev on bagpipes (the Bulgarian kaba-gaida) to celebrate the 'Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture', no less. Then it's back to the Hugh Lane in June for 3 solo recitals in the Sean Scully Gallery. On Sun 7 violinist Ionan Pectu-Colan plays Bach & Teleman; Ronan Guilfoyle plays acoustic bass guitar on Sun 14 (the intriguingly titled 'Bass and the Abstract Truth - Alone with Four Strings') and on Sun 21 Malachy Robinson on double bass plays Ian Wilson's Schattentiefe.