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. www.templebar.ie


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. www.nch.ie

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. www.fringefest.com

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 @ www.junctionfestival.com

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. www.galwayartsfestival.com

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. www.kilkennyarts.ie. And at the tale-end of the summer (Sat 29 & Sun 30), Dun Laoghaire’s incomparable Festival of World Cultures, of which more anon. www.festivalofworldcultures.com

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. www.bspoketheatrecompany.com

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. www.bedrockproductions.com, www.project.ie

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. www.templebar.ie

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 @ www.spwc.ie

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. www.project.ie

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). www.musicgreatirishhouses.com

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. www.rte.ie/performinggroups