Sunday, February 28, 2010

Movie Madness

I’ve never been that much of a movie buff, but for the past week I’ve been dipping my toe into the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and now I can’t wait for next year. I managed to catch 6 movies (well, one of them was more of a presentation) including 3 in one day, and although I wasn’t that pushed about one or two, most of them were magnificent. Retour de Flamme, a live show featuring rare fragments of ‘found’ silent movies, was a bit of a disappointment - interesting, but more like a lecture, and the piano accompaniment was a bit perfunctory, although it was worth it just to see the only existing footage (with sound) of the late great Django Reinhardt. Two Korean films showed that the creative juices are alive and kicking on the other side of the world – Castaway on the Moon, an utterly beguiling rom com with a difference, and Breathless, a subversive take on the gangster saga, dramatic but very very violent. Shameless, an intriguing unrom com from the Czech Republic, and Revanche, a powerful and engaging German thriller full of tragic twists and turns, featured memorable performances in supporting roles – a small boy in the former, and an old man in the latter. But surprisingly, the one that really grabbed me was a documentary. Pianomania, a year in the life of Stefan Knupfer, head technician at Steinway in Vienna – inspiring and totally exhilarating!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Philippe Cassard

Some great stuff coming up in the Hugh Lane Gallery's Sundays @ Noon series, kicking off with the hugely popular French pianist Philippe Cassard on Sun 7 March. Practically an honorary Irishman at this stage, Cassard first won our hearts way back in 1988, when he won the inaugural Dublin International Piano Competition and he’s been a loyal visitor every since. He’ll be playing a dynamic programme of Brahms - 3 Intermezzi, 2 Rhapsodies and 6 Klavierstucke, and in a nice bit of contrast, Schoenberg’s 3 Klavierstucke. They’ll definitely be queuing around the block for this one. On a slightly calmer note, Fionnuala Moynihan continues her survey of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas, playing Nos 6,7 & 8 on Sun 14. The fresh young voices of RTE Cor na nOg take to the somewhat crowded stage on Sun 21, and on Sun 28 the Israeli duo of Roy Amotz on flute and Matan Porat on piano play Mozart, Debussy, Messiaen and Ferneyhough. And it’s all FREE.

Una Santa Oscura

A fascinating multi disciplinary and multi sensory collaboration takes place at Project from Thur 4 to Sat 6 March in the shape of Una Santa Oscura, a piece of music-theatre composed by Ian Wilson, directed by Tom Creed and performed by violinist Ioana Petcu-Colan. Inspired by the life of Hildegard von Bingen, the celebrated composer, abbess and mystic who was born in Germany in 1098 and lived to the ripe old age of 81, this evocative combination of sound and visuals echoes the structure of a cloistered day and draws on elements of Hildegard’s biography as well as her graphic and well-documented visions. Described as an opera without singers, Wilson’s music fuses live performance with electronically manipulated recordings, and is based on Hildegard’s Ave Maria, O auctrix vite. while Creed’s staging is inspired by Oliver Sacks’ book Migraine, in which he suggests that her visions and symptoms were from a source other than spiritual. Wilson, Creed and Petcu-Colan take part in a post show discussion on Fri.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Of Note

Note Productions have teamed up with the Goethe Institute for their latest concert featuring veteran jazz saxophonist Heinz Sauer and acclaimed jazz/classical pianist Michael Wollny, the former a hugely influential figure in post-war German jazz and the latter one of the big European jazz discoveries of recent years. Sauer’s expressive sax and Wollny’s virtuoso piano bring colour and subtlety to a repertoire from Gershwin and Monk to Prince and Bjork. Catch this state of the art duo at the NCH’s John Field Room next Wed 3 March.

Crash @ the Beckett

Crash Ensemble are at the Samuel Beckett Theatre TCD on Fri 5 March with the fifth in their series of annual Free State concerts. The focus this time is on new music from upcoming Irish composers, ranging from solo electro-acoustic works to full ensemble pieces. Highlight is a new specially-commissioned piece by Ed Bennett, as well as works by Ann Cleare, who has just been shortlisted for Amsterdam’s prestigious Gaudeamus Prize, previous Gaudeamus shortlisters Enda Bates and David Fennessy, Grainne Mulvey, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, and Scott McLaughlin, whose Marionettes incorporates a specially-imported Moog Piano Bar.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Christ Deliver Us

When the opening images of dark-frocked priests flit across the stage in Tom Kilroy’s new play Christ Deliver Us, your heart sinks – not another tale of clerical doom and gloom. But while there is some of that, there’s a lot more going on. Set in 1950s rural Ireland, the first act is an intricate portrayal of small-town adolescence – school, caning, hurling, courting – a series of short scenes, some harsh but others filled with the eagerness and innocence of youth. It’s only really in the second act that the going gets tough – and then tougher still, as the twin status quo of church and respectability rears its ugly and oppressive head, taking the proverbial sledgehammer to any curious and enquiring young minds. The thirst for knowledge is certainly not going to be slaked in this grim scenario, and straying from the straight and narrow will absolutely not be tolerated.

In a way, Kilroy’s play is showing where we have come from, and how far we may or may not have travelled in the interim, but although he rounds things off with a redemption of sorts (which I personally could have done without), there isn’t any real sense of connection with the present. Nevertheless it’s an engaging piece of theatre, with some wonderfully poetic language. It’s also pretty bleak, although what could have been a decidedly mawkish piece is given a degree of light-heartedness by director Wayne Jordan, who keeps things moving with a sure touch, bringing a playful feel to the many scene-changes and neatly incorporating Colin Dunne’s clever choreography. Terrifically staged on Naomi Wilkinson’s evocative bare-boarded set, with its mean little window high up on the wall, there’s some very fine acting from the large ensemble cast, particularly the leading trio of Aoife Duffin, Aaron Monaghan and Laurence Kinlan.

It must be lust

Lust? Seduction? Revenge? Just what you need on a chilly February night, and where better to experience it than on the stylized stage of the Gate Theatre, where Christopher Hampton’s multi award-winning play Les Liaisons Dangereuses previews from tonight (Thur 25) and opens on Tue 2 March. Games of love and lust in 18th century Paris unravel in the hands of the cunning Merteuil and the wickedly charming Valmont, two high-society rivals who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and destroy. First staged in London back in 1985 with none other than Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson and Lindsay Duncan sharing the honours, Hampton’s play went on to win Olivier and Evening Standard Awards before transferring to Broadway and raking in even more prizes. For this new Gate production Michael Barker-Caven directs a stellar cast headed by Nick Dunning as Valmont, Fiona Bell as Merteuil and Catherine Walker as the unfortunate Tourvel.

It must be love

It’s opera time again, as Opera Ireland take over the Gaiety for their Spring Season. Love is in the air, with two different takes on that all-time classic love story. First up is Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette (opening on Sat 27 Feb), updated to the Victorian era and directed by OTC’s Annilese Miskimmon. American tenor Michael Spyres and French soprano Nathalie Manfrino sing the title roles, bass baritone Marcel Vanaud returns as Count Capulet and the cast also includes Irish singers Imelda Drumm, Victoria Massey and Nyle Wolfe. Bellini’s dazzling I Capuleti e I Montecchi is given two concert performances (4&6 March) with top Australian soprano Jessica Pratt, Irish mezzo Fiona Murphy and Portuguese tenor Bruno Ribeiro. There’s also a weekday concert series of Lunchtime Arias and a family performance (Sat 6) including screenings of cartoon classics such as What's Opera, Doc?, The Rabbit of Seville and Figaro’s Wedding.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Victor & Gord

It’s good to see Fringe shows getting a new lease of life. Una McKevitt’s Victor and Gord, a sell-out at last year’s Fringe, has already undergone a couple of transformations. An exploration of the intricacies of real-life friendships, it started out as a short piece for Project Brand New early last year, expanded for Queer Notions in June, got cubed for the Fringe and now it’s back, reworked, revamped and recharged, with Victor, Gord and Jay revisiting the everyday experiences that cemented their friendship and consider where it all went wrong.

REVIEW: And what a delight this turned out to be. Part reality theatre, part improv, part confessional, Victor (a very butch Vicky Curtis) and Gord (the gorgeous Aine McKevitt) trade memories and stories from their close-knit childhood and teens – big heads, broken limbs, kissing games, payphones and Michael Jackson’s History album – while new friend Jason Breen adds his fiery adventures to the mix. Occasionally dark, always engaging, and at times very very funny. Highly recommended.
@ Project from 15-27 Feb

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beethoven & Bruckner

The RTE NSO have a very tasty concert at the NCH this coming Fri (12 Feb), with a great big dollop of Beethoven and Bruckner. First up is Beethoven’s sublime Violin Concerto, the only one he wrote, performed by dynamic Latvian violinist Baiba Skride. Then Bruckner’s great Symphony No 4, the ‘Romantic’ under the baton of rising young Czech conductor Jakub Hrusa. Other NSO concerts worth catching include Mozart, Brahms and Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs on 5 March; Ravel’s Bolero and Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Nikolai Demidenko on Fri 12; and Brahms and Prokofiev (featuring pianist Boris Berezovsky) on Fri 16 April.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Party

For Anu’s production of The Party, Bewleys upstairs has morphed into a sophisticated drawing room, with elegant furniture, pretty lighting and even a piano. It’s the backdrop for this absorbing, pitch-perfect adaptation of Chekhov’s short story, finely wrought by Caitriona Ni Mhurchu and Sophie Motley and brought to life in Motley’s accomplished production. Moving beyond the confines of the stage, Ni Mhurchu embodies the role of Olya, heavily pregnant, weary and overwhelmed by the heat and noise of her husband’s birthday party as she recalls the events of that momentous day. The shallowness of the guests, her handsome husband flirting with a pretty young girl, her own complicit hypocrisy, the hints of darkness beneath the surface, she portrays it all with an unflinching candour, by turn passionate and languid. And in true Chekhovian style, it ends not with a bang but with a whimper. Til Sat 20 Feb @lunchtime

Off Plan

The excellent RAW productions are back at Project with the world premiere of Off Plan, a new adaptation of Aeschylus' The Oresteia by Simon Doyle. It’s not the first time Doyle has taken on the ancient Greeks, his anarchic Oedpius Loves You was a big hit for PanPan a couple of years back. This time around he uses Aeschylus' powerful text to check the pulse of (post)modern Ireland, making us take stock of where we are and how we got here, exploring themes of power and morality, justice and revenge, and our identity in a globalised world. Off Plan was commissioned by RAW and developed through series of workshops - a bit of a departure for Berlin-based director Rachel West, whose previous work has largely focused on introducing Irish audiences to cutting-edge European playwrights. Anthony Brophy, Maebh Cheasty, Alan Howley, Paul Mallon, Emma McIvor, Gary Murphy and Mary Murray make up a fascinating ensemble. Opens Thur 11 Feb til Sat 27.

Hang on

Also hitting the road are Portico Quartet, taking to the highways and byways courtesy of Music Network. Mercury prize nominees for their debut album Knee Deep In The North Sea back in 2008, this East London foursome create a sound that floats between jazz and contemporary music with a combination of soprano and tenor sax, double bass, drums and hang. Hang on, what’s that? A sort of double wok instrument that’s both percussive and melodic and produces a marimba-like sound with echoes of Steve Reich or Philip Glass, giving a hazy, hypnotic edge to everything they play. Fresh from Australia, you can catch them at Dublin Castle Coach House on Tue 16 before they head out across the country.

It's Hamlet

Second Age are on the road again, bringing Shakespeare to the masses. This time it’s Hamlet, directed by Alan Stanford, and you can catch the eponymous Prince of Denmark doing his thing in an extended run at the Helix from Feb 23. While Stanford wouldn’t be my favourite director by a long shot, he has put together a pretty impressive cast, including Garrett Keogh, Barbara Brennan, Stephen Brennan, Maeve Fitzgerald and John Olohan, with Marty Rea in the title role.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pavilion shows

Southsiders who missed the recent sellout CoisCeim double-bill at Project are in luck – it’s playing for one night only at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire on Sat 6 Feb. As You Are, directed by long-time CoisCéim dancer Muirne Bloomer, portrays a quirky world where individuals are tested to the limit as they struggle for control over themselves and each other. In Faun, CC artistic director David Bolger takes Nijinsky's iconic ballet L’après midi d’un Faune. – which caused a riot when it was first performed – and, mixing Debussy’s famous score with Queen, explores how dance still reconnects us with our feelings and imagination.
The appropriately named UK theatre company Love & Madness are at the Pavilion from Tue 9-Sat 13 with 2 new productions steeped in teenage angst and star-crossed love, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (directed by former Cheek by Jowl-er Owen Horsley) and Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, a piece of gritty northern English realism from 1958. And if you fancy keeping all that crazy romance going, the Cafe Orchestra play a Valentine’s Night Special at the Pav on Sun 14 Feb.

Axis of Ballymun

A couple of interesting free gigs out at Axis in Ballymun. On Thur 4 Feb the Oska Bright Film Festival – the first such festival worldwide to be run by and for people with learning disabilities – sets up shop with screenings between 1 & 4pm of a range of short films including animations, documentaries, a soap-opera and a western, all made by film-makers with learning disabilities. On Tue 9 the American Embassy teams up with Axis to present African American dance theatre company Soul Steps. Telling stories of culture and community, the 5-strong company use their entire bodies as percussive instruments, as they trace the history of ‘stepping’ from South African gold mines and US slave plantations to the present day. Admission for both events is free, booking advisable @

Monday, February 1, 2010

I'm a Celebrity...

There’s no shortage of glitz & glamour, not to mention fab musicianship, at the NCH’s ongoing Celebrity Concert Series. Virtuoso pianist and global superstar Lang Lang takes to the stage tomorrow evening (Tue 2 Feb) playing works by Beethoven, Albeniz and Prokofiev. A hero in his native China and listed as one of Time Magazine's ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’, Lang has even had a Steinway named after him – and he’s only 27. Tue 9 sees the return of NCH favourite, former child prodigy and violinist extraordinaire Sarah Chang, who’s partnered by Andrew von Oeyen in sonatas for violin and piano by Brahms and Cesar Franck and a new piece written specially for her by Christopher Theofanidis. Then in March (Thur 11) it’s the turn of another glam lady, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen (apparently iTunes’ most downloaded classical musician) playing an interesting mix of Brahms, Bartok, Janacek and Beethoven.