Friday, September 24, 2010

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival

The city is positively awash with culture at the moment, and there’s even more on the way when the 2010 Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival kicks off next Thursday 30 Sept. First the numbers: 363 performances, 31 productions from 10 countries over 18 days, and once again it's one of the rare good news bank stories - kudos to UB for staying the course. With the tag line 'Dublin Loves Drama', the big international focus this year is on contemporary Polish Theatre and Culture, POLSKI TEATR, with three fascinating high profile shows that should be very different: the legendary Krystian Lupa’s epic 7½ hour (yes, that’s 450 minutes, tho with a couple of intervals) production FACTORY 2 which revolves around the glamour of the notorious Andy Warhol Factory, blending Warhol’s own video work with improvisation and performance (9-10 Oct). Two of Lupa’s disciples are also in town; Grzegorz Jarzyna, whose thrilling Festen played at the Abbey in 2004, delves into Pasolini’s cult movie Teorema in his hypnotic and near wordless tale of seduction and destruction T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T. (1-4 Oct). Meanwhile Jan Klata, the enfant terrible of Polish Theatre, directs the anarchic THE DANTON CASE, an electrifying adaptation of a renowned Polish play set in the French Revolution, that’s picked up an impressive 25 awards worldwide (13-16 Oct). Playing a supporting role, Lost In Translation will investigate contemporary Polish culture and its relationship with Ireland in a programme featuring music, literature, film and multi-media events, including a concert to live animation by a band playing toy pianos and other very small instruments. Definitely the kind of stuff that makes a festival special.

Other international work includes CIRCA from Australia, a new creation from Galway Arts Festival favourites in their signature style that integrates formidable acrobatic circus skills and contemporary dance with state of the art sound, light and projection (30Sept -3Oct). Coming direct from an extended West End run is the hugely acclaimed Olivier Award-winning ENRON, an exuberant production using music, movement and video in a narrative of greed and loss from the tumultuous 1990s; come and see where it all went wrong (12-16 Oct). THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF HUGH HUGHES is a trio of shows from the eponymous emerging Welsh artist, a celebration of the imagination trailing rave reviews and hailed as hilarious and heartfelt (12-17 Oct). Doing something similar, and described as charming and funny, L’EFFET DE SERGE from France explores the wonder of the ordinary in a series of low-tech micro dramas (13-17 Oct). And in case it’s all getting too sweet, DICIEMBRE from Chile’s Teatro en el Blanco is a politically charged, blackly comic, razor sharp family drama about a near-future war in Chile (6-10 Oct).

There’s plenty of new Irish productions from all the leading companies. At the Gate there’s a major season of Beckett, Pinter and Mamet: Beckett’s ENDGAME features Owen Roe and David Bradley, with Barry McGovern in the world premiere staging of WATT; Wayne Jordan directs Pinter’s CELEBRATION, a post-theatrical night out, laced with dark humour and wicked satire; and Mamet’s classic comedy of manners BOSTON MARRIAGE is directed by Aoife Spillane-Hinks. (30 Sept- 17 Oct) Ibsen’s JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN is at the Abbey in a new version by Frank McGuinness. The great man falls from grace in this devastating and darkly comic play with a star-studded cast including Alan Rickman, Lindsay Duncan and Fiona Shaw (previews from 6 Oct, opens 13) Mikel Murfi directs B IS FOR BABY at the Peacock, Carmel Winter’s tender and sharp-witted take on life at a care home and the joy of make-believe (opens 30 Sept). Druid have Sean O’Casey’s THE SILVER TASSIE, directed by Garry Hynes and featuring an ensemble of 19 actors (5-10 Oct). THE REHEARSAL, PLAYING THE DANCE is Pan Pan’s idiosyncratic take on Hamlet, with actors competing to take the title role – shades of Denmark’s Got Talent? (5-10 Oct). Rough Magic’s new version of PHAEDRA responds to both Racine’s play and Rameau’s opera in a dynamic collaboration between writer Hilary Fannin and musician Ellen Cranitch. (3-10 Oct).

In another thematic strand, What Are You Looking At looks at the changing role of the audience in contemporary theatre. Belgium's Ontroerend Goed follow last year’s hit For Once and for all we’re going to tell you who we are so shut up and listen) with three immersive theatrical creations (probably not for the faint-hearted): THE SMILE OFF YOUR FACE, a one-on one blind-folded, wheelchair-bound experience of scents and sounds; INTERNAL, aiming to build a meaningful relationship with a stranger in 25 minutes; and A GAME OF YOU, where seven strangers get to know you better than you know yourself (30 Sept -17 Oct). Tim Crouch is back with THE AUTHOR, performed within the audience, telling the story of another shocking and abusive play (12-17 Oct); and upcoming Irish theatre-maker Una McKevitt’s new show 565+ follows one woman’s survival through the healing powers of theatre (30 Sept -3 Oct).

The Festival spreads its wings a bit, heading to Axis in Ballymun for Nilaja Sun’s Obie-winning NO CHILD…, an insightful and often hilarious look at New York’s public education system (13-16 Oct). And THE GIRL WHO FORGOT TO SING BADLY, featuring the wonderful Louis Lovett, visits the Civic, The Ark and Draiocht (5-15 Oct) as part of the ReViewed strand. There’s also a chance to ReView UNA SANTA OSCURA, a collaboration between composer Ian Wilson and director Tom Creed (8-10 Oct) and Beckett’s ACT WITHOUT WORDS II, a street-specific performance from Company SJ (6-9 Oct). The Ark’s FAMILY SEASON has shows from Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, and among the special events is Project Brand New’s THE MAGIC IF, one day of delving into the dreams of an array of theatre makers (Oct 16).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Culture Night

There's nothing like a bit of culture, especially when it's free, and there'll be culture to beat the band next Friday, 24 Sept. The city has been conveniently divided up into different Quarters (very European), with late night openings (many til 11pm), special events and loads of fun. There's even free buses to take you there and back. Watch this space for the best bits: visit the Guinness Storehouse or the Jameson Distillery for a complimentary pint or whiskey; take part in the annual Culture Night Treasurehunt around the Francis Street galleries or lose yourself in Gospel Music at Wood Quay. Dublin Civic Trust are displaying The Irish House, a Victorian pub salvaged from Wood Quay, and you can catch Dara O'Brien playing the sitar at the Chester Beatty Library. There's musical/literary/arty fun at the Gutter Bookshop, Oxfam Books and Project, live performance and interactive installations at the Contemporary Music Centre, and sean nos singing and dancing at Gaelchultur. Filmbase is showing Irish short movies, there's a rake of pipers at Na Piobairi Uilleann, leading sculptor Michael Warren is at Hillsboro Fine Art and there's a barbeque outside the Hugh Lane. Burundi Drumming and an outdoor movie at Meeting House Square, dance classes at Dance House, poetry, prose and performance at the Pearse Centre, Scrabble in Spanish at Instituto Cervantes and Poetry Ireland's Open Mike session at the Unitarian Church. Mapping Urban Ireland is at the Royal Irish Academy, Nuala Hayes tells stories from the Tain at the National Museum, and well-known poet Tahar Bekri reads his work to music at the Alliance Francaise.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Looks Interesting

Here’s a few Fringe shows that could be well worth checking out:
The Truth of the Moon brings together writer Simon Doyle, comedian Sonya Kelly and director Sophie Motley for an illustrated lecture by fabled monologist Felicia Umbral, which might not be all that is seems. (New Theatre Tue 14-Sat 18) Kazuko Hohki’s multimedia performance piece My Husband is a Spaceman, derived from an old Japanese folktale, takes an intriguing look at cross cultural relationships. (Project Wed 15) From Toronto comes Little Illiad a live and virtual show on the theme of Homer’s lost poem, the tale of the end of the Trojan War as explored by Thom, a soldier on his way to Afghanistan. (Smock Alley Mon 20-Sat 25) Return features storyteller Polarbear, one of the UK’s leading spoken-word artists, in the universal tale of a man attempting to find out where he belongs. (Bewleys Mon 20-Fri 24)

This sounds like a sweet lunchtime show. Two highly regarded choreographers, Muirne Bloomer and Emma O’Kane get together for The Ballet Ruse, a witty dance piece about the pitfalls and pressures of ballet dancing, the battle for perfection in that sugar-coated world and the struggle from barre to bar. Design is by the always adventurous Monica Frawley. (Project til Sat 18) More dance when Fidget Feet get airborne in Hang On, a fusion of dance and gravity defying aerial circus skills. (Project Fri 17-Sun 19) And Dance in Progress at DanceHouse features A Study in Absence/A Study in Presence, a refreshing look at our perception of dance and juggling. (Tue 21-Fri 24)

There’s some edgy sonic exploration in Four on the Fringe of Folk, an Irish/Swedish collaboration featuring Caoimhin O Raghallaigh on various fiddles, Seán Óg on sax, Petter Berndalen on snare drum and some fancy footwork from Nic Gareiss. (Fringe Factory Sat 18) There’s more weird and wonderful sounds in the Icelandic Weekend (Thur 23-Sat 25), with indie electro from FM Belfast, charismatic solo songstress Olof Arnalds and the lush, ethereal soundscapes of Amiina. A Feast for St Michael and all Angels offers an experimental Evensong service at Christ Church Cathedral with the Cathedral choir. (5pm Sat 25, adm free)

Comedywise, Colm O’Grady gets seriously funny about potatoes when he takes on the famine in his satirical tragicomedy Delicious O’Grady. (Smock Alley Mon 20-Sat 25) And Jono Katz gets emotional about prickly plants in Cactus: The Seduction as he wanders hallucinating through the desert in search of true love. (New Theatre til Sat 18) Charity shopping gets personal in Help Me! Help Me! inviting you to rummage through Priscilla Robinson’s latest purchases at 3/4 Smock Alley Court (Thur 23-Sun 26) and on the same dates Dame Lane evolves into a transient community space in Laneway. And last but not least, Whiplash go to bed very late (3am, Sun 26) in Red Line Dead Line, a story of Love, Debt and the Loving Dead. The Complex, Smithfield.

Fringe Reviews

The Pajama Men: Last Stand to Reason
Absolut Fringe Factory
The Pajama Men, not surprisingly, wear pyjamas. This doesn’t really have any bearing on the show, except perhaps to suggest that they’re caught up in some kind of mad nightmare – but they’re very discreet pyjamas, and this is the North Inner City, so nobody bats an eyelid. We’re in a new Fringe venue and on opening night it’s packed – literally: chairs are so jammed together that you can’t avoid getting up close and pretty personal with complete strangers. And it’s hot… let the nightmare begin.
The Pajama Men are a likeable duo, the one a put-upon poodley type, the other a dead ringer for Fr Dougal, with an incredibly mobile face. They power their way through a show that combines manic stream of consciousness with hectic physical comedy – some very funny, and some a tad laboured – switching multiple characters at the drop of a hat, the pitch of a voice or the pull of a grin. It’s a trainride to hell, and some of it is quite bizarre – an extended riff on horse porn, for example – but there are also some real gems: the one-sided fisticuffs spring to mind, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase beating yourself up. (until Sat 25)

What the Folk!
There’s a little bit of Kerry in Temple Bar, where 4 lively members of Siamsa Tire, the National Folk Theatre, have taken up residence – literally – in 25 Eustace Street, a beautifully restored early Georgian house owned by the Landmark Trust. They welcome us into their temporary home, offer us tea and cake and we all sit down for a chat. We prefer singing and dancing to talking, they say, as they bust into razor sharp harmonies, indulge in a joyous knees-up and give us a very funny and informative demonstration of the difference between folk and competitive dancing, all the while sharing stories about the pleasures and pains of belonging to the extended Siamsa family. Absolutely charming. (until Sun 26)

Samuel Beckett Theatre
This is really gripping stuff, a Medea for our times in a powerful and lucid translation by Scottish poet Robin Robertson. Eileen Walsh is mesmerising as Medea, raw, wretched, consumed with shock and rage at her husband’s betrayal, as those around her tiptoe in the shadows, hoping to calm things down and dreading what might happen, moving at times like dancers as they weave in and out of focus. With a terrific cast, director Selina Cartmell works her magic to make all the extraneous elements gel in this absolutely compelling production, from Paul O’Mahony’s two-tier set with its little rooms laid out like a story book, to the sharp-edged lighting, subtle choreography and occasional moments of freeze-frame, while the natural ease of those two little brothers (Levi and Isaac O’Sullivan) compounds the intensity of the drama that surrounds them. And boy is this intense – so much so that you almost feel the final confrontation between Medea and Jason might have been better left unsaid. But all in all a vivid and thrilling show. (until Sat 25)

Delicious O'Grady
Smock Alley
This got a stinking review in the Irish Times, which probably says more about the reviewer than the show. Having got a taster of this one-man famine skit as part of Project Brand New, I was happy to go back for more. Granted, there are flaws, some of the material is pretty weak, especially at the start, and some of the characterisations are a bit thin, but stick with it and you’ll be treated to some very funny stuff, as well as clever use of video projections, not to mention O’Grady’s impressive acrobatic skills. Colm O’Grady’s humour mightn’t be to everyone’s taste, but 1 star? And The Pajama Men got 5????? (until Sat 25)