Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival

Quite a smorgasbord of theatrical experiences at this year’s Theatre Festival, from the wild intoxication of contemporary circus and flamboyant extravaganza, to the haunting introspection of lost boys and forgotten mothers; from the playful exploration of myths and fairytales to the rigorous interrogation of The Radical Mind or the powerful honesty of the one-woman show. It might be a cliché, but Loughlin Deegan’s final year as DTF director has definitely produced a bit of something for everyone, as personified in the opening show DONKA, a letter to Chekhov (Gaiety), originally commissioned for the opening of the 2010 Chekhov International Theatre Festival. Aerial acrobatics, multi-media illusion and circus magic from leading director (and Cirque du Soleil veteran) Daniele Finzi Pasca, inspired by the plays and diaries of Anton Chekhov, surreal escapism guaranteed!
Rough Magic reunite with Improbable Frequency author Arthur Riordan for a playful re-imagining of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (O’Reilly Theatre), the delusional boy who never grew up. Funny, fast-paced and fantastical, it’s directed by Lynn Parker and features live music from Francesco Turrisi’s Tarab.
Cornwall-based Kneehigh, purveyors of dark yet magical fairy tales for the past 30 years, make their first visit to Dublin with the exhilarating The Wild Bride (Gaiety), an epic and irreverent romance that follows the fortunes of young woman whose witless father accidentally sells her to the devil.
There’s world premieres a-plenty in this year’s festival; DTF and Landmark Productions have joined forces for a new play by celebrated writer Colm Toibin. Testament (Project), directed by Garry Hynes and featuring the outstanding Marie Mullen, gives provocative voice to a woman forced to carry a heavy burden through tumultuous times, asking big questions about the who, what and why of our beliefs.
In another powerful one-woman show, Toneelgroep Amsterdam present Jean Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine (Beckett Theatre) featuring Halina Reijn in a tour de force performance. Directed by the world renowned Ivo van Hove, this seminal story of abandonment and heartbreak centres on a desperate woman’s last phonecall to an ex-lover.
And one man (Omphile Moluis) tells the true story of a forgotten South African township in the award-winning Itsoseng (Axis), as the hope of a new post-apartheid life is crushed by the realities of a corrupt and incompetent system.
The fab Fabulous Beast are back with an ambitious new show that aims to explore the tension and harmony between Irish traditional music and contemporary dance. Rian (Gaiety) brings together choreographer Michael Keegan Dolan, trad fave Liam O Maonlai and a company of musicians and dancers in response to O Maonlai’s album of the same name, itself inspired by the seminal recording O Riada sa Gaiety.
At the Abbey, a new production of the O’Casey classic Juno and the Paycock in a first ever co-production with UK’s National Theatre. Risteard Cooper, Sinead Cusack and Ciran Hinds head an impressive cast in this epic tale of survival and vengeance, in which the ambitions of the lowly Boyle family are set against the political and social events of the War of Independence. The NT’s Howard Davies directs with design by the excellent Bob Crowley.
Chekhov turns up again in 16 Possible Glimpses (Peacock), a new play by Marina Carr examining the life and death of the elusive genius. Visuals, words and music collide in a series of dialogues and domestic scenes around the master storyteller, playwright, doctor, lover, brother, son. Wayne Jordan directs.
Artistic extravagance from Belgium’s Les ballets C de la B (2006’s vsprs) in Gardenia (Gaiety) a flamboyant and defiant expression of the indomitable human spirit featuring seven ageing transvestites and transsexuals. A collaboration between celebrated musical director Frank Van Laecke and leading choreographer Alain Platel.
At the Gate, Hugo Hamilton’s brilliant memoir The Speckled People is adapted by the author and directed by Patrick Mason. Hamilton’s story of his constrained childhood in 1950’s Dublin, the product of a fanatical Gaelgoiri father and a gentle German mother is both deeply personal and powerfully resonant.
Brokentalkers follow up 2009’s Silver Stars with The Blue Boy, dealing with the experiences of men and women who spent their childhood incarcerated in Catholic institutions. Live performance, recorded interview, multi-media and film, written by Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan, with choreography by DV8’s Eddie Kay and music by Sean Millar.
Siren Productions take over the James Joyce House for The Lulu House, an immersive and intoxicating exploration of the elusive, seductive Lulu, inspired by the silent movie Pandora’s Box and the 19th century Lulu plays, a mix of performance, musical, installation and film featuring Lorcan Cranitch and Camille O’Sullivan.
Cabaret macabre gets another wicked twist from UK company 1927 in a show that mixes elements of Fritz Lang, Charles Dickens and Tim Burton. Synchronising live music and performance with film and animation The Animals and Children Took to the Street (Project) explores the seedy underbelly of the Bayou, as Agnes Eaves and her daughter arrive late one night amid the cockroaches, crime and corruption.
The Radical Mind celebrates the Goethe-Institut’s 50th anniversary in Ireland with a season focusing on leading experimenters and innovators, presenting 3 independent contemporary works from Germany. She She Pop & Their Fathers (Beckett Theatre) draws on King Lear to show the painful realities of aging and parenthood, as the performers expose their personal grievances alongside their real-life fathers. In their ongoing exploration of the complexities and absurdities of contemporary culture, Gob Squad use tea, cake and electric guitars to reach out to the masses and incite them to rise up in Revolution Now! (Beckett) The clichés surrounding Othello and Desdemona gradually give way to a tough confrontation between two contrasting cultures fuelled by extreme emotions, prejudices and misunderstandings in the two-hander Othello c’est qui (Smock Alley)
Behind Closed Doors is a series of intimate theatre experiences exploring often forgotten facets of Irish society. Louise Lowe’s Laundry takes a tiny audience to a former Magdalen Laundry in the north inner city. In Mark O’Halloran’s Trade a vulnerable young rent boy sits with a middle-aged client in a rundown B&B. Corcoadorca’s Request Programme featuring the brilliant Eileen Walshe in a wordless performance, brings us into the private world of a woman whose ultimate decision will change everything.
Reviewed gives you a chance to catch the ones that got away: The Performance Corporation’s carnivalesque satire Slattery’s Sago Saga; Louise Lowe’s World’s End Lane, an exploration of the notorious Monto district; the personal love story of Amy Conroy’s I heart Alice heart I; Theatreclub’s Heroin, an unsettling look at those that society left behind; and Gavin Kostick’s Fight Night, charting the gripping comeback of failed amateur boxer Dan Coyle.
And not forgetting the Family Season, with shows from Denmark and Belgium; In Development (free but booking essential); Project Brand New at the Hendron Building; Panel Discussions and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If Music Be

Some fab music coming up over the next few days, kicking off at the NCH this evening (Wed 21) with the fascinating and highly dramatic pianist Rolf Hind, a brilliant exponent of contemporary music. The opening concert in the NewSoundWorld series, the two-piano programme mixes John Cage with eastern influences including Takemitsu and Tan Dun.
Lots of stuff on Culture Night (Fri 23). At the NCH you can hear RTE Cor a nOg at 7pm, prior to the main NSO concert, and for a mere fiver, the RTE Vanbrugh Quartet at 10.15pm playing Mozart, Arvo Part and Donnacha Dennehy. The Contemporary Music Centre opens its doors til 10pm for a live Music and Installation Programme with the Spatial Music Collective, including Jonathan Nangle’s Trip the Light Fantastic, Brtian Bridges’ Collapsing Old Buildings, and works for harp and electronics by Linda Buckley and Enda Bates.
The CMC’s new music::new Ireland salon series begins on Wed 28 at the NCH’s Kevin Barry Room with singer Tine Verbeke and cellist Martin Johnson (of Concorde) in a programme that includes James Wilson and Elaine Agnew.
Sundays at Noon at the Hugh Lane features upcoming young classical guitarist Pavlos Kanellakis on Sun 25 playing de Falla, Villa Lobos, Buckley and de Bromhead. On Sun 2 Oct the National Chamber Choir sing Bach, Brahms, Arnold Bax, Siobhan Cleary and Tarik O’Regan.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Absolut Fringe

And so to the Fringe. What delights await us in Week Two?
Man of Valour has been packing them in at the Beckett, a one-man action movie created by The Corn Exchange's Michael West & Annie Ryan and Paul Reid (of Raw fame), the latter delivering a virtuosic performance as an office drone with a hyperactive fantasy gland. From Oz comes another one-man-er, the multi award-winning The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer a feel-good epic bout enduring love and the end of the world that mixes animation, mime, puppetry, projections and live music. (Project)
Dance at Project includes A Lost Opera, a new dance work from celebrated choreographer Deborah Hay directed by Jason Byrne and featuring Ella Clarke, Cindy Cummings and Julie Lockett. Make, I Mean brings together John Scott's IMDT and New York's Adrienne Truscott for a multi-generational -cultural and -discipline piece.
Abie Philbin Bowman brings his edgy satire to the Lir with a piece celebrating the man of the moment, Pope Benedict: Bond Villain. David O'Doherty turns bankrupt explorer in Rory Sheridan's Tales of the Antarctica - sold out at the time of writing but definitely worth queueing for returns. (Smock Alley) For a pocket musical peek at Dublin city 2011, check out Pocket Music at Bewleys, part of Fishamble's Show in a Bag.
In Gis a Shot of your Bongos Mister drummer Brian Fleming creates an aural biographical journey from Fatima Mansions to the shanty towns of West Africa. What Are Poets For? (in a destitute time) sees performance artist Denis Buckley draw parallels between the disenfranchised London Irish and the demoralised new Hibernia. (both at City Arts)
A timeless location on Eustace St heaps on the atmosphere in Hand Me Down the Moon, an immersive theatrical experience created by the formidable trio of Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, Aideen Barry and Louise Lowe, as a young space-obsessed girl embarks on her quest to defy gravity and journey to the stars.
PS a couple of cool freebies: there's a bit of a darnathon at the Fringe box office (Filmbase) over the next few days with Furturemenders' The Sock Exchange. Learn how to darn with love. And prepare to be uplifted at Christ Church Cathedral on Sat 24 @5pm by the swirling choral/choreographical spirituality of Tom Lane's experimental evensong Corokinesis.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Finally! Back on dry land and what a cool month September turns out to be. You can scarcely move without colliding with a bit of culture. First there’s the fab Fringe Festival aka Absolut Fringe, hurtling towards its second week with some tantalising goodies in store and a new festival club on uber-hip Parnell Square East. Long live the northside! And even better is the news that Macnas’s opening night show at Collins Barracks, cancelled because of adverse weather conditions, has been rescheduled for the Fringe’s closing night on Sun 25. Yippee!!! Get your tickets at the Fringe box office on Curved St. Dublin Contemporary is out and about with over 90 Irish and international artists on show at Earlsfort Terrace and various galleries. At 15 quid a ticket it might seem a bit pricey but there’s a lot of stuff to see, and for the final hour you can get an Art Bite for a fiver. And if you’re lucky you might get to take part in a special Roadworks walking tour as part of Culture Night on Fri 23. Musicwise, there’s interesting concerts from NewSoundWorlds on Wed 21 and Sundays@Noon on Sun 25, the RTE NSO are back in situ at the NCH, with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Ander Hillborg’s sinuous Clarinet Concerto on Fri 23. And then to cap it all, the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival kicks off on Thur 29 for a two week splurge. Happy hunting, culture vultures!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Brad Mehldau

Well whadya know – you go away for a couple of weeks and before you know it it’s September and those grey clouds you were fleeing suddenly turn out to have some very inviting silver linings. Shows from Note Productions includes the amazing jazz pianist Brad Mehldau in a solo show at the NCH on Wed 14, one man and a piano conjuring up a density and richness of sound that morphs from original compositions to his very idiosyncratic take on genre-bending tunes, from My Favourite Things to Kurt Cobain’s Lithium on his latest live album. Not to be missed. Note are also presenting Iarla O Lionaird at the Sugar Club on Fri 16 as part of launch tour for his latest album Foxlight.