Thursday, February 28, 2013

CoisCéim, 'Pageant': Waving the Flag

Photo: Ros Kavanagh
Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Feb 23-Mar 2 

I would have liked the time to do an in-depth review of Pageant - the new show by CoisCéim Dance Theatre - as I did with last year's Touch Me.

What's noticeable (after getting over the absence of Nick McGough *sigh*) is that choreographers David Bolger and Muirne Bloomer place themselves at the centre of things, and as sweeping as they are, I do wish that we got more of Robert Jackson and Jonathan Mitchell, though thankfully we get a very sassy routine from the divine Emma O'Kane. 

It is a struggle with Pageant at times to get meaning out of the action (the individual segments at the desk, in particular, were a head-scratcher), and at other times it frustrated as meanings weren't pushed to a dramatic payoff. Also, the acoustic music was too soft and seemed to slow everything way down.

However, the pros outweigh the cons: the performers are stunning (Bolger himself is particularly witted), and Sinéad McKenna's lighting is glorious. The spectacle promised by the title arrives for a fantastic finale as the company set out in force to achieve their goal: to capture that celebrated sense of being a wonder, blissfully watched, and recipient of applause and ovation. Appropriately, that also describes their curtain call. 

What did everybody else think?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing': There Was a Star Danced

After having just described my on-again-off-again relationship with Shakespeare, I find myself discussing the Bard again, this time in Joss Whedon's film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, which just screened at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. My review coming up just as soon as I was born under a rhyming planet ...

New York Theatre Workshop, 'Once': On Grafton Street in November

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
Feb 22-Mar 9

I don't have time to do a full review of the stage adaptation of Glen Hansard's adored film, Once. Fans of the original will probably like it, and hearing the music live is special. But did anyone else find it, em, kinda weird at points?

The decision to bill the story as a "musical" is a challenging one considering the low-key acoustic balladry that comes with it, and director John Tiffany turns to some odd choreography during numbers to fulfill that promise. The appeal of Once in the first place was its love for music and the making of music, and I wish that he would have left us to the musicians and their playing rather than trying to include that interpret-yourself movement.

Enda Walsh's book finds moments of comedy but there are some shockingly corny lines. I think the movie was received so well internationally because of its candid portrayal of Irish culture but, my God, lines in the stage play such as "We can't have a city without music. Dublin needs you" lean dangerously close to a Bord Failte advertisement. Dire.

Still, the rapturous ovation at the end clearly signals that this story resonates strongly with people in Dublin. It's a story that they're proud to claim their own, and the musical hits those same notes as the original.

What did everybody else think?  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stephen McDermott, Conor Madden and Rob McDermott discuss new play about Christopher Marlowe's demise, 'The Secret Art of Murder'

"Hell hath no limits", writes Christopher Marlowe, "for where we are is hell/And where hell is there must we ever be".

Lines like this must have shot up hairs on the back of necks of audiences for whom, living in the Elizabethan era, God and the teachings of the bible were instilled as definitive truths. His antagonist Mephistopheles goes on to describe God as a "wretched" finding comfort in "companions in misery" (and in latin, to boot).

Marlowe's untimely death - reportedly, a stabbing through the eye in a tavern brawl - came only ten days after an arrest warrant issued by the Privy Council, assumingly on grounds of heresy. Speculation over his murder grew with the revelation of a letter by the Council sent to his university insisting that he receive his Masters degree for he was "working on matters touching the benefit of his country". Was Christopher Marlowe a spy?

This world of Elizabethan espionage has attracted playwright Stephen McDermott, whose new play, The Secret Art of Murder, is not a recreation of the dramatist's death but of the investigation into his death that has haunted the literary consciousness for centuries.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Abbey Theatre, 'King Lear': The Weight of this Sad Time

Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Feb 12-Mar 23

My review of King Lear coming up just as soon as I'm not so young to love a woman for singing ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Call Back Theatre, 'Fred & Alice': Love in the Time of OCD

Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Dublin
Feb 6-23

I don't have time to do a full-length review of Fred & Alice, which I enjoyed.

In John Sheehy's new play two individuals diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder find each other in an institutionalised home and negotiate their way towards independent living and finding a home of their own.

Sheehy has written a playful script, almost with musical notation. I don't feel that the darker moments, such as Alice's account of her part in the demise of her kitten, quite balance with the lighter tone of the rest of the play - which is effectively managed. The purple prose in these moments just feels out of place. But the performances are engaging, especially the sprightly Cora Fenton.

What also strikes me is how the subject of mental illness in theatre, as also seen in Pat Kinevane's Silent and Dylan Tighe's Record, continues to be presented alongside with artistry - you have Valintino and the range of influences in Silent and Tighe's own music in Record - as if these creative outlets of communication are a means for frustrated characters to articulate and express themselves. On the other hand, psychological disorders may be exploited and used primarily as plot devices - as was some of the criticisms made of Carmel Winter's 2010 play B for Baby.

Was this the case with Fred & Alice? What did everyone else think?