Dublin Fringe opens with Ulysses Opera Company's HARP | A River Cantata - an outdoor performance about the Harp of Dagda.
Painted up in new stripes, Dublin Fringe Festival (running Sept 5-20) went into their programme launch this week with an image and line-up of events that felt refreshingly new. Ahead of his first festival as director, Kris Nelson - formerly a Montreal-based producer - secured the organisation with a new sponsor in Tiger Beer, instilling his confidence in the role. In terms of vision, you'd wonder if he'd continue in the same strain as previous director Roise Goan, who in the years of economic collapse shaped the festival into an important site of theatrical activism. With an emphasis on exploring the city, turning it into a backdrop for Irish and Canadian histories and revisiting ancient mythologies in hopes of claiming something new, it seems that Nelson's adventurous spirit as a recent-arrival in Dublin is set to be infectious.
Opening the festival is Ulysses Opera Theatre's HARP | A River Cantata. Inspired by the frequencies of the bridge's supports, composer Tom Lane and director Conor Hanratty transform the Samuel Beckett Bridge into Ireland's largest musical instrument. This outdoor performance brings together musicians, dancers and singers in a reimagining of the Harp of Dagda - the Irish mythic instrument that sent a war song out to the Tuatha Dé Danann when they fought the Fomorians. Also summoning old landscapes is the Canadian vocalist and Björk collaborator Tanya Tagaq, whose live-score to a documentary about an early 20th century Inuit community in Northern Canada is to bring the Arctic to Meeting House Square.
The Company's place in a world of collapsing structures has never stopped them from trying to reassemble those structures into something new. With The Rest is Action they reinvent the cornerstone of Greek tragedy: the Oresteia.
By placing classics side-by-side with the present, are we to learn anything new? A sense of societal alienation appeared to orgranise The Company in their last production, Politik, but their place in a world of collapsing structures has never stopped them from trying to reassemble those structures into something new. With The Rest is Action they revisit the foundational moment of tragedy, the Greek trilogy the Oresteia, to investigate how we've all become tragic subjects of our own making. Meanwhile, Toronto's Evan Webber and Frank Cox-O'Connell present two theatre-and-war plays Ajax and Little Iliad, which parallels Sophocles' Trojan War tragedies with contemporary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to examine the reasons people go to war and the cost of coming back.
Painted Bird Productions share the untold story of a woman who died in Cork City in 1939 from an illegal abortion in Between Trees and Water.
Accelerating and changing notions of Irishness are also in focus. On George's Dock, Montreal photographer and performance artist 2Fik performs 80+ characters from the famous Daniel Maclise painting The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife to create a contemporary version, developing changed Irish notions of religion, gender and history. Painted Bird Productions share the untold story of a woman who died in Cork City in 1939 from an illegal abortion in Between Trees and Water, with music composed by Tom Lane and design by Deirdre Dwyer. Easily the most relevant interpreters of Samuel Beckett's work, director Sarah Jane Scaife and clown-trained actor Raymond Keane adapt the writer's collection of short stories Fizzles in the old tenement building at 14 Henrietta Street. Poised performer Caitríona Ní Mhurchú and visual artist Adam Gibney explore the loneliness and dislocation of being an Irish speaker in an urban environment in Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs. Unsung actor Oddie Braddell traces his lineage back to a bloody officer in the Cromwellian army, questioning his own place in Irish history in Bastard: A Family History.
Poised performer Caitríona Ní Mhurhú and visual artist Adam Gibney explore the loneliness and dislocation of being an Irish speaker in an urban environment in Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs.
Advocates for new playwriting will herald Ross Dungan's follow-up to the New York Drama Desk-nominated The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle. In Reckoners a prodigal son returns to his outlaw town only to be hunted by a bloodthirsty relative of one of his victims. Also, Rough Magic produce Sonya Kelly's new memoir, How to Keep an Alien, which details the writer's saga of securing an Irish visa for her Australian partner. While I wouldn't have wished Philip Doherty, playwright of the discriminating Circus of Perseverance, with the sensitive subject matter of 9/11 here's hoping that gifted actor Rex Ryan and intelligible director Aoife Spillane-Hinks can help assure PILGRIM some state of political-correctness.
In Ross Dungan's new play Reckoners, a prodigal son returns to his outlaw town only to be hunted by a bloodthirsty relative of one of his victims.
Performed on a rooftop, Songs from a Car Park blends dance, music and a local marching band in an immersive show about human need and escape.
Lastly, trust the Dublin Fringe to send you to new and unusual locations. Junk Ensemble choreographer Jessica Kennedy and filmmaker John McIlduff present a drive-in dance piece on the rooftops of the Square Town Centre in Tallaght and the Drury Street car park. Songs from a Car Park blends dance, music and a local marching band in an immersive show about human need and escape. Stefan Fae's Cabaret Mattachine, a cabaret about queer community, will be staged in the clandestine surroundings of an opticians on Kildare Street. D-Light Studios is a regular venue for the festival but choreographer Ruairí Donovan will be making use of it from 1.00-6.00am with ZOMBIES; why death is dying or are you working hard enough, which promises drag and dancing with chainsaws. Finally, Tom Walsh's House of Comedians is a live-action sitcom that takes place in Walsh's own house.
So, what will you be seeing in Dublin Fringe Festival?