Oedipus The King

July 20, 2010

There is a new evil lurking across the Irish stage. That of the pensive pause. As each sacred sentence spills from the mouths of am dram babes it is left to hang for a moment as if we the audience are unable to decipher the meaning for ourselves. As if the importance would go WOOSH, right over our heads should they not alert us to its significance with an everlasting lull in proceedings. Rather than reacting genuinely to what’s being said they irrigate the stage with a stifling silence which they must think feeds a thoroughly emotive performance but instead seems to be a cushion for their lack of craft, which has an adverse affect on the timbre and pace of the piece.

This pause was present in The Highest House on the Mountain, it was in The Quare Fellow and by god is it present in Oedipus the King, the latest production from Andy Hinds’ Classic Stage Ireland. Players big and small mill around the stage speaking, as is the CSI way, with crystal clarity. The movement is tight but the actors seem to have no clue as to why they are doing what they are doing, other than to follow their director’s orders, whilst little or no effort is made to distinguish one character from the next.

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The Parting Glass

July 19, 2010

I’m not a man for tears. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve cried since I was 13. I’m not saying this to make myself sound like a Charlie Big Potato rather to illustrate the effect Dermot Bolger’s beautiful new play had on me. An elegy to the Irish male, The Parting Glass is the sequel to Bolger’s 1990 drama In High Germany which  reflected national identity through the eyes of an emigrant.

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The Quare Fellow

July 19, 2010

The Quare Fellow isn’t the only thing left hanging in Ronan Wilmot’s arid production of Brendan Behan’s classic play, which runs for the next five weeks at the New Theatre in Temple Bar. Timing, tension and all traces of the original’s tenacity are strung up in this overly long, lumbering show that smothers the text with affected mannerisms, bizarre accents and painful pauses.  Where each line is delivered so painstakingly slowly that I half expected Fiona O’Shaughnasey to appear, dancing the dance of the seven veils and demanding the head of Jochanaan.

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When reviewing Joan Littlewoods’s production of the show in Stratford East the famed theatre critic Kenneth Tynan said “It seems to be Ireland’s function every twenty years or so, to provide a playwright who will kick English Drama from the past into the present. Brendan Behan may well fill the place vacated by Sean O’Casey.” Yet it seems twenty or thirty years after these shows are first performed the people mounting them loose sight of their initial vitality and focus on the jokes rather than the circumstance. Director Ronan Wilmot talks about this and the other pitfalls he faced when he spoke to Caomhan Keane about his staging of Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow at the New Theatre from the 12th of July to the 7th of August.

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One day the play write Deirdre Kinahan was out walking in a bog near her home in County Meath when she came across a bunch of flowers. The flowers were totally incongruous to the flowers one would normally see in a bog-deep browns and greys- so she had a look-see to see what they were about. “And beside these flowers was a photograph” she tells me. “An old 70s Polaroid, of a young man with the fluff of a moustache and a nautical jacket.” It started her thinking about who he was and what the photograph was doing there.  “I connected it to the story of the disappeared, a group of people who went missing from Belfast and Northern Ireland in the early 1970s. Civilians who were lifted because they were suspected of being in someway involved in informing on the IRA.”

In 2001 there was an amnesty and the IRA were asked to give up the location of a number of bodies buried around Ireland. It became apparent that there had indeed been a young man buried in this bog. So Deirdre started to write a play that was about a group of people and their relationship to it.

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Paul Kennedy is an emerging Irish playwright who fills me with hope and while I can’t say that his new piece, Be My Love In The Rain (which ran all last week at the Powerscourt Shopping Centre) had me running to stop the presses it contained some nice, structured writing, which avoided pretentious gimmicks and flippancy.

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Dylan Tighes’s latest project, co- written with Catherine Joyce, is The House of Bernada Alba updated and relocated to a present day Irish halting site. Renamed The Trailer of Bridget Dinnigan it was produced in association with the Blancherstown Traveler’s Development Group and featured a cast of twenty inexperienced traveler women who retain their own first names in a production that’s only liberty is to turn the feuding sisters into cousins.

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Bogboy Review

July 11, 2010

Bog Boy is the follow up production by Tall Tales Theatre Company to last years Moment, not to be missed on its upcoming national tour. Written by its artistic director Deirdre Kinahan it is effectively about the disappeared, a group of people who went missing from Belfast and Northern Ireland in the early 1970s who were suspected of informing on the IRA. But it also looks at the people who have disappeared through the cracks in our society; Brigit, a junkie on rehabilitation, desperate to get back on the straight and narrow to regain custody of her little girl and Hughie, a confirmed, quirky bachelor whose dark past has frozen him in time. They cling to and collide with one another, desperate to keep their pasts submerged, yet your sins are only as bad as your secrets and they all come spilling out when the Gardai go digging in the bog near Hughie’s home.

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Old Oxygen.ie reviews

July 3, 2010

Beyonce

B-DAY

After kick starting her solo career with a swift one two, (Work it out, Crazy in love) Beyonce’s solo career quickly became a dank squib as she rested on her non existent laurels and buried us in soulless ballads and tired samples. Focusing on establishing herself as a hip-hop star, rather than artist, Beyonce launched everything from perfumes to a clothing range, tirelessly staking her undeserved claim on Diana Ross’s throne. As a result her debut album, Dangerously in Love, sounded contrived as she whored her connections to achieve the closure with her teenybopper past her abilities could not attain for her.

B-day, her sophomore album, is marginally better. Although it ages with each listen it does have a higher hit than miss record and two of them rank up there with the best work of her career.

“Suga Mama”, with its honky tonk bass line and tootin horns is a wonderful ode to the kept man that invites you to “Come sit on Mommas lap boy” and whose kitsch appeal will only improve as Beyonce follows Aretha Franklin’s waist expanding trip through the aging process. “Freekum Dress” meanwhile is deliciously absurd, a cock tease anthem with a thumping bass line that is one half Crazy in Love, one half Dirty.

“Déjà vu” and “Kitty Kat” are harmless, if charmless while Green Light is that old Neptune’s beat again-though Beyonce’s vocals pull what would other wise be a limp filler track up by the boots. “Irreplaceable” is a simple ballad, whose heartfelt lyrics are almost ruined by an irritating chorus while the Victoria Beckham cover “Resentment” is soulful enough it never betrays its Spice Girl roots.

Elsewhere on the album “Ring the Alarm” see’s this not so independent woman fretting over the loss of her Conchilla coat and her condo rather than her man, proving that its been along time since the shoes on her feet, she bought them, “Get Me Bodied” is a horrific combination of shrill vocals and repetitive beats while “Upgrade You” penned by sister Solange is middle of the road rhythm and bass propped by some comical lyrics (“I can do for you what Martin did for the people”)

All in all Beyonce is nowhere near living up to her rumored potential. I’ll resist the multitudes of puns that screamed out at me when I saw that she called this album bidet and settle for the fact that she’s not Ms Right, but she’s all right… for now.

Babyshambles
Down in Albion

Expectations were high for this, the first album from former Libertines front man Pete Doherty’s Babyshambles. And we need not reiterate that so to was Pete, throughout its concoction.  And while Pete’s lifestyle is key to his mystique and hence his appeal, it is also responsible for holding Doherty back and preventing “Down in Albion“ from being the album it had the potential to be. His well documented battle with the brown has led to Albions repeated delay which, paradoxically, has led to the final cut of the album sounding rushed and under prepared as recording sessions had to be recorded around Pete’s notorious drug benders.

Songs that drove Irish audiences into a frenzy last December fall flat here, lacking the passion and hurtling pace that set Babyshambles apart from their inferior live competitors. In the hands of a better producer “Fuck Forever” would have become an anthem for a generation in moral decline. Unfortunately Mick Jones was more interested in guiding his nose into Kate Moss’s stash than guiding his already misguided star. As with “La belle et la bette” and “Pipedown”, “Fuck Forever “promises much but disintegrates into messy bedlam. Not necessarily bad, but it good have been so much better.

Lyrically the album bristles with venom, fury and alienation and his media image make his thinly veiled jabs at his former band mates, his girlfriends cohorts and those whom he perceives as out to get him all the more joyous. But vocally Pete is out of his depth as a front man and this album suffers greatly from lack of sparring partner, both vocally and musically. As with the two bands that clearly influenced this artist (The Smiths, The Clash) Every Morrissey had a Marr, every Strummer had a Jones. None of Babyshambles have yet risen to that challenge.

Fans of The Libertines will derive much pleasure from this album as “A’rebours”, “8 Dead Boys” and “Back From The Dead” slide comfortably in beside any of their back catalogue.

“In Love With A Feeling and “Merry Go Round” see Pete play the ballad of the bad boy quite beautifully and even the weakest tracks show promise. Despite all this though, one must wonder why the group decided to include tracks as weak as “Sticks and Stones” and “What Katy Did Next” on the album when gems such as “Wolfman” and “Gang of Gin” are left to be resurrected live.

However with the group’s formidable live reputation and better production on their second LP, Babyshambles should live to silence their critics. Another day.

Placebo

Placebo

If Robert Smith is the Godfather of Goth, then Placebo are his petulant but precariously talented godsons. Luring you in with their tales of sleazy sex, dirty drugs and rock and roll excess they explore their trademark themes of isolation, loss and defiance with lyrics of great sensitivity and humor. Containing their biggest hits (Bruise Pristine, Teenage Angst, 36 Degrees), live favorites (Bionic, Lady of The Flowers) and forgotten gems (Hang on to your IQ and Come Home) Placebos killer may now be more potent but there is an increase in the filler that comes with such experimentation. No album runs as perfectly from track to track as their first.  The B-side Slackerbitch see’s Placebo at their misogynistic, drugged out best while both Flesh Mechanic & Drowning By Numbers are of such a standard you wonder why they were left of the original release.

There is a ramshackle collection of live performance and videos tagged onto spruce up the re-release, none of which is particularly interesting.

And then of course there’s Nancy Boy, the lurid anthem that put them on the map and from which they can’t escape. With lyrics about ugly sex “Eye holes in a paper bag, greatest lay I ever had” and gender bending “Kind of guy who mates for life, gotta help him find a wife, were a couple, when our bodies double” it is everything that would come to define Placebo- Cheeky, aggressive, embarrassing and empowering.

Primal Scream

Riot City Blues

Leaving the experimentation of previous albums Vanishing Point and Exterminator behind them, as well as producer Kevin Shields, Primal Scream return with an album that sounds like the townsfolk of Deliverance at an MDMA laced hootenanny. With Mandolins and Banjos to rape the band, Riot City Blues bares all the markings of a group who are finished with being a groundbreaking act and are now focused on being a solid one. All ways ones to placate your Mick Jagger obsessed father and your acid house loving brother, the former will certainly bare the bigger grin after listening to this album with its knee slapping, toe tapping old school rock and roll.

From the T-Rex riffing “The 99th Floor” and “Were Going To Boogie” to the New York Dolls homage “Dolls” this album is far from their finest work, but still manages to come together better than any of the other acts ripping them of at the moment (Kassabian, The Infadels). Current single Country Girl is their most crowd pleasing track since “Rocks” while Alison “VV” Mosshart takes a break from the day job, (vocalist in Patti Smith tribute group The Kills) to add her subtle touch on punk meets country “ Nitty Gritty” and “Suicide Sally and Johnny Guitar”.

The groups are at their most Rolling Stones-ey with touching closer “Sometimes I feel So Lonely” while “Hells Coming Down” makes you want to grab your cousin and head to the nearest trailer park with its wailing fiddles and hick vocals. Best of all is the grinding, pulsing filth of “When The Bomb Drops” where they out Gallagher the Gallagher’s and deliver a bass line that only they could do justice to.

Lyrically they are the equivalent of a Diana joke, they’re not big, they’re not clever and they certainly aren’t appropriate, but they sure are a hell of a lot of fun. Be it asphyxiation by rosary beed for a felatialy satisfied priest or even a gun toting, crucified Jesus it’s superbly silly and continues to signal Primal Scream out as the purveyors of really cool music.

One of the few acts whose music can glide effortlessly from the sweat and excess of the dance floor to the neck bracing brawl of a festival, they maybe a long way of their best here but this album won’t disappoint, particularly in the live setting where they excel.