The Perils Of Going Alone

January 12, 2012

It seems as if the one man show is the new black. At least to theatre folk who have embraced the style as this seasons must try format. There are 19 such shows in the Absolut Fringe where the next generation of theatre makers sink their fangs into a vein more used to nourishing artists in the later throws of their career. With seemingly goading and irreverent titles like The Year of Magical Wanking and Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think Of You, scratch away at the artifice and you discover that still waters don’t just run deep. They run over. And their aim is to sweep you up in their flow.

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Irish Language Theatre

January 12, 2012

No one could accuse the Irish of passing up on a little flagellation when their mother tongue is involved. And it’s easy to tut and nod along with the naysayers when looking specifically at theatre ‘tri ghaeilge’. In 2007 An Taibhearc, the countries national Irish language theatre was shut due to fire and since the present government reneged on an agreement made by the previous one (to split the refurbishment costs three ways) it remains closed. The Abbey Theatre has mounted just one full-length production in the past 15 years (Aodh O Domhnail’s Idir an Da Shuil, in December) while you’d have to go back to the 1960s to find the last in-house production on its main stage. And although The Arts Council says that it is in no way unwelcoming of Irish speaking applications, Foras Na Gaeilge’s 2007 calculations revealed that they gave a pitiful 0.001% of their total budget (€216.56 million) to theatre practioners working through the language.

Facts like these would make you think that, just like poor Peig Sayers at the start of her much maligned tome, theatre through Irish ‘has one foot in the grave and the other on its edge’.

Yet ask the artists themselves and they’ll tell you it’s never been healthier. The person with the most important theatrical post in the country, Fiach Mac Conghail, is a vehement and passionate Irish speaker; there are more companies operating through the language than there has been in years and, most importantly, there are people working within the industry, regardless of language, who are looking at new ways of presenting plays through Irish.

So what do they believe the problems facing them to be?
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Bard to the Bone

January 12, 2012

“…the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ‘twere the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”
Hamlet, Act III, Scene II

It’s been like Groundhog Dane on the Irish boards of late with no less than four productions of Hamlet having run nationwide in the past 12 months. There was Pan Pan’s The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane- where three actors auditioned before the audience for the right to play the Prince; there was Max Lewendel’s British transfer which recently ran at the Tivoli while the other two productions derived from the one company, Second Age, who marked their 21st year last year with Marty Rea in the title role, a performance so acclaimed he won Best Actor at the recent Irish Times Theatre Awards. Since Conor Madden, to whom Marty passes the mantle, was one of the three wannabe Dane’s in the Pan Pan piece, there is a sense of ingemination symbolic of a play that gets its strength from repetition.
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Currach Racing

January 12, 2012

The currach is as identifiable with the green, green shores of Ireland as the harp, the shamrock and the IMF bail out. And while no longer needed as a means of survival Danny O Flaherty has committed the last 20 years of his life to reviving the popularity of the boat. First by forming Coiste Lar Na gCurrachai (Central Currach Committee), with the objective of promoting currach racing in Ireland and then by forming the Celtic Nations Heritage Foundation, who host the annual World Cup Currach Regatta in his adopted home of Louisiana.

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Willie Clancy Week

January 12, 2012

In his most notable hit ‘Lisdoonvarna’ the singer songwriter Christy Moore wrote, “If it’s music you want, you should go to Clare”. And while it was the now defunct titular festival he was eulogising, thousands of trad lovers will this week be following his advice for the start of the annual Willie Clancy Week. Based around the Willy Clancy School, where 800 students have signed up for lessons in music, song and dance, a further three to five thousand people are expected to pour into the tiny town of Milltown Malbay (population 600) to avail of the jigs and the reels and the many, many pints that will flow over the week long event.

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The Dublin Roller Girls

January 12, 2012

A girl with Bosco red hair fly’s around the hall at high-speed on roller-skates, lapping her opponent and cheekily tapping her on the ass with her baton. The winning team cheer loudly only to be drowned out by the loosing side’s groans and moans as they trudge of to the side of the hall to do wall squats, placing their backs flat against the brick and pushing their knees out, their bodies consumed with a burning pain and uncontrollable shakiness. The main hall of the Poppintree Sports Centre, which traditionally plays host to ladies indoor soccer and volleyball teams, is a wash with purple leopard print, tattoos, piercings and fierce eyeliner as the Dublin Roller Derby Girl’s hold their “Fresh Meat”, a quarterly open day in which the established rollers put the newbie’s through their paces in the countries most exiting, fastest growing all female sport.

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Knockanstockan

January 12, 2012

THEY say that necessity is the mother of all invention.

So when the arse fell out of the Irish music industry in 2007 a collective of musicians, photographers and artists decided to tackle the problem head on by setting up their own music festival to provide unsigned bands with a platform to promote themselves. The only independent, volunteer-run festival in the country, KnockanStockan is now in it’s fifth year and will this weekend lure 3,000 punters to their beautifully scenic location, overlooking the Blessington Lakes, for some hippy-infused revelry.
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Beyonce : 4

January 12, 2012

Once leading singles were put out by acts to whet the public appetite for their forthcoming opus. Nowadays chart divas use them to lower expectations so that what eventually appears will seem better than it actually is. Just like Gaga, Christina and Britney pre-empted their albums with stinkers, Beyoncé Knowles returns from the wilderness with (Who Rules the World) Girls, a dulling of Major Lazers Pon De Floor with a tired Girl Power message added on.

The experimentation hinted at by the talent assembled (Diplo, Switch, Sleigh Bells) never emerges and there are far too many tracks here that she throttles with her impressive but unnecessary vocal hysteria.

The key to 4’s charm is it’s throwbacks to late 80s early 90s hip hop. Prince is an influence, album opener and near highlight 1+1 is a delightful rip off of the purple pervert’s The Beautiful One’s, and bonus track Schoolin Life highlights her skill at aping artists who have carved out an individual niche.

But that is what is missing here. Beyonce’s vocals have soul and her beats have lineage. But they are collectively a dilution, serving as a gateway to superior artists but providing nothing she can claim as her own.

Time and again Britney Spears has been deemed mentally incompetent when it comes to her business affairs.  It should come as no surprise so, that her recent album is a bit like a lobotomy.

It’s still recognizably Britney but it has that glassy eye sound, like she’s not really in there. It’s like the team of hit makers brought in to put fried chicken on her table wired her up with the rest of the equipment and tapped her when they needed a britney like sound. Influences are vast but the intricacies and innovations are slathered in synth and pounding beats and, like covering a fine piece of brie in Ballymallo, it ruins the overall effect.

It has three excellent moments. Trip to Your Heart is one of the most ethereal pop tunes I have heard in a while, where the combination of delicate vocals and comforting melody speak to that part of your soul that becomes celestial on the dance floor.  How I Roll, where she indulges in a bit of call and response with a computer while it glitches away and throws in a few retro video game beats is weird, wonderful and what this album should have explored more. While Trouble for Me, lyrically, gives us the voyeuristic snap shot into what sends Britney’s strictly managed train of its track.

Lady Gaga : Born This Way

January 12, 2012

Lock up your closets. The Gaga conglomerate is on the move and it won’t stop until it has milked every last penny out of the pink cash cow. It’s not half as woeful as the appalling lead singles, Born This Way and Judas, would have had you believe but there is nothing on here that justifies her recent crowning as Queen of Pop by Rolling Stone.
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