Friday, April 29, 2011

City of 1000 Welcomes

So there's been quite a buzz about the City of 1000 welcomes idea and they've obviously been inundated with volunteer ambassadors. I got a response today saying I'd been accepted and asking me to fill out a Garda vetting form, which I've no problem doing.  What is a problem for me is presenting said form in person on a Mon - Friday between 2pm and 6pm at their St Stephen's Green address before the end of June.  Even with a long time frame, I still don't work in the city centre and am hardly going to take a precious half day for this purpose.  I'm sure there's a good reason for this on their part, but I think it's a bit a of fail.

In other news, they're also setting up a museum.  The Little Museum of Dublin will be a non-profit museum filled with 20th century Dublin artefacts (the former archaeology student in me wonders if the 20th century is long ago enough to earn the term artefact!) donated by members of the public.  They are looking volunteers to help build the displays inside the museum as well as volunteer staff.  Seems like a very worthy use of time to me, if I had any of the skills they're looking for.  More details on their website, as linked above.

Happy May bank holiday!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dublin Writers Festival Programme

Dublin Writers Festival revealed its impressive lineup and programme last night. The writers featuring include John Banville, Roddy Doyle, Seamus Heaney, Michael Palin and Paul Theroux, just to mention a bare few at random as a taster of what can be expected. The entire list can be seen on the Festival website.

Some of the Festival events that have caught my eye are:
  • The Jekyll and Hyde Inheritance: Writers' and musicians' responses
  • Low Characters and Strange places: Live performance of contemporary poetry
  • Wanderlust, Mosquitos, Philosophy: Paul Theroux discusses his work
  • Orpheus Sings: Tri-lingual (German, Irish, English) project on Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Love, Art, Mortality: Contemporary poetry on the theme of change
  • Artists in the World: Art's relationship with current events

The Festival will take place 23 - 29 May 2011 in a number of venues around Dublin city centre.


There's a new not-for-profit organisation called Dublintellectual which "organises free events where established and up-and-coming scholars, along with cultural figures, present their research in informal settings (such as bars and coffee shops) without jargon and in a manner which promotes conversation". They're holding an event this evening in Shebeen Chic, 4 South Great Georges Street, at 8:30. The speakers and their subjects are:

Dr. Darryl Jones, School of English, Trinity. "Ghost Stories"

Michael McDermott, Publisher, LeCool Magazine: "New Media & Culture"

Dr. Harvey O' Brien, Film Studies, UCD. "Never too old for this Sh*t: Old Guys in Action Movies"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bray Jazz Festival 2011

The Bray Jazz Festival is on this weekend, running from April 29th to May 1st.


This exciting festival, which doesn't easily fit into any categories, will take place this coming weekend, 29 April to 1 May, in Merrion Square. The festival website promises

a vibrant programme of fully-interactive talks, readings, debates, workshops and much more, covering a full spectrum of culture including architecture, literature, slam poetry, technology, gaming, climate change, social entrepreneurship, fashion, art and design.

This definitely looks like something to
check out, if you only happen to have time. Individual events cost €10 and some are free, so it is quite easy on the purse as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: Blood Wedding

I'm a huge fan of Project Arts Centre. Time after time they've impressed me with the exceptionally high quality of the plays they present, so I was hopeful that Blood Wedding would be yet another great production. It's an English-language version of Federico Garcia Lorca's 1932 play Bodas de Sangre, a story of love and death set in rural Spain and inspired by real events.

Unfortunately Blood Wedding doesn't quite live up to the high standard I'm used to from Project Arts Centre. It's not bad - in fact I enjoyed it - but it has its flaws.

Let's look at some of the positives first. Right at the top of the list is the sheer size of the cast. Frequently plays seem to consist of a bear minimum number of actors, presumably for cost reasons. It's wonderful to see a play use so many actors that the stage is full of life and action. For wedding scenes, this is a good approach and works well, although the size of the stage limits the exuberance of the dancing. The production also uses strobe lighting to good effect.

Some of the acting also deserves praise. Liam Halley (Leonardo), Laura Brennan (the bride) and Angel Hannigan (Leonardo's wide) all have moments of brilliance, as do others.

Unfortunately though they're struggling against a difficult script. Lorca was a poet as well as a playwright, and the language reflects that. This is very much a matter of personal taste but to me the mix of naturalistic scenes near the start of the play with the more poetic, metaphorical approach later in the play just doesn't work very well. (I don't think that's a problem with this production - it's how Lorca wrote the play.)

There's a similarly jarring difference in the acting styles used to portray the characters. At times the play seems like a Greek tragedy; Noelle Brennan (as the groom's mother) has a touch of the Medea to her. By contrast Hugh Stuart's very entertaining acting as the father of the bride is in the style of a Dion Boucicault character. There's nothing wrong with either style (in fact they're both good in their own right), but putting them together just breaks the suspension of disbelief.

At times, too, the acting seems a little overdone and melodramatic. The leading actors are sufficiently experienced that I'm inclined to put this down in part to Lorca's play rather than the actors. (There are several relatively new actors in minor roles but they carry off their supporting roles quite well.)

There was a full house on Friday night and the audience seemed to enjoy the play. I'd love to be able to unambiguously recommend Blood Wedding, but with the quality of Irish theatre being as high as it is, I can give only a qualified recommendation. Perhaps Lorca's play just doesn't travel well. Fairly enjoyable, but flawed.

Tickets cost €15. Blood Wedding runs until 30th April 2011. Duration 100 minutes including interval.

Friday, April 22, 2011

1916 Rising ceremony, O'Connell St

Details over on
A ceremony to mark the 95th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising will take place outside the GPO, O’Connell Street, Dublin on Easter Sunday 24th April 2011 commencing at 12 noon.

The Ceremony will be led by the President Mary McAleese, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D. and the Minister for Defence.

Defence Forces personnel, including a brass band, a pipe band and representatives of the Army, the Air Corps, the Naval Service and the Defence Reserve will take part in the Ceremony, which will conclude with an Air Corps fly past.

The organisers suggest that members of the public should be in position outside the GPO at 11:15.

The Big Fellah @ The Gaiety

The Big Fellah opened at the Gaiety last night and yours truly was there to report on the action.  When I first heard the name (and nothing else), I presumed it would be about Michael Collins.  It's not.  It is about the IRA though.  The play was written by Richard Bean, who is English.  As he said in an interview in the Irish Times earlier this year, "Why should we leave Irish history to the Irish?"  He originally planned to write a play about post 9/11 New York and instead he wrote a 3 decade spanning play about an IRA cell. I was apprehensive about how this would translate to something entertaining but I need not have been.  Perhaps it takes an outsider to find the humour?
Courtesy of Gerry Lundberg PR
David Costello is the titular Big Fellah, played by Finbar Lynch.  He's like a cross between Frank Sinatra and The Godfather.  Benign when he has to be but able to follow orders when necessary.  The set is the apartment of Michael Doyle, an Irish-American, keen to get involved with "The Cause"; he starts sheltering IRA personnel as they await their next orders.  The first half of the play is funny, mock-serious and it's easy to forget that we're talking about a real terrorist organisation whose actions wrought havoc in these islands for decades.  The darker, more serious side of it appears almost immediately as the curtain comes up on the second half.  While there is still humour, it's grim and I found myself tensing up as the dates (which flash up to indicate the passage of time) began to line up with the most serious actions of the IRA's terror campaign: Enniskillen, Omagh, and so on.

Out of Joint is an international touring company and it was hard to guess where the cast came from.  Accents were excellent, particularly that of Luke Griffin's Ruairi, who undergoes a Cork - New York conversion, and David Rintoul's Frank McArdle.  I've never heard so much conveyed with "aye" - and he is almost unrecognisable from his 80s role of Mr D'arcy in the BBC's less famous production of Pride & Prejudice.

With its violent themes, bad language and, surprisingly, full nudity, this is not a play to bring the kids to.  I was disappointed to hear at least 3 phones ring during the performance, one was even answered, which necessarily caused the actors to pause.  For an opening night, the theatre had plenty of empty seats.  RTÉ elder lemons were thick on the ground: it's strange to see someone as famous as Gay Byrne up close.

The Big Fellah runs until 7th May and continues on to the Everyman theatre in Cork. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dublin Contemporary 2011

One of the cultural things I am most looking forward to this year is Dublin Contemporary 2011, the first of what is envisioned as being a large scale visual arts event taking place every five years. Both new and established Irish and international artists will feature in this major city-wide exhibition. According to the event website, the mission of Dublin Contemporary 2011 is to provide a dynamic experience of contemporary art through a number of urgent themes relevant to the contemporary society. Such dynamism is intended to transcend the (perhaps more usual) "contemplative" aspect of the encounter between visual art and the viewer. As someone who is particularly interested in the interaction between visual art and text, I am thrilled that this event "will explore multiple areas of intellectual enquiry in order to foment unscripted encounters by visual artists, scholars, writers, philosophers, curators, musicians and the public at large". This year's theme of Dublin Contemporary rings familiar to those who know their Yeats: Terrible Beauty—Art, Crisis, Change & The Office of Non-Compliance.

The first 15 artists were announced earlier this year. The Irish artists will include Brian O’Doherty, James Coleman, Niamh O’Malley and Richard Mosse. The international artists so far named represent a wide variety of geographical backgrounds. Nina Berman, The Bruce High Quality Foundation and Lisa Yuskavage hail from the United States. Tania Bruguera comes from Cuba, while a South American perspective is provided by Fernando Bryce of Peru. From the opposite side of the world come Chen Chieh-Jen (Taiwan) and Wang Du (China). From closer to home, Dexter Dalwood and Jim Lambie will represent the UK. They will be joined by Omer Fast (Israel ), Goldiechiari (Italy ), Patrick Hamilton (Belgium) and Superflex (Denmark). I am looking forward to further names being announced later on.

Dublin Contemporary will join a family of large European visual arts events. The Venice Biennale is probably the best known, but I grew up in Finland with ARS taking place every few years. By chance, ARS11 in Helsinki, this year, celebrates 50 years of the exhibition series. I am very happy that the same year will see the first event of the same kind in my adopted home city.

The dates of Dublin Contemporary are 6th September-31st October 2011.

Dublin Dance Festival 2011

The Dublin Dance Festival runs from 13th to 28th May. This year it'll have a particular focus on Asian choreographers, with the highlight of the festival being the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan.

If you're in a generous mood, you can help fund the Festival over on

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New play in Project Arts Centre - Blood Wedding

I haven't seen it yet, but there's a new play starting today in Project Arts Centre, Blood Wedding:
It’s 1928 and in the dusty heat of the Andalusian province of Almeria, a young bride abandons her husband-to-be on the morning of her wedding to elope with her childhood sweetheart.

In a society obsessed with reputation and honour the actions of one person can divide a community. With the town in crisis the elopers are hunted down with terrifying consequences.

Later in the week I went to see the play - the review is here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An Introduction

Many thanks for the lovely welcome, Claire. Greetings to all delightful readers! My name is Nina and I am very happy to have joined the dublinculture gang. You are most likely to see me writing about literary and visual arts events, although I've no pretentions towards any sort of exclusivity regarding those areas. I am also a big fan of the Science Gallery, so undoubtedly I will be poking my nose at their exhibitions and events now and again. My mission is to demonstrate that despite all the doom and gloom that currently envelopes our country, there are still plenty of awesome things happening that the residents of this city can be proud of.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

One City, One Book: Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor

This year's One City One Book is Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor: an imagining of the true life romance between the playwright JM Synge and actress Maire O'Neill, whose real name was Molly Allgood.  The story alternates between Edwardian Dublin and the early years of the Abbey Theatre, and 1950s London when Molly Allgood was living in much reduced circumstances.  Synge & Allgood were different religions and from wildly diverse parts of Dublin, he from Glengeary and she from the inner city.  O'Connor writes beautifully, as always, and thanks to his regular radio column on Drive Time, it's easy to hear his voice as you read.  While I was reading it this week, I turned on the radio before bed and discovered that Ghost Light was also the book on one, so I listened to the author read for a while instead of reading myself.  My knowledge of Synge before this book was mostly of having seen and not liked The Playboy of the Western World, when I was at school.  He takes licence with the actual truth, like all good writers, but it only makes the story better.  A good portion of the book is set in Wicklow but I won't spoil it further by explaining why. My favourite scene is when Molly brings Synge home to meet her family - it's written like a play and I cringed with every social faux pas, on both sides.  It's worth every minute of this time to read this book, but some readers might find it annoying that the time flips forward and back, and also from Molly's imagination to her present to her memories.  And if you don't want to buy it, don't forget the library.

I love reading books set in my home city, and it's given me an idea to review other books set in Dublin. We'll all be participating in this series and it will certainly feature Strumpet City, Ulysses,and The Commitments amongst others.  If anyone has a suggestion of other books, especially ones that are not as well known, please send us an email or comment here.

New contributor

Dave and I are delighted to welcome Ms Nina Shiel to our Dublin Culture team.  As well as a third person, we have some great (if we do say so ourselves) new ideas for content over the coming months.  We hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoy writing and reviewing on the blog. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Photos from Messiah On The Street

Yesterday was Handel's Day and the highlight of Temple Bar's celebrations was Messiah On The Street, an open-air performance of Handel's Messiah on Fishamble Street. This year it was performed by Our Lady's Choral Society with conductor Proinnsias O'Duinn and soloist Ross Scanlon.

Numbers were down on last year due to fears about the weather, but ultimately it was a dry if somewhat windy day. Proinnsias O'Duinn did a magnificent job, not only conducting but really engaging with the crowd. Last year the one disappointing aspect of the performance was the passive response of the crowd, but O'Duinn took care of that this time by encouraging everyone to join in with the Choral Society in throwing their hands up to Heaven for the Hallelujahs in the final piece of the performance.

Later in the day there was a further performance by Our Lady's Choral Society, Alexander's Feast in the Button Factory.

Conductor Proinnsias O'Duinn

Members of Our Lady's Choral Society

Hallelujah! The performers and audience throw their hands into the air.

(You can click on these photos to see more detail.)

Thanks to the Comtemporary Music Centre for access to their building on Fishamble Street to get those high-angle photos.

New Science Gallery exhibition, HUMAN+

There's a new exhibition beginning tomorrow (15th April 2011) in Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin, called HUMAN+:

Science Gallery’s latest flagship exhibition HUMAN+ will invite you to consider a future of augmented abilities, authored evolution, new strategies for survival and non-human encounters through a range of installations and laboratories exploring the future of our species.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Handel's Day

One of my favourite days of the year is Handel's Day, 13th April. Temple Bar Cultural Trust have organised a range of events for the day with the highlight being the wonderful Messiah On The Street, an open-air performance of Handel's Messiah on Fishamble Street. There's always a lovely atmosphere at Messiah On The Street, and it's a genuinely unique event in that Fishamble Street was the site of the original world premiere of Messiah back in 1742.

The performance runs from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. It's very popular so I'd suggest getting there early to get a good spot.

"We The Citizens"

A new citizens' initiative called We The Citizens has been launched by Fiach MacConghail, who as it happens is also the CEO of the Abbey Theatre. As this isn't a politics blog, that's all I have to say on the matter here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Now that Spring is firmly upon us, it's time to start thinking about day trips to the outer reaches of our city.  I've written about Ardgillan Castle and Newbridge House before, and today is the turn of Howth.  At the far end of the DART line, I often forget that Howth is a fantastic seaside town.  I was there a couple of Sundays ago, along with most of the city.  It is still a proper fishing village and you can get freshly caught fish there every day.  On a good day, you can see Dun Laoghaire on the other side of Dublin Bay.  The day I was there was a bit hazy, so we had to make do with nearer spectacular views.  Howth is the sort of place you'd think was awesome if you were visiting it in some other country.  This next photo is up on the hill, where you can see the lighthouse - it's not open to the public but the view from there is well worth the walk down towards it.
I think the pictures really speak for themselves.  Of course, Howth has restaurants galore and rummage sales, outdoor food markets and places to buy icecream, but the scenery is the jewel in its crown.  I recommend going on the DART because on sunny days, traffic getting into the town can be a nightmare.

Love:Live Music @ The Sugar Club

So I went along to the flagship event of National Music Day on Friday night.  It was a great night of live music, broadcast live on Lyric FM and presented by Carl Corcoran.  First up was the Dublin Guitar Quartet who played some Philip Glass.  The Listeners followed up with some really excellent trad music, which really got the crowd going.  Next was an unbilled act, whose name I did not catch, playing his own music with a guitar.  After a short break, Belfast pianist Michael McHale played 2 movements of a Beethoven sonata, some Rachmaninov and something else I've forgotten.  Mick Flannery finished up the evening with some piano and some guitar songs to a very appreciative crowd.  The only sore point for me was the lack of seats - obviously there were seats, but I didn't have one and my feet were talking to me after 2 plus hours standing!  It was really lovely to listen to live music without being deafened by amplifiers, I could still hear what my companions said and my ears weren't ringing when I left.  Well done to Music Network for such a successful event - I hope this continues next year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: Flipside

Flipside is the new play by Shane Burke and recently-established theatre company Run Amok Theatre.

Flipside is a romantic tragicomedy telling two related stories side by side. Two couples go on holidays by swapping houses for a week; one in Sicily, one in Dublin. The scenes alternate back and forth between the two settings, using the same stage-setup for each flip - a quick, simple approach that works surprisingly well and suits the pace of the play.

Joe Jennings as Evan and Erika McGann as Sinead

This isn't innovative, ground-breaking theatre. It's something far better: an incredibly well-written and enjoyable play. Sometimes new theatre companies try too hard, showing potential but (almost literally) losing the plot. Shane Burke has instead simply kept his focus on the key elements that make for a great play - interesting, credible characters; the right pace; and a coherent plot. Oh, and a very clever physics joke.

Flipside is lots of fun, and I'd happily recommend it both to theatre-fans and those who go to the theatre less often. If you miss it, don't worry too much though - it wouldn't surprise me if this gets another run.

Flipside is on in the Pearse Centre on Pearse Street. Tickets cost €15/€12, or €10 for groups of eight or more. The play is sold out for tonight (Friday) but as of yesterday evening there were still tickets available for Saturday 9th April, the final night of the show.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Love:live music

Dave posted about this last month so I'm really just reminding you that tomorrow is Love:live music day.  A list of Dublin events is here and I'll be heading along to the Sugar Club for one of the Flagship events featuring Mick Flannery and the Dublin Guitar Quartet, amongst others.

Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself." - Oscar Wilde / Lord Henry

Last year's choice for One City, One Book was Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, and as part of the festival Wonderland Theatre put on a play of the book in Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street. The show received rave reviews ("must see theatre", "an exquisite adaptation") so perhaps unsurprisingly Wonderland have brought it back for another run in the same beautiful setting of Bewley's. This time it's a dinner show.

This is a very distinctive play. There's no stage - the actors use the same space the patrons are dining in. Even the most snug, intimate of theatres can't match the immediacy of this. With the spectators so close to the actors the quality of the acting has to be high, and it is. The room itself is beautiful, and very well suited to the play; props used in the play blend easily into the decor.

The story is a well-known one; the story of a young man, Dorian Gray, given the chance to keep his youth and beauty beyond natural limits. It's surprisingly intense, though that might be due to the setting. As an adaptation it's superb - it really has the flavour and wit of Wilde's own plays.

Dinner is served by Bewley's prior to the start of the show. (It's similar to their lunch menu in portion size.) I'd suggest the tagliatelle, as it's something of a signature dish. The dessert was also good and the coffee was excellent.

The only small concern I'd express is that at one hour and thirty minutes without an interval, the play is quite demanding. Don't let that put you off - just be aware that if you're tired after a long day's work, the intimacy of the setting might make this play less relaxing than most. If however you're a tourist - wow! Wilde plus Bewley's is a great combination. I'd also recommend the play very highly if you're a frequent theatre-goer looking for something unusual and different.

Conclusion: enjoyable, well-acted and novel. If you missed it last year, give it a go.

Tickets cost €35-€40, including dinner, coffee and the show. The Picture of Dorian Gray runs in Bewley's until Saturday 23rd April 2011, except for Sundays and Mondays.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Offline' - new exhibition in Temple Bar Gallery & Studios

Offline, the latest exhibition in Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, launches tomorrow (Thursday 7th April) from 6-8pm:

Offline is an exhibition bringing together five artists whose work reflects the documentation and consumption of reality and how it is intrinsically linked with and conducted via online platforms. Much of the 'Net Art' produced in the early years of the Internet was made to be viewed on a computer screen, but more recently, the physicality of how we receive these messages has become less important than the psychology of how we understand and experience them. The five artists in this show use the Internet in their everyday lives and, by extension, in their art. Their work uses the Internet as its primary medium and appropriates its language and aesthetics. This mode of art making can be seen as a development from the last decade’s move in focus from art producer to consumer, and the transmission to a hybrid producer/consumer model.

The Art of Uilleann Pipe-making in Dublin City

Here's a nice bit of cross-disciplinary collaboration: No Grants Gallery have teamed up with The Crafts Council of Ireland and Na Píobairí Uilleann to combine a photographic exhibition about uilleann pipes with twice-daily interactive lectures and musical performances.

The exhibition (Capital Craft) runs until April 26th, but the performances (Piperlink) are on only until Saturday April 9th. Both are free of charge.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Run Amok Theatre

Newly-established theatre company Run Amok Theatre are about to begin their debut production, Flipside:

Flipside is a fresh, funny and moving look at four lovers' entangled and parallel lives from new playwright Shane Burke. A house-swop between friends brings Sicily to Dublin and Dublin to Sicily. Flipside places the audience in the unique position of watching two storylines unfold at the same time.

That sounds pretty innovative - I'll be interested to see their approach to this.

Flipside previews on Monday 4th April and then runs until 9th April. Tickets cost €15/€12. The venue is The Pearse Centre on (you guessed it) Pearse Street.

Ardgillan Castle

City bound people will never have been as far as Balbriggan, but I assure you it is in Dublin.  Ardgillan Castle was once the home of the O'Caseys, later owned by the Earls of Tyrconnell and then by the Taylor family.  It has belonged to Dublin and later Fingal County Council for the last 20 years.  The current structure is only really a castle in name, like Malahide Castle, no one has defended it from the battlements.
It was extensively restored and is open to the public for tours.  I didn't do the tour today but I have done it previously.  The tour guide told us a wonderful story about how the fireplace in the entrance hall once was in another Big House, but was won in a poker game!  Imagine coming home to tell your wife you'd bet away the fireplace.  Most of the furniture inside is not original but it is the right period and style.  There's a beautiful walled garden with roses, fine landscaped gardens around the house and a very good cafe that does homemade cakes. A Victorian glasshouse (which was donated by a Malahide family) replaces the castle's own original glasshouse.

The real prize is the extensive free park, with fantastic coastal views (including Lambay Island) and an awesome kids playground (though this did not stop me having a go on the swings).  There were plenty of happy children playing in it today.  A huge climbing frame dominates one end of it and it has that special rubbery surface to cushion little people's falls.  There's a few different walks but they aren't well sign-posted.  One thing to note is that it's built on a hill, so at some stage you will find yourself walking back up it towards the carpark.  They have picnic tables too.

I took the below photo today just before a massive thunder storm. The rain was so bad I had to pull in on the motor way and wait for it to subside.  To get to Ardgillan, head up the M1 and take junction 5, then follow the signs for it through Balrothery.  It is accessible by train and bus, but I wouldn't recommend the bus journey; it goes through Swords, Rush, Lusk and Skerries before it gets to Balbriggan, but it does stop right outside the end of the demesne.