Friday, September 30, 2011

Opening night at the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival - Donka, A Letter to Chekhov

Yesterday was the opening night of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival, and with it Donka, A Letter to Chekhov, a play inspired by the life and works of Russian playwright Chekhov. It was a well-chosen play to open the festival, seamlessly combining the serious and the playful. As the very detailed programme for the play says, in the words of Chekhov, "with me the serious always alternates with the trivial". The performance is a melange of styles and media, full of music, singing, dancing, acrobatics, and above all a happy, joyful good humour.

My fellow contributors to this site, Nina and Claire, were also along for the evening. Claire has the advantage of actually speaking Russian and having studied Chekhov; perhaps surprisingly, of the three of us she liked the play least, but I'll leave any such informed criticism to her. Knowing little of Chekhov I simply enjoyed the performance purely for its own sake. Although there are references to his plays, many of the scenes in Donka appear to be inspired more by Chekhov's life than his works; either way, I was very impressed and enjoyed this greatly. I'm pleased to say that the audience, many of whom were veterans of the theatre scene, seemed equally enthusiastic.

Donka has quite a short run (ending on October 2nd) so I'd suggest grabbing a ticket as soon as you can. They normally cost €20 to €40 but you can also pick up a €10 ticket as part of the Festival's Final Call special offer. Honestly, €10 for Donka must the the theatrical bargain of the year.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival

The Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival officially begins today. The programme is here but I'd also suggest having a look at the special events, which include introductory sessions in the newly-opened Lir Academy in Grand Canal Dock.

Writing 3.0

Fingal's annual writers festival is back from 15th - 22nd October and the calendar of events is now open for booking.  A full list of events is here.  Many of them focus on helping people get started on writing in different media and progress from blank page to published work.  This year also sees them include story telling through song writing (workshops with Mick Hanley no less) and stand-up comedy workshops.  I like the look of "Four Savvy Women" presented by Mary Wilson of RTÉ Drivetime, which takes place in Farmleigh on Wednesday, 19th October.  Last year's event in this slot featured her Drivetime diarists, and was really worthwhile.

I hear events are booking up fast, so get going if you are interested.  They are all completely free!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

OPW's First Wednesdays

Just a reminder that the OPW continues to run their free entry Wednesdays on the first one of each month - which is coming up next week.  If you missed something on Culture Night and happen to be at a loose end, take a look.  I see Kilmainham Gaol is on it. Grr.

The list for Dublin:

Arás an Uachtarain
Arbour Hill
The Casino, Marino
Dublin Castle, State Apartments
Farmleigh.Grounds open all year round. House tours: Mar - Dec.
Garden of Remembrance
Government Buildings
Grangegorman Military Cemetery
Kilmainham Gaol
National Botanic Gardens
Pearse Museum – St.Enda's Park
Phoenix Park Visitor Centre & Ashtown Castle
Rathfarnham Castle
Royal Hospital, Kilmainham
St. Audoen's Church
St Mary's Abbey
St.Stephen's Green
The Croppies Acre
War Memorial Gardens

Review: Dublin Contemporary

As anyone culturally inclined who hasn't been living under a rock for the past year knows, Dublin Contemporary is the first major international contemporary art exhibition in Dublin, intended to become a regular event. We here at Dublin Culture had been looking forward to this event for some considerable time, and on Sunday I finally got a chance to visit it.

The exhibition is spread around the city, but the bulk of it is hosted at Earlsfort Terrace, next to the National Concert Hall. Most people would not have visited this part of this massive building complex before, so, in addition to the exhibition, you also get an impression of the old premises of University College Dublin. Massive staircases of this neoclassical building dwarf the people inside. Their walls, painted cheerfully orange, strikingly contrast with the background of the artworks - the usual white or off-white, for sure, but also obvious signs of decay. The entropy is confusing, until the visitor realises that it perfectly matches the theme of the exhibition: Terrible Beauty - Art, Crisis, Change & The Office of Non-Compliance.

The Yeats reference from 'Easter, 1916' brings together the poet's response to the turmoil of his own time and the commentary of the exhibited works of art with regard to the current societal, cultural and economical climate. As the theme and the exhibition space strongly hint, the view present in these works of art is not a happy one. The overwhelmingly prevalent colour scheme throughout the artworks is shades of grey, black and white, with only the occasional dot of bright colour, which even then can be deceptive, like in the case of the infrared photography of Richard Mosse, depicting armed rebels in the Congolese jungle in shades of bright fuchsia and red. In addition to the more usual issues of violence, environment and religion explored in the artworks, this time also questions surrounding the concept of money feature in the exhibition, unsurprisingly. I was a little disappointed with the reproductions of the crucifixion, in the religion department - I wouldn't necessarily call the notion of the artist martyred on the cross of his art particularly fresh.

Other personally memorable artworks were Nina Berman's photography series of the life of a badly burned American marine ("That's makeup, right?" I heard a young man ask - no, it's not) and Wang Du's The Cradle: a massive bedframe, with the mattress printed with the images of crumpled newspapers. Children and their parents happily bopped and reclined on the bed under a number of tv screens, apparently unaware that by doing so they perfectly proved the artist's point about today's ubiquitous information flow from all directions, with the audience either not caring or simply not being aware of it. Miks Mitrevics's installation concerning the presence and absence of the human subject also deserves a special mention, and was likely my favourite artwork of the whole exhibition.

I came out of the exhibition somewhat overwhelmed by the pessimism of the artworks, and at least in one case, physically nauseated by it. The exhibition provides little in the way of uplifting material, with the exception of Anne Cleary & Denis Connolly's interactive video installation Studio 1: Plus/Minus, which enabled observers become participants by creating patterns on the wall. This brought smiles on the viewers' faces and was perhaps a useful end point to the exhibition. The pessimism aside, which is hardly unexpected in the face of the world in 2011, the exhibition comes across as a very ambitious undertaking, which is successfully pulled off with a wide variety of high quality artworks from remarkable artists.

Dublin Contemporary continues until 31 October. Tickets: Adults €15, Children under 16 €6, Students/OAP/Unwaged €10

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oktoberfest Dublin 2011

Die Kruge... hoch! Die Kruge... hoch! Die Kruge... hoch!

Oktoberfest Dublin is underway once again in Docklands. If you've been to the event in previous years you'll find it all reassuringly unchanged: beer, sausages, sauerkraut with pork, pretzels, more beer, Germans in traditional Bavarian costume, live music, and some beer. This year - for now at least - there's the added bonus of wonderfully warm, sunny weather, perfect for drinking outside.

There are several types of beer available, all from Erdinger, including Weissbier (white/wheat), Dunkel (dark), and Fischer's. Wine and non-alcoholic beer are also available.

A half-litre glass has a €2 deposit, refunded when the glass is returned along with a plastic token; for a 1-litre "Stein" (or Krug) the deposit is €5. Some of the bars serve beer only in plastic glasses - I'd recommend making the little bit of extra effort to get a proper glass.

Oktoberfest isn't just about beer though. The food is just as important, and there's a nice variety. Both the food and drink are slightly expensive, but not at all exorbitant. For example a half-litre of beer costs €5.50; a hotdog or a small portion of sauerkraut and pork costs €5. The pretzels are also worth a try at €2.50 for a salty pretzel or €3.50 for a (tastier) cheesy one.

The event is very popular and the venue can become crowded. During the afternoon you'll probably be able to get a seat at a table outside, although you should expect to share. On a sunny day the tent is pleasantly cool and more likely to have spare seats. However in the evening space will be at a premium and the tent can fill up fast - and the tent is where the live music is on. If you're going with a group and can get to the venue before 7:00 pm you should consider reserving a table. It'll cost €260 for a table for ten but there's a good package deal available.

Oktoberfest Dublin 2011 runs until 9th October. From Monday to Saturday it's open from 12:00 pm until 12:30 am. On Sunday hours are 12:00 to 8:00 pm. If you arrive after 10:00 pm you'll need to buy a wristband for €6, which gets you a €5 food voucher and a €1 donation to a charity.

Oktoberfest Dublin is a lot of fun. You don't need to be a beer-drinker to enjoy it. Prost!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some disco love

Nightflight are presenting the Irish premiere of Love Is the Message - A Night at the Gallery 1977, a documentary of the DJ Nicky Siano, on Saturday 1 October at 7 pm at the Grand Social (formerly Pravda). Nicky himself will be DJing after the documentary. Tickets are available on for €15 plus the €2 handling fee. You can also only attend the DJ set afterwards for €10, tickets available at the door.

From the promo,

Nicky Siano was the disco dj that perfected the art of beatmatching at his Gallery nights in New York in the early 70’s. His innovations were to inspire future clubland legends like Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan, and eventually landed him a residency at the mythical New York disco palace Studio 54. He was one of the first DJ’s to move into the studio, collaborating with Arthur Russell and Talking Heads’ David Bryne on the 1978 leftfield disco classic ‘Kiss Me Again’. Following a long hiatus from DJ-ing he took to the decks again at NYC’s infamous Body and Soul parties in 1998. He has travelled all over the world since, bringing the music and spirit of clubland's early days with him. Now a sprightly 56 years of age, his last Dublin appearance in 2009 was supposed to be his last ever, as he planned to retire in the autumn of that year. Turns out he couldn't stay away and with a fresh NYC residency established he looks set to keep the fire burning for some time yet.

Irish Craft Beer Fest

The first annual Irish Craft Beer Fest is behind us, having had 3 highly successful days at the RDS hall of industries.  I got there quite early on Sunday afternoon, hence the quiet nature of my photos.  However, by the time I left, the *beer* hall was hopping.  You got a nice souvenir pint glass which could be used for tasting.  The only disappointment for me was that some beers had run out and I couldn't try them.  Favourite newly discovered was Franciscan Well's Friar Weisse.  Luckily for me, this beer is actually stocked in a few pubs in Dublin so I can get it without going to Cork, like.  I also had some really great Irish cheeses.  Cheese: it's not just for wine and sambos.

On the Edge of Things is a Fierce Beauty

The postponed Macnas performance ended this year's Absolut Fringe with a bang at Collins Barracks.  Doors opened at 19:00 and a long queue was already well formed when we got there.  Inside the parade ground, there were things to look at: a giant rhino in a wheelchair, a mechanical bird and a dragon. 

There was a real steampunk vibe to it all with plinky plonky music while we waited.  And we waited for almost an hour (planned) before it got started.  It was a bit nippy as well.  It started to get dark quite quickly and here, we saw the effect of having to postpone for 2 weeks - I presume they imagined slightly more of the show in evening light rather than darkness.  Dave took a massive amount of photos with his much better camera.

I have to admit now that I haven't a clue what was going on in the show but it was awesome.  There was a woman in wheely tower who waved her arms a lot as the rhino, bird and dragon moved around the space.  Fireworks and sparklers happened.  They made great use of the arches into the parade ground.  Elaborately costumed dancers followed each mechanical puppet.  There were also dancers on stilts: they were so comfortable walking around on them, I wondered if they had been born that way!  After a while, a giant puppet woman came in and the real woman in the tower hung a glowing heart around her neck.  I'll just let the pictures tell the story.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

More Culture Night

My Culture Night did not go exactly to plan but was still generally fantastic. 

It started with the comedy music stylings of Eleventy Four in the National Gallery, accompanied by some very good white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake.  I didn't wander around the gallery, as Nina pointed out, it's open all the time and always free.  I wanted to focus on less regular stuff.

The NGI was followed with a thwarted trip to Kilmainham Gaol.  When we arrived, there was a queue.  Not that surprising for the night that was in it.  We got in the queue which moved fairly swiftly.  However, after about 5 minutes, someone who worked there came out and sent everyone away.  The guided tours were full up.  This was disappointing, especially considering how far out it was from the main hive of activity.  I'm docking you marks, Kilmainham Gaol, you could totally open later than 20:45 one night a year!

But onwards.  We walked back into town and head to St. Audeon's Church, which is ancient and atmospheric.  It was swiftly followed by Christchurch, passing by a giant queue for Dublinia.  Town was hopping.  We called into the Bull & Castle for a quick pint but it was noisy as always and we soon left. Dublin Castle called to us and we wandered through the State Apartments, where they had people in costumes answering questions.  From there, we walked down through a jam-packed Temple Bar and went to the Science Gallery.  I think the Elements exhibition was my favourite thing from the evening.  It's not every day I see the glow of uranium and gold ingots.  By this stage, it was quite late.  There was time for one more stop, which was the Irish Architectural Archive on Merrion Square.  They're actually in the largest house on Merrion Square, and though sparsely furnished, it was well worth seeing.  One companion lamented the lack of models for playing with, but there was a delightful mishmash of buildings in Dublin.  We had fun guessing which they were.  The building also houses the Irish Manuscripts Commission, and I nosed into some genealogy books immediately. 

There was an empty bank for Dublin bikes outside it, so I took my tired feet on one last walk back to the bus stop, happy with my experiences, and sad that another Culture Night was over.

Brief Musings from Culture Night

Due to having variously been out of the country, sick, or away on or just back from a work trip in previous years, this was actually my first experience of Culture Night. Even then, as it had been an eventful day, I had to keep it brief. My companions and I visited the United Arts Club, Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland, the Arts Council and the National Library. We deliberately wanted to stay away from institutions that we could otherwise access at any time, such the large museums and galleries, and instead preferred to poke our noses into less likely places. I was struck by how cordially we, and indeed, as far as I could see, all the other visitors, were received at each spot. The hosts seemed sincerely delighted to be having visitors and were keen to volunteer information and answer questions. Thus we were made welcome and we very much enjoyed the experience.

The RSAI emerged as our favourite. We saw their beautiful garden, restored to appear as it would have looked in the 18th-century. Amidst the mostly edible plants (GIY is not a new invention, folks!) there was a poignant little gravestone erected for Prince, a loyal award-winning dog. The building itself was gorgeous, with spectacular plasterwork on ceilings and historical furniture present in most rooms. The shelves of the ground room library held such treasures as a three-volume collected correspondence of Emily, Duchess of Leinster.

While we were walking on the streets, I remarked to my companions that there was a particularly festive and enthusiastic atmosphere about the city. There were long queues to the Freemasons' Hall and to the Houses of the Oireachtas. Groups and pairs of people wandered from one balloon-decorated, fully lit place to the next. A lot of children had been taken along, and they seemed as interested as the adults. Most curiously for this city, people appeared sober! Perhaps those who had indulged to celebrate a well-known brewery the previous night had decided to take it easy. It felt like major celebrations - Hallowe'en, if you like, or New Year, and so on - should feel like. One of my companions expressed definite appreciation of the night and wished for something similar in the UK as well. Next year, perhaps, I will get a chance to spend some more time at the event, so that the Culture Night will become a Culture Day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Photos from town on Culture Night

Monster Truck Gallery. The projector was recently funded via

The Culture Box in Temple Bar

Gallery of Photography, Meeting House Square

Short films being shown in Filmbase

Project Arts Centre will soon have a bit of plantlife upstairs.

Queues at National Wax Museum

Connolly Books/The New Theatre

The newly-relocated Gaiety School of Acting

Cow's Lane

Music in Dublin Castle

Here we see the throne room used by the Queen of France while she ruled over Dublin? No, I'm not sure either, but I liked what the OPW were doing.

The flags on the wall are for the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick.

'Elements' in Science Gallery

The Goethe-Institut Dublin

Friday, September 23, 2011

Culture Night

It's here, it's here at last!

I'm like a child with too many shiny Christmas presents - I don't know what to do first.
I had a whole route plotted which was then ruined by how late Kilmainham Gaol starts its events.
So now I'll be doing things in a different order, and hopefully making use of my beloved Dublin Bikes along the way.  Have a great night everyone: we'll have some reviews up over the course of the weekend.

Full details for Culture Night are available on, although the site is currently slow, presumably due to very high traffic.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Better Loved From Afar

One of the nice things about ABSOLUT Fringe is the inclusion of very unconventional shows which are nothing at all like a traditional play. Better Loved From Afar combines narration and photography to tell the story of the Irish who migrated to Argentina in the 1800s, and their descendents. The performers, Noelia Ruiz and Angel Luis Gonzalez, are cousins who both came to Ireland from Argentina; their own story forms part of the narrative. The title of the performance refers to the way Argentinians of Irish descent can sometimes view the country through the lens of the past.

It's an interesting subject and Noelia Ruiz is a skilled storyteller. This is one of those performances best seen not as a complete work but as a snapshot of a greater tale, an introduction to an underappreciated part of Ireland's story of emigration; the programme does a nice job of adding further vignettes.

Conclusion: the distinctive format works well for the subject matter, and I left wanting to know more.

Better Loved From Afar runs in the New Theatre in Temple Bar until Saturday 24th September at 8 pm each evening. Tickets cost €14. Duration: 45 minutes.

Oktoberfest Dublin 2011

If stout isn't your thing, there's an alternative to Arthur's Day: today is also the start of Oktoberfest in Dublin's Docklands. Beer! Sauerkraut! Sausages! More Beer! It's great.

Proper review and information here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dublintellectual returns

It's back! One of the most fun and interesting new additions to Dublin's cultural scene returns this evening. Dublintellectual brings academic subjects from the humanities to a more general audience in an enjoyable and infromal atmosphere - I've been to several events and really liked them. Tonight's Dublintellectual is in its usual location, Shebeen Chic on George's Street, at 8 pm. Free of charge.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Hand Me Down the Moon

In 25 Eustace Street in Temple Bar, time doesn't so much stand still as loops up on to itself. Every twenty minutes, one of three versions of Bella - and this is no passive, pining, angsting vampire-lover, make no mistake - half-narrate, half-act out vignettes from a life gone past. Bella longs for a childhood, but one that is not just hers; instead, she recalls the enthusiastic toddler years of humanity, when we were taking those first few tentative steps outside our cradle, before apparently abandoning the adventure as too risky.

This performance is an example of what is known as immersive theatre: the (tiny, maximum five members) audience are present within the performance, rather than seated outside it. This is particularly evident in the first part, when, first seated at a dining room table, the audience are, from there, urged to rush in to the living room to watch the first moon landing, "live". As the audience and the actors mix at Bella's father's moon party, it is difficult to tell who is here to perform and who is here to watch/experience. The excitement in front of the period TV set is palpable: put away your out-of-character knowledge and you may just experience a glimmer of the wonder the contemps felt on seeing Armstrong and Aldrin emerge on another world. Unfortunately, the mixing of audience and actors is not repeated, and for the rest of the performance the audience quite firmly remain spectators, aside from small gestures from the other two Bellas.

Bella's story is based on the life of Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, who really did live in a house on Malin Head, and whose father worked as a radio operator. The other writer, Aideen Barry, is a visual artist, and her influence is seen in the several animations that take place during the performance. This is seriously mixed media. Not only do we have the live performance, but also animations, short films, countless details carefully placed around the house. In a way, this performance is not only about stepping into a play, but also stepping into a work of visual art. It is a pity, therefore, that the out-of-character transitions from one part to another mostly interrupt the flow of the play and that the ending is quite abrupt. The audience are torn away from the experience with a brusque "Time to leave now!" without a chance to express their appreciation in any way.

Some of the reviews of this performance have been quite lukewarm. I wonder if you need at least a drop of nerdhood in your veins to truly appreciate it. I see this performance as a love song to space and to girls and women who hold "non-feminine" interests. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in space and/or manned spaceflight. For any woman with an interest in them, or for anyone with a daughter with an interest in such things, I call this essential viewing.

As part of Absolut Fringe, Hand Me Down the Moon continues in 25 Eustace Street until 24 September. Performances at 20 minute intervals from 6 pm to 9 pm. Tickets at 15 euro (students 13 euro) available from the Absolut Fringe website, Filmbase Office, or the venue, if you feel like chancing it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Zorbing & Aqua Spheres @ the Outdoor Discovery Centre

While most people in the country were fixated on Croke Park today (well done, our Dublin boys!), myself, Dave and another friend were in Corkagh Park in Clondalkin to go zorbing.  Corkagh Park is a former big house and demesne of 300 acres which now belongs to Dublin City Council.  I admit to never having heard of it before going there today but it's a beautiful resource, with wide parks for playing, a playground, a petting zoo, fly fishing lakes and of course, zorbing.  I'd picked up a City Deal during the "summer" which made the zorbing half price and we finally got around to going today.  It's normally €15 a roll.

But what is zorbing?

Well, there's people strapped inside that giant ball.  They were pushed down a big hill and rolled until the path flattened out.  Our friend had done it before abroad and he said there are variants where there's water inside the ball with you and you're not strapped in.  This version thankfully involved neither of those crazy sounding bits.  Let's take a closer look.
 So we're strapped in there, with our anonymity preserved!  My only complaint is it was quite short.

It was a totally exhilarating experience.  I had 2 goes.  Dave's going to upload some more photos later.  Afterwards, the Outdoor Discovery guys were telling us about aqua spheres so we toddled down to where this was taking place, and then, had a go.  It costs €10 for 5 mins.  You get into a deflated beach ball, which is then inflated with a large hair dryer.

 Then you roll down into the lake area.  Now, you're tethered to the ground so there's no risk of floating off.  Our volunteer tells me that it got quite stuffy inside, it was a tiny bit damp, even though the ball is waterproof sealed and he was wrecked when he came out of it.  But Dave & I had a great laugh watching him, so it's fun for spectators as well as participants.

Signage for both places could be better within Corkagh Park but I'd highly recommend the activities themselves.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Road Works on Culture Night

I know, I know - I can already hear the groaning. The Culture Night is already jammed with awesome! There's certainly no need for more. And yet more and more things keep cropping up, such as what I am about to tell you now.

Those exciting folks at Dublin Contemporary have organised a walking tour of the city centre's street art for Friday the 23rd at 6.30 pm. They are calling it 'Road Works, The Office of Non-Compliance, Street Art: A Walking Tour of Dublin Contemporary.' The 1.5 hour tour will meander through the South City Centre and over to O'Connell Street.

The tour is free of charge.

Rockin' the River

There was a free concert on in Grand Canal Dock this afternoon, Rockin' The River. The band pictured above is called Crash, and they were pretty good. This is the first of these concerts, with another planned for next month, but the promoters need to do more to get the word out about the event - when I wandered by in the early afternoon and I saw almost as many staff and security as onlookers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Laughter on the 23rd Floor, a new play by Neil Simon, will be showing at the Draoícht Theatre, Blanchardstown, 4-8 October, and the Mill Theatre, Dundrum, 20-22 October. The production is by Shift Theatre Company.

We are told:

It's New York. 1953. A bunch of comedy hacks write for TV funny man, Max Prince. Problem is, Mr Funny Bone could be headed for the Funny Farm! Can the guys stop cracking gags long enough to stop Max from cracking up?

Draíocht: 8.15 pm (previews 4 and 5 October)
Mill Theatre: 8 pm
Tickets: €15 and €12 concession (previews €10)

Does Anybody Ever

Three grown up children are living in a black box. They’re sitting in the bath because they’re dirty and they want to be clean. As they have no idea how they’re related to each other, they have no idea how to relate to each other. They’re making brutalities into games to pass the time, and they want you to see what they’ve just learned to do. These bloodless siblings are learning that we love the people we hate just as much as we hate the people we love.

One of the new plays in the ABSOLUT Fringe is Does Anybody Ever by theatre company The Children, as described in the official Fringe blurb above. Though you wouldn't know it from the description, death is perhaps the most striking theme of the play, alongside the puzzling and malleable relationships between the three characters.

I have a confession: I just don't know how I can possibly write a review for this. It feels like someone's found a previously unknown Beckett script, read it to me very lyrically, and then left me wondering what it's all about. Most plays can be reviewed: Does Anybody Ever deserves to be critiqued. I don't feel I could do it justice without, at a minimum, a second viewing.

Conclusion: A beautiful and intricate play. (You win this round, The Children...)

There are two shows left, Friday 16th and Saturday 17th, at 8:30pm running for 50 minutes. Tickets cost €11/€9. The venue is Players Theatre in Trinity College.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Open House 2011

The program for Open House 2011 is online!  It takes place from 7th - 9th October and looks very promising, though it looks to me like a smaller selection than previous years, and I'm disappointed not to see the awesome Iveagh House (aka The Dept. of Foreign Affairs) not on the list.  I like the look of the walking & cycle tours, hopefully they'll get the weather.

Some highlights that I've seen before include:
The Casino in Marino
The Old Airport Terminal building
No10 Henrietta St

This year I would like to see:
The Iveagh Trust Museum flat
The French Ambassdor's House
The Military monuments of the Phoenix Park

The book was produced with the help of this year and is available for free from all the usual places.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Cult

Cult is a comedy about five believers left behind after their cult's mass ascension. They're not sure why they haven't ascended with their fellow 'Future Architects of Tomorrow', and without their Chosen One to guide them they'll have to work it all out for themselves.

As a production Cult is very impressive. Most plays have their strengths and weaknesses, but Cult is remarkably consistent in its high quality. It's well written and well acted, but most of all I liked the pace - there are no lulls and the length is just right. Theatre company Diet of Worms should be very proud of Cult.

Conclusion: Starts strongly and just gets better - incredibly funny and well worth seeing.

Cult is on in the newly-opened Lir Theatre in Grand Canal Dock each evening at 9pm continuing until Saturday 17th September. On Saturday 17th there's also a 2:30pm show. Tickets cost €13 and the play runs for 75 minutes.

Macnas show rescheduled for the closing night

On the Edge of Things Is a Fierce Beauty, the performance by Macnas, which was to open this year's Absolut Fringe but which was then cancelled at the very last minute due to the high winds caused by the stretching tentacles of the tropical storm Katia, has been rescheduled to take place on the closing night of the festival, Sunday 25 September, at 7.30 pm. The location of the performance remains Collins Barracks.

In an interesting decision, the organisers have decided that the original tickets are invalid and that new tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis from the Filmbase Office in Temple Bar, 10 am - 6 pm. Reasons of public safety and fairness to those who may have discarded their original tickets are cited.

Hats off to the willingness of Macnas and the festival to restage the event.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mammia Mia

Mamma Mia, the musical based on ABBA songs, returns to Dublin in October for a 2 week run at the Grand Canal Theatre.

Do not laugh: it is brilliant. 

I like ABBA as much as anyone and I went to it at the Point a few years ago expecting, well, contrived rubbish. And yes, it's kind of contrived. And no, they can't fit Waterloo into the story but they still do it as an encore.  Here's an ad for it - I think I know the guy in the video from somewhere.  Hopefully not real life!


Review: Do You Read Me?

"People are quick to judge", actor and writer Shaun Dunne told me when I met him recently and discussed his new play Do You Read Me?, a collaboration with Talking Shop Ensemble. The subject of their play - mediumship, communication with spirits and the dead - is certainly a devisive one, frequently subject to ridicule yet widely practiced throughout the city. As a psychic might use Tarot cards, Talking Shop Ensemble and Dunne use mediumship as a means by which to explore deeper themes.

Belief - or an unsatisfied need for belief - is at the heart of the play. Our grannies lit candles, comment the protagonists, as they wonder how modern Ireland will establish a new set of beliefs. Though Dunne stays away from directly confronting the reasons for loss of faith in religion and politics, the spiritual void caused by this loss is the driving, hidden force behind Do You Read Me?. Will the Irish be hardened by the culture of relevation? Will we find comfort and empathy in something new?

Moving between multiple forms of the theatre - semi-biographical "docu-drama", first-person narration, stylised monologues - we're told about people's experiences with mediums. This is a sympathetic but balanced portrayal, poking fun at its subject but emphasising that many people get great comfort from mediums.

The newly reopened Smock Alley Theatre is a good and atmospheric venue for the play. As Dunne points out, theatre is in its own way another source of empathy and belief. My quick judgement: I liked it and left happy. Dunne and Talking Shop can be pleased with their production.

Do You Read Me? continues until Friday 16th in Smock Alley Theatre, starting at 8:45pm each evening and running for 60 minutes. Tickets cost €14/€12.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Man of Valour

In 2011, if you see just one... oh, wait, that's how film reviews are written. Pardon my mistake. Man of Valour just isn't like any normal play - in some ways it's more cinematic than theatrical.

In this remarkable one-man show Paul Reid plays hero protagonist Farrell Blinks - an office worker and modern-day Walter Mitty - along with various secondary characters. Using an astounding combination of mime, accents, vocal effects and projection, Man of Valour tells Blinks' story as he faces both the tedium of his daily life and his response to greater challenges. The soundtrack and background sound effects also add to the experience.

Conclusion: funny, ingenious and very entertaining - this is an exceptional play. Go see it as soon as you can.

Man of Valour continues in the Samuel Beckett theatre on Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th, and then from Thursday 15th to Saturday 24th at 8:30pm. There's also a matinee show at 3pm on Saturday 24th. Tickets cost €18/€16 on most days, or €20/€18 on Friday and Saturday. Duration: 90 minutes.

Review: The Year of Magical Wanking

The Year of Magical Wanking is a one-man biographical play written and performed by Neil Watkins of theatre company THISISPOPBABY. For a single performer to hold an audience on his own takes charisma and a great story to tell: and Watkins has both. His account of his life and his sexuality is explicit but never gratuitous.

Unconventional and excellent - highly recommended.

The Year of Magical Wanking continues until Saturday 17th in Project Arts Centre, starting at 10pm and running for 60 minutes. Tickets cost €15/€13 and are worth every damn cent.

Review: Jumping Off The Earth

Jumping Off the Earth is a play about space, both in the sense of outer space and also in the play's use of the theatre space.

The play starts off set in a spaceship, and if the gags are simple they nonetheless kept the audience laughing. The use of the Space Upstairs in Project Arts Centre is enjoyable in its own right: for regular patrons of Project Arts, it'll be a treat to see the space used to its full extent. Aedín Cosgrove, the set and lighting designer for this production, can be proud of the atmosphere (or, well, lack of atmosphere) she's created.

And then... the play veers off course, narrowly avoids crashing right through the fourth wall, and turns into a play about the theatre and the actors. In normal circumstances I'd be annoyed by that, but I expect Fringe plays to take chances. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Jumping Off The Earth is well acted, with excellent stagecraft and moments of brilliant writing, but unfortunately the whole is less than the sum of the parts. It's sufficiently entertaining and original that I'm glad to have seen it, but it can't be at the top of your Fringe "must see" list.

Jumping Off The Earth continues in the Space Upstairs in Project Arts Centre until Saturday 17th September, starting at 8pm and running for 60 minutes. Tickets cost €14/€12.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sculpture in Context: A Visit

Amidst all the gloomy weather we have been having lately, the skies very kindly turned for my visit to see the Sculpture in Context exhibition at the National Botanic Gardens yesterday. My guests and I had the fortune to stroll around this beautiful place mostly in bright warm sunlight. All around the gardens, over 120 works of art had been installed by their creators, taking into account their specific locations and circumstances, in other words, their context. A catalogue and a map of the locations of the sculptures can be acquired from the visitors' centre for three euro, but as I find pleasure in the exploratory and treasure-hunty nature of simply discovering the sculptures (or not - many in the catalogue I simply didn't spot this time) I chose to wander around unguided and purchased the catalogue afterward.

One of my great arty loves is finding works of art in unexpected places or situations, so there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy the exhibition. However, I was struck by how a good few artists had chosen to creates sculptures in the shape of flowers or leaves and situated them amidst real blooms or foliage. Yes, certainly, this is sculpture in the Botanic Gardens. But after you have seen one set of artificial flowers, the rest become very samey. A little unimaginative, perhaps? I felt more stimulated by shapes that did not attempt to imitate the context, but worked with it and also within it. Thankfully, there were plenty of those available as well. Visitors should also note that in addition to the works of art situated in the landscape, there is also a large selection shown in the visitors' centre.

Some of my favourites are pictured here:

Sculpture in Context continues in the National Botanic Gardens until 21 October 2011, Mo-Fri 9 am to 5 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am to 6 pm, free admission.