Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blindfolded concert

The National Concert Hall has come up with a cool idea to fundraise for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Week.  On Wednesday, 26th September a lunch time audience will be blindfolded to hear a program of music and other entertainment. Mary Kennedy will host the show and various surprise celebrity performances are promised. Tickets are only a tenner and all the proceeds go to the National Council for the Blind.

Tickets are available here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The IMMA as a concert venue

Last week I had the pleasure to attend one of the concerts given by Leonard Cohen, held on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, in Kilmainham. The concert itself was, predictably, wonderful, aided by the marvelous clear weather we had on the day, but I was so impressed by the place as a venue that I wanted to say a few words about it here.

Ordinarily, of course, the IMMA houses visual art exhibitions, but at times it yields its substantial greenspace to musical events. Leonard Cohen has performed there before, and, each year, the Forbidden Fruit festival is held there as well. On this occasion at least, everything ran like a clockwork. The gates were opened three hours before Cohen took the stage at 7.15 pm. We sauntered to the site around 5.30 pm, had some drink, had some food, wandered around the food area, which to me resembled an idealised village green more than anything else, with a varied selection of pleasantly grown up foods and drinks. We found our seats quickly and effectively. Wide aisles had been left between sections of seats to enable as easy passage as possible. At no point were there queues or waiting. I heard several other people remark on this too. Even during the show, if an overwhelming need overtook you, it was easy to get to the toilet or to the bar or the food stalls. The only serious queues I saw formed outside the ladies toilets during the interval, but this should be no surprise to anyone. At the end, exiting was painless. Never mind the fact that that show started on time.

I don't know if this is how such events usually work at IMMA or whether we were lucky, or whether the nature of the concert and the attendees contributed to it. Nonetheless, well done! Probably the most enjoyable concert venue to which I have been.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September on the Square

Taking place on the nights around Culture Night, Merrion Square is doing something a little bit different.

The Irish Architectural Archive is hosting two special events in September.

Dancing on the Square attempts to recreate the original society experience of a house in Merrion Square with ballroom dancing experts on 20/09.  It's free but booking is essential.

Dining on the Square is a one-off Georgian banquet on 22/09.  Tickets for this cost a pricey €100 and can be booked online.  They suggest evening dress too.  I think it sounds brilliant fun.

Culture Night 21st September

Alright, I'm starting to get excited.  It is a mere week away from Culture Night 2012.  We are veteran Culture Nighters here and if you're a newbie, I would humbly suggest you review our previous reviews from 2010 and 2011, when we walked the legs off ourselves to cover as many events as possible.  My record stands at 11 different galleries, museums and locations in 2010.

Previous mentions:

Nina on 2011

Claire on 2011

Dave's 2011 photos

Claire on 2010

So what's new and interesting for this year?  First off, there's a nifty app, which I've just downloaded.  There's both an Android and Iphone version.  That's going to come in handy on the night and offers GPS action to show what's on near you and allows you to make a list of your plan.  Here's a selection of some new things and other recommendations.

City Assembly House
Renovated by the Irish Georgian Society, this South William St purpose built gallery was derelict for a long time.  Fittingly, it's hosting an exhibition of Tarquin Blake's Abandoned Mansions photographs on Culture night.

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre
This is one of my favourite buildings in Dublin.  Tours of centre, visit the Dolls Hospital or eat.  This place is not normally open later than 8pm so a nice opportunity to see it at night.

Whitefriar St Church
Visit the shrine to St Valentine!  They're open until 23:00.

One of the very best things about Culture Night is that things are free which normally cost, so if money has put you off seeing the Dublin Writers Museum or Kilmainham Gaol (though go early - massive queues last year and I didn't get to see it) or the Book of Kells, then make an effort to go now.  I know I always harp on about seeing Leinster House and the Freemason Lodge but seriously, they are so worth the queues.  Finally, if you can't get into town but are able to do something car based, I suggest the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham or Glasnevin cemetery (which has both tours and a museum).  There's a list of county council district events here.  There is quite literally something for everybody.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cultural educations

If you are anything like me, you never quite got over school. September brings with it a certain sense of a new year, a desire to do something new and inspiring with your mind or body. Perhaps the festival season is one manifestation of that, too. A yearning to find a channel for that autumnal energy. As we see at the checkouts of newsagents, the ever-increasing number of evening courses, even in these lean times, seems to indicate that a great many people are still looking for new hobbies or new education at this time of the year.

I am not going to do a post on all evening courses available out there, because Dave and Claire would get angry with me for hogging the blog for the next year, at which point I'd have to start over again. I have, however, trawled through the selection of the largest institutions of the city and reviewed their offerings. What follows is an entirely subjective list of courses that I found appealing and/or quirky.

Dublin City University: No evening courses. (My own university. I remain disappointed.)

Dublin Institute of Technology: No evening courses. (For shame.)

National College of Art and Design: Unfortunately the last date for application for their evening courses was 7 September. Apologies for missing this one.

Trinity College: Now we're talking. TCD's evening course selection remains respectable from year to year, and, in fairness, mostly unchanged. There are lots of languages - from ancient Classical ones to Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Turkish and Korean - and plenty of activity from the departments of Classics, History and Religions and Theology. For me, what stands out from the selection is an intriguing-sounding course on Magic. I for one am looking forward to Advanced Thaumaturgy next year.

University College Dublin: The most massive selection of evening courses, presented online in a slightly difficult pdf format, which means I can't link to individual courses. However, here my eye was caught by Revolutionary States: Home Rule & Modern Ireland, taught by the Curator of Education and staff of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Discovering Dublin from the archaeological perspective, A History of Irish Theatre in Ten Scandals, Folklore: The Supernatural World (I hope they work with the Leprechaun Museum), Magic, Heresy and Witchcraft in the Medieval times, Popular Literature. In the spring semester, we have A History of Irish Food and Reading Paris: A Literary Tour from Balzac to Rimbaud. There is medieval history available throughout the year, including a module on medieval war and society, which promises to investigate where some of the influences on A Game of Thrones came from. In the third semester, I see Hellfire Clubs in Eighteenth Century Ireland and A History of Hidden Dublin from Monto to Little Jerusalem. 

Phew. Now go get yourselves some education!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: The Horse Trading Diaries

Run Amok Theatre Company's new play The Horse Trading Diaries is inspired by the visit of Che Guevara to Ireland in 1965. Set in a (fictional) hotel in Limerick, the play is a dark comedy about the reactions and intrigues of the staff and guests of the hotel in response to Guevara's arrival.

The Horse Trading Diaries is Shane Burke's second play. His first, Flipside, was one of the most impressively high-quality debut plays I've seen. The Horse Trading Diaries shares a similar structure in that there isn't just one single protagonist. Instead, we get to see events from multiple perspectives, and as in Flipside this keeps the play moving along nicely throughout.

Colm Kenny-Vaughan (left) as Tim and Conor Scott (right) as Michael

The play's name is a reference to The Motorcycle Diaries, a biographical travelogue about Guevara in the days before he became a revolutionary, but in The Horse Trading Diaries Guevara is just passing through and is not a man of action so much as a catalyst for action by the other characters. Actor Ian Meehan faces a major challenge in portraying the iconic and charismatic Guevara, and though his depiction is a little understated this is more interesting than presenting the revolutionary as a larger-than-life figure dominating the other characters by his mere presence. Decades after his death it's easy to see the man as a legend instead of as the brave and contentious killer his contempories must have viewed him as.

To the extent that this complex play can be reduced to a single main theme, it's Ireland's relationship with revolution and rebellion. As Shakespeare put it, 'the eye sees not itself but by reflection', and Guevara's visit gives playwright Burke (and his characters) a way to look at Ireland's attitude to the heroes and villains of its history; and as the production's programme points out, at the time of Guevara's visit the then Taoiseach and President of Ireland were both former revolutionaries. Conor Scott is well cast as Michael, the hotel manager and former rebel, and provides some of the best dialogue of the play in discussing his past. The New Theatre is a particularly fitting venue for this production given that it's housed in the same location as the socialist bookshop Connolly Books. Ireland's rebellious history undoubtedly continues to influence our attitudes today, and is presumbly one reason for the recent controversial plans for a statue of Guevara in Galway.

'The Horse Trading Diaries' is undoubtedly good, but I should give a slight word of caution. Although billed as a comedy the play's humour varies widely in style and is often quite dry; perhaps unsurprisingly given the darkness of its themes. If you're looking for quality and wit in a play you'll be well rewarded by Run Amok's latest work - just don't expect a light-hearted comedy full of easy laughs.

Rating: ****

The Horse Trading Diaries runs until 8th September in the New Theatre in Temple Bar, starting at 8 pm each evening and ending around 9:45 pm, including a 15 minute interval. Tickets cost €15 / €12.