Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cow's Lane returns

Talking about Temple Bar, I see that the Cow's Lane designer "mart" is re-opening on the 4th February. The weather forecast looks like it's turning cold towards the end of the week - wrap up when you're going!

A Date With Dublin

People have a lot of opinions about Valentine's Day. Whichever camp you belong to, you might be interested to learn that you now have the option of taking your city out for the night! A Date With Dublin is a 12-hour event taking place on 14 February in various cultural organisations across the city. Much of the activity is centred around Temple Bar. Don't let the pink livery deter you - the programme looks varied and interesting. I wouldn't mind if this became an annual occurrence.

Rush Drama Festival

The 9th Rush Drama Festival takes place in the Millbank Theatre from 23rd February - 3rd March.  The list of competing plays has just been announced.  I notice a performance of Neil Simon's brilliant The Odd Couple and Friel's Dancing with Lughnasa, which I may just have to check out.  Shows will run nightly at 8pm with tickets a modest €12 or €10 for block bookings available from their box office on 01 8437475 or 087 1961636 or bookings@millbanktheatre.com. Season tickets are also available at €80.

Rush Dramatic Society's current production at the Millbank is The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson.  It runs until 18th February.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Exhibition - The Secret Laboratory

The Secret Laboratory is an architectural exhibition starting in Dublin Civic Offices on Wood Quay on Tuesday 31st January and running until 17th February. From the RIAI website:
The exhibition reveals the hidden world of the architect’s sketchbook. Shown together as a selection of local, national and international architects, the exhibition reveals the ideas, observations, thoughts and reflections that are often concealed in a drawer, a coat pocket or in the individual imagination of the architect.

In our digital age the drawing and sketch still hold their value as being fundamental to artistic and theoretical practice: to record journeys, everyday objects, project development, conversations and things half seen and imagined. But what ideas do we carry with us? How do we use the ‘device’ of the sketchbook?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dublintellectual - Conversations on Culture

Dublintellectual are holding another of their Conversations on Culture events in the Ormond Wine Bar on Ormond Quay on Wednesday 1st February at 8 pm. As usual there'll be three speakers, and their subjects this time will be the composition of contemporary music, art in a global economy, and Sheela-na-Gigs. The event is free of charge.

I've very much enjoyed previous Dublintellectual events. The combination of a nice wine bar, interesting topics of conversation and the crowd Dublintellectual attracts creates a friendly, sociable atmosphere. It'll be a fun evening.

'I ♥ Alice ♥ I' is back

The play I ♥ Alice ♥ I is back for another run, this time in the Abbey Theatre. I saw it last year in Project Arts Centre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival and enjoyed it - I'd give it at least 4/5.

Tickets cost from €13 to €25. The play runs from 1st February to 18th February, with previews on 30th and 31st January. The performance time is 55 minutes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Volta.ie - new Irish video on demand service

Volta.ie is a new Irish online service allowing customers to view Irish and international films, with an emphasis on independent films.

One of the great challenges for independent films is distribution: there are many hopeful filmmakers but not so many distribution deals - or cinemas willing to show their works. On the internet though that sort of capacity problem ceases to apply, potentially allowing new or independent filmmakers the chance to compete on (relatively) even terms. It's a very crowded field - even Sundance are getting in on it - but I think Volta has a real chance to make an impact and help Irish film. Volta will in some cases release films on the same day they appear in cinemas, and they have a deal with RTE for distribution of the channel's dramas. Wisely, Volta have decided to let customers rent or buy individual films without needing to become subscribers; subscription might suit Netflix but it could be unattractive for customers who want to see a specific film but don't plan to watch independent films regularly.

The company behind Volta, Element Pictures, are also responsible for the recent reopening of the Light House Cinema in Smithfield. This is an interesting example of (sort of) verticle integration: make films such as The Guard, distribute them in cinemas, and also distribute them online. It's not an entirely original concept, but so what? For the sake of Irish filmmaking and Irish audiences, I hope they're successful.

Dublin Theatre Festival - campaign designer wanted

This is an important year for the Dublin Theatre Festival, with Loughlin Deegan having moved on to the Lir Academy and a new main sponsor needed to replace Ulster Bank. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Festival is now looking to hire an agency or designer to create their new brochure and 2012 marketing campaign. They want "a new fresh approach; a clear, contemporary message that can be used throughout our print, online and outdoor executions that is crisp, fun and inspiring." Details are on dublintheatrefestival.com.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Family - "Kitchen Table Chats"

Although I was somewhat critical of The Family (the THEATREclub play currently out in Project Arts Centre) one aspect of the production I'm impressed by is that they're having a series of post-show discussions on issues raised in the play. These "kitchen table chats" are on each evening this week (up to and including Friday). For example the one this evening is called "I think it's time for you to go home now" and is about the effects of addiction on families.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Free winetasting class

The New Zealand Wine Fair Dublin 2012 is on Monday 30th in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. One of the attendees is winemaker Jamie Marfell of Brancott Estate, and on the evening after the Wine Fair he'll be hosting a free winetasting masterclass in Odessa Club.

Here's what the helpful press release says:

"On the evening Jamie will be joined by Irish wine expert Jean Smullen who will help him to guide the audience through the wine tasting process. Guests will be treated to a selection of delicious canapés and will have the opportunity to try five wines from the Brancott range; three from the classic range (Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate Pinot Grigio and Brancott Estate Pinot Noir), one wine from the Letter Series Range, Letter Series B and one of the newest varietals to the range, the sparkling Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc Brut NV.

The Brancott Estate wine tasting masterclass hosted by Brancott Estate winemaker Jamie Marfell and Irish wine expert Jean Smullen takes place in Odessa Club on Tuesday 31st January at 7.00pm. Tickets are free and guests can register for spaces by emailing Brancottestateireland@gmail.com with their name, date of birth, contact details and address or they can find out more information through the Brancott Estate Facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/brancottestateireland. Tickets are allocated on a lottery basis and guests will be notified of attendance by Friday 27th January."

The class will run for about two hours.

Personally I'm quite a fan of New Zealand wine, particularly their Pinot Noir. I also like that they're well ahead of European producers in their use of screwcaps.

Dublin Chinese New Year Carnival

Dublin's Chinese New Year Carnival is on at the moment in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar.

The Dragon, in Irish colours

Heads from some of the other animals

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Project Arts / The Family

I said a few days ago in my review of 'The Family' that I'd be posting more... and I will, but it'll be tomorrow instead of today.

In the meantime, I should mention that Project Arts Centre will soon host another visual arts exhibition, following on from the excellent The Last of the Red Wine. It's called Panto Collapsar and the artist, Mikala Dwyer, describes it as "an exploded and bewitched house with a floating roof". The opening night is from 6 pm to 8 pm on Thursday 26th, and the exhibition continues until 31st March.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dublin City Book Fair

The Dublin City Book Fair is on this Sunday in its usual venue, the Tara Towers Hotel in Blackrock (though I always thought it was in Ballsbridge).  It's sure to be a bibliophile's delight.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: The Family

The latest play in Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar is The Family, by THEATREclub. As this is such a distinctive and intricate play I've a lot to say about it, so I'm going to separate my comments into two articles. This first post is a review; the commentary in the second post (on Saturday) won't make much sense until you've seen the play.

Right, so is it any good? Yes, very much so - but I have to warn you that some theatre-goers would hate it. I mean really, truly hate it. The subject matter (the Irish family) is conventional but the style and structure aren't. Anyone looking for an easy-to-follow, linear narrative with clear relationships between characters will be disappointed. Dion Boucicault or Sean O'Casey this most certainly is not.

For those of you who've seen previous THEATREclub plays and liked their style, The Family is strongly recommended. Think HEROIN, but better - and by quite a margin. As with HEROIN the "fourth wall" between the audience and actors is very thin, the relationship between actors and characters is (intentionally) ambiguous, and roles and status are fluid. There's a lot going on, and not just on-stage: THEATREclub have put several short videos on YouTube for this play, and there'll be a series of panel discussions about today's Ireland. This is an impressive and well-performed work of theatre.

A particular highlight of The Family is the combination of music, dialogue and choreography. (More about that in Saturday's post.) The quality of the acting is also praiseworthy - Lauren Larkin and Gerard Kelly in particular have moments of extraordinary authenticity, but all of the cast do well.

Given that it's got such strengths it might seem harsh to say that some patrons might dislike this play. Perhaps so, but even taking into account the play's unorthodox form it just takes too long for the play to grip fully and forcefully the attention of audience. Oh, The Family gets there, and some of the later scenes are superb - but could it get there just a little faster please? In combination with the lack of a story (in the usual sense of the word) the initial pace could turn off the interest of some people.

So it's simple: if you go to the theatre once or twice a year, want to see a play with a conventional narrative, and want to be sure you enjoy it, avoid The Family. If however you're a theatre regular and you want to see something thought-provoking with moments of exceptional acting, then you should definitely see The Family. Some people will love it, some will hate it, and I think THEATREclub can be happy with that.

The Family continues in Project Arts Centre until 28th January 2012. Tickets cost €18/€15. The play runs for 90 minutes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dublintellectual - Conversations on Culture

One of my favourite initiatives of 2011 was Dublintellectual, bringing academic subjects from the humanities to a more general audience in an enjoyable and infromal atmosphere. I've enjoyed their events, not only for the events themselves but also because they attract a nice, friendly crowd. (Well mostly friendly: one academic who repeatedly told fans of The Wire that Deadwood was better got quite a few boos.)

Their upcoming event is on Wednesday 18th January 2012 in the Ormond Wine Bar on Ormond Quay at 20:00. (It's a good choice of venue.) The three speakers will be talking about the films of Billy Wilder, the works of Brian Friel and John McGahern, and the art collective Upstart.

The event is free of charge.

Monday, January 16, 2012

James Joyce birthday lecture

The James Joyce Centre on North Great George's Street is hosting a lecture on 2nd February 2012 called Joyce, Exiles, Suffragism and the Summer of 1912. It's one of a series of lectures and admission is free. As seating is limited the organisers advise booking a place in advance.

The lecture will be followed by a wine reception and a recital by Joycean performer Paul O’Hanrahan.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wintertime at the National Gallery

The National Gallery, although under extensive refurbishment, has kept its doors open via the Millennium Wing (Clare Street entrance). Two days ago I paid a visit, as it had been a good while since my last one. I miss the Dargan and Milltown wings; currently, it feels like the limited number of works in small exhibitions are claustrophobically contained in spaces that don't do them justice. Ironically, your attention is drawn more to apparently endless walls and stairs than it is to the exhibition pieces. Hopefully, when the refurb ends, the two other wings will again do justice to the grand place the Gallery is. Maybe I'm blind, but I did also miss "Bear with us while we're doing the place up" -signs - indeed I could see and hear several tourists wander around in a confused manner. Nonetheless, all the facilities are still available: the large shop, cloakroom, information and the vast café that I've never seen less than packed.

During the refurbishment, Rooms 1-10 in the Millennium Wing and the Beit wing continue showing 'Masterpieces of the Collection'. There is a strong focus here on Irish art, with the usual Irish artistic motifs of poverty, death and misfortune. Paintings by Jack B. Yeats can be viewed in the Yeats room. More interesting to me were the current temporary exhibitions. As happens every January, the Gallery's collection of Turner's watercolours was displayed in the Print Gallery. These landscapes are delicate and usually dreamlike, most often painted with light colours. They seem to encompass temporariness: the viewer glances, sees, and as the landscape seems to fade away into the dreamworld of its paper, the viewer moves on. Entirely more solid are the miniature and silhouette portraits of the Mary A. McNeill Bequest displayed in the adjacent rooms.

My favourite section, indeed the very reason behind my visit, was a selection from the Prints and Drawings collection. 'Fables and Fairy Tales - Illustrations from the Collection' shows a small number of delightful illustrations by Richard and Charles Doyle, Harry Clarke, Paul Henry and John Butler Yeats. From a decidedly non-modern-day-appropriate series of drawings of a naughty boy being devoured by a lion, to 'Dicky's' sepia imaginings of fairies, to illustrations to Andersen's fairy tales in Clarke's deep lustruous colours, this exhibition will please both the child and the adult.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Return of the Lighthouse

I'm delighted to hear that the Lighthouse cinema in Smithfield is re-opening under new management.  According to the Journal, it will be used as a location the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, which be on in February.  Element Pictures are the new owners and they are already advertising for staff.

It remains to be seen whether they will continue the arthouse/indie tradition or go for more mainstream cinema but either way, this is great news for Smithfield, and Dublin in general.

Dublin Chinese New Year Festival 2012

Details of the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival 2012 are available on www.cny.ie. There's a nice variety of cultural events including a film festival, an opera, a photography exhibition of China in the mid-1800s, a photography exhibition about traditional Peking Opera, lectures and the highlight of the festival, a Chinese New Year carnival on Sunday 22nd January* in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar.

*Sunday 22nd is actually the day before Chinese New Year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

First Fortnight

I am very regretful that we appear to have missed this, but First Fortnight, Ireland's first mental health arts festival has been taking place in Dublin for the past week and a half. Dedicated to challenging mental health prejudice through creative arts, it will continue until the end of the week, so do make sure to catch some of the remaining programme and to support this very important venture.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Get Back to the Tivoli

The Tivoli is a theatre I often forget about, I'm sad to say.  So when an email popped upped reminding me of its existence, I thought I should mention it.

Get Back is the story of the Beatles documenting their Liverpool origins and going right through to the break-up.  If ever you wanted a musical where you'd be guaranteed a good singalong, I bet this would be it.  The site doesn't mention any actors names, etc so I don't know if they're genuine musicians but references suggest they are doing their own singing.  No matter though, I reckon it will be a good family show.

It runs from 19th January to 14th February.  Tickets are between €20 - €28.50

I notice from the Tivoli's website that this sort of musical seems to be a theme for this year with a similar type show for Elvis and then Abba due before summer.  Nostalgia-rama.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New plays in Project Arts Centre

Along with the Abbey, Project Arts is probably my favourite theatre. One attribute that separates it from the competition is the sheer number and variety of plays they show. In the next three months they'll put on ten plays, as well as dance and musical performances and a new visual arts piece.

Project Arts has adapted to the new economic situation by offering some great deals. For most plays you can save 25% by booking before a cut-off date, which is typically a week before the first performance. They also have "real deal" offers such as reduced prices on some nights or two tickets for the price of one.

There are two performances in March I think could be particularly noteworthy: Tiny Plays For Ireland and Agamemnon. Tiny Plays is a collection of (very) short plays put together by Fishamble in partnership with the Irish Times, based on submissions both from established writers and the public. Agamemnon by Aeschylus is performed by Classic Stage Ireland, a theatre company dedicated to classical plays.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

More Joyce: 'The Dead' Dinner, Gresham Hotel, 6th January

One of the stories in Joyce's Dubliners is called The Dead, and it's the inspiration for an event in the Gresham Hotel on Friday 6th January:

Friday January 6th 2012, 8pm

The Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1

Join us in the lavish surrounds of the Gresham Hotel as we celebrate Joyce’s masterpiece ‘The Dead’.

You'll be treated to a dinner inspired by the meal served by the Misses Morkans and entertained by some of Dublin's most renowned Joycean performers.

Tickets cost €50.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The year of Joyce

As you might be aware, this is an important year for fans of James Joyce: European copyright restrictions on publication and performance on Joyce's works have expired. Bloom's Day will no doubt be a much bigger part of the city's cultural calendar than it normally is, and Joyce's Dubliners is the choice for this year's "One City, One Book". (I'm part of the way into Dubliners and as I was informed in advance it's actually quite readable.)

Perhaps the first Joycean event of the year is a production of a play called Gibraltar: an adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses, on nightly at 8 pm in The New Theatre in Temple Bar until January 14th. The play has previously been performed in New York and Philadelphia. Its focus is the relationship between Ulysses' protagonist Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly.

Tickets cost €12/€15.

Phoenix Park 350 years old

This year is the 350th anniversary of the Phoenix Park. (I must admit I hadn't realised it was anything like that old.) There'll be a series of events and projects in the park to celebrate the anniversary - the press release is on merrionstreet.ie. There's also an interesting article about the park over on thejournal.ie.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Electric Céilí playing at The Big Brunch in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar

Electric Céilí are on stage this afternoon in Meeting House Square for 'The Big Brunch'. Actually the food isn't particularly brunchy, but never mind, the weather is beautiful and Electric Céilí know how to work a crowd.

That's a very poor quality photo I've taken of the band, so to make up for it here are some much nicer pictures of a cute dog called Cosi who was wandering around being friendly. The first time the music stopped he started barking, but fortunately for everyone that didn't continue.

A few photos from the New Year's Eve countdown party on College Green

There were lots of acts on stage for the New Year's Eve celebration on College Green, but I didn't photograph them apart from the Coronas. It was a fun evening and I spent most of the evening chatting, having a few drinks, wandering around in the crowd and not taking photos.

Oh, and all these years later Riverdance is still amazingly good.

Happy New Year! If you're in the mood for it, there's more New Year's fun on in Temple Bar on Sunday 1st January including "The Big Brunch" at 11:00 in Meeting House Square.