Monday, May 28, 2012

Ethica - four short plays by Samuel Beckett

'Ethica' is a production of four short Samuel Beckett plays by new theatre company Sugarglass Theatre. Ethica runs until 2nd June 2012 in the Samuel Beckett Theatre in Trinity College, Dublin. Full details are here.

The first of the four shorts is Play. It's quite similar to other (longer) Beckett plays, and I must admit to a moment of dread: there are times when Beckett seems like punishment for some unknown crime. Character-building punishment, perhaps, but definitely not fun.

Fortunately this concern didn't last too long. I wonder if shorts are the best way to appreciate Beckett? Come and Go (pictured above) is beautiful, with an elegant and simple structure. Catastophe is regarded as one of the playwright's most political plays, but is also beautiful as a piece of theatre, though it's not quite a match for Come and Go. Leaving the best until last, the final work is What Where. If M.C. Escher wrote plays, What Where might have been the type of play he'd have written.

Beckett's plays aren't to everyone's taste, but Sugarglass can be pleased with this well-produced collection of shorts.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Docklands Summer Festival 26th - 27th May

Well, I thought it was an ambitious name but the Docklands seem to have arranged the correct weather for this weekend.  All the details are on the website but I've pointed out a few bits below.

The festival will feature the World Street Performing Championships in Grand Canal Square, various water sports for you to try, markets, fairground rides, a golf challenge and walking tours, given by Pat Liddy.  I like the sound of touring the LE Aoife naval ship, which will be docked on Sir John Rogerson's quay both days and open between 14:00 - 16:30.  There's also a duck race each day in aid of Biobank Ireland.  Ducks can be individually decorated on site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Africa Day

I already briefly mentioned Africa Day on the blog but I wanted to give a bit more detail about it.  Despite being called Africa Day, there are actually events running all week, and not just in Dublin but throughout the country.

There is an impressive array of events on this weekend, mainly around the CHQ/George's Dock area of the city.  These include:

African Bazaar selling African made goods and food samples
Representatives from various embassies
Exhibitions (inside the CHQ - making great use of the vacant space)
Live music (running on two stages)
A number of charities and NGOs will be present showcasing the work they do in Africa

There's also an all day geographer's conference in the Royal Irish Academy tomorrow on Environment, Society and Space.

On Saturday night, the Clarence Hotel hosts a fashion show.  "From Africa with Love" will feature 5 different African designers' work, with live music.  Tickets are €10 for this event. 

Finally, I'll be speaking to Salome Mbugua on Artbeat later on this evening about Africa Day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

'Love In The Title' - comments on a new production

One of the best things to happen to Irish theatre in recent years is, founded just over a year ago to help with 'crowdfunding' of projects such as new plays. One of the latest plays supported this way is Room To Move Theatre Company's new production of Hugh Leonard's Love In The Title, now running in the New Theatre in Temple Bar.

Room To Move were kind enough to invite me along to the opening night. Since then I've spent quite some time thinking about the play; and as much as describing a play as 'thought provoking' is a cliché, nonetheless in this case it's accurate. (Mostly I've found myself thinking, "Was Hugh Leonard self-obsessed, or a cunning and talented writer who knew what his audience wanted?") So rather than writing a normal review I'm going to have some fun with this one and indulge in semi-informed, wildly speculative analysis. There will be spoilers.

Oh, yes: you want to know whether to see the play? That depends on what you're looking for. It's not especially fast-paced, exciting or dramatic; it's not a narrative so much as a conversation. Love In The Title is about three Irish women - a grandmother, mother and daughter - discussing their lives and loves. It's witty and clever, a charming work of art and an insightful look at 20th century Ireland.

So then: Hugh Leonard. Don't think for one second that the lack of any male characters makes the play less autobiographically inspired. Leonard's Magnum Opus is Da, a play inspired by his own life, in which the protagonist (Charlie) struggles with his relationship with his deceased adoptive father. Family and identity are explored by presenting Charlie with the chance to talk to the ghost of his Da. Love In The Title looks at the same issues but along the female line. Adoption and illegitimacy remain important themes, but here we see Leonard look at the harsher alternative of being reared in a religious institution.

As in Da, the plot device employed is to provide the modern-day protagonist with the opportunity to talk to his/her forebears; in this case her mother and maternal grandmother. A nice twist is that the ancestors are still youthful. Cat (played by April Bracken) is age 20 from 1932; her daughter Triona (Tanya Wilson) is 30 in 1964; and Triona's daughter Katie (Melissa Nolan) is 37 in 1999. April Bracken is a delight as Cat, but the age gap between Katie and Triona isn't self-evident in this production. I suspect that's at least partly due to the way the two characters dress, rather than being caused by poor casting.

Cat, having been born to an unmarried mother and raised by nuns, is horrified by Katie's casual attitude to sex, and shocked (and presumably bitter) to discover that by the late 20th century it's no longer shameful for a child to be born out of wedlock. Incidentally, one of Cat's old flames bears a striking resemblance to Leonard / Charlie from Da; he's an adopted child who goes on to become a successful writer. And like Leonard, Cat does not get to know her own mother.

Triona is the least distinct of the three characters. Chronologically in between the other two, she seems to be a bit of a filler: Cat and Katie are essential to the play, whereas Triona seems to be there to facilitate their dialogue. Perhaps there's hidden depth there that I missed.

Katie is something of an "author protagonist" at times. If Cat represents Leonard's early life, Katie is Leonard's realised, late-20th-century self; though unlike the playwright, she sticks to novels. (This gives the play its name, as her books all have "love in the title". I find it strangely satisfying that Leonard decided to use this naming scheme for the play itself.) For all that Katie rejects the morals of the older generations, it sounds as if she's filled with doubt, unsure of her current path in life.

One intriguing aspect of Karie's background is that she's writing a paper comparing Greek and Irish myths. I'm unsure as to why Leonard chose Perseus' slaying of the gorgon Medusa as Katie's comparison with an Irish legend, but I see three possibilities. Firstly, here's a lovely quote from a review he once wrote: "Should dead coals be raked over? Ah, but these are not women, or even human beings, but glorious, impossible monsters, as deadly and unreal as the Medusa." Secondly, it's notable that Perseus is raised by a stepfather, so perhaps there's a self-identification. And thirdly, the Perseus tale features the three Graeae - the gray sisters - who share a single eye: in Love In The Title, only Katie truly sees the world, for the other two are just ghosts from the past. That the three characters' names are all variants of the same name adds to this.

As for conclusions, I have none. The play doesn't end that way, either - the characters, like those in Katie's novels, do not undergo a "sea change".

The production continues until Saturday 2nd June. Tickets cost €15 (€12 concession) and are available on the New Theatre's website.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

'Love in the Title'

I haven't had a chance to write a review yet, but on Wednesday I saw a production by Room To Move Theatre Company of Hugh Leonard's Love in the Title. It'll be running until Saturday 2nd June in The New Theatre in Temple Bar. (Review to follow later.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

IGRS day of lectures

In a small departure from usual coverage, I wanted to mention a free day of genealogy lectures on Saturday at the library on Pearse St.  The Irish Genealogical Research Society is one of the oldest family history societies in Ireland and this Saturday, they host an open day with 4 lectures and a chance to ask questions to some of the most experienced genealogists in the country.  This area is a major interest of mine so I'll be attending too.

The lectures are:

10:30–11:10 Digitising The Chief Secretary's Office registered papers
11:15–11:55 Ireland's prison and petty sessions records
13:45–14:25 A myriad of sources for early Irish marriages
14:30–15:10 Sources for adoption and fostering in Ireland

You don't need any previous interest or to be a member of the IGRS to attend these talks.

Africa Day 2012 in Dublin

May 25th is Africa day, "to celebrate African diversity and success and to highlight the cultural and economic potential that exists on the African continent". The flagship event in Dublin this year is on in George's Dock and the CHQ Building on Custom House Quay on 26th and 27th May, and features African food, music and dance, photography exhibitions, and official stalls from several embassies.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Early Summer Events

Winter Summer is coming, and the always vibrant cultural life in Dublin is gearing up. Our silly season of course is not happening until later in the year, with various festivals taking place concurrently, but anyone hungry for stimulating things to do in the (supposedly) warmest months of the year will be well served. I have gathered up a series of snapshots of the current and forthcoming offerings.

Dublin Dance Festival opened on Friday and will remain on the floor until 26 May. This celebration of contemporary dance in all its manifestations is now on its eighth year, fifth as an annual festival. Aside from expected stage performances, the city can look forward to groups of colourful and beautiful people spreading onto the streets. Luca Silvestrini's Protein will dance the (In)Visible Dancing Finale on Grafton Street on Sunday 20 May at 4 pm. They advise people to keep on eye out for peculiar characters on the run up to the day itself! Intriguing. One of my own favourite dance forms is classical Indian dance, but this tends to be a very rare delicacy indeed in Ireland. Thankfully, Meeting House Square in Temple Bar will be treated to a performance by Divya Kasturi on Saturday 26 May at 7pm. Both these events are free. For the rest of the programme and booking of tickets for other events you can visit the festival website.

Likewise on Friday, a new exhibition opened at the Chester Beatty Library. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter scrolls are believed to be the earliest surviving illustration of the oldest Japanese work of prose fiction. The Irish Times called the tale 'the original Japanese sci-fi story' and their review beautifully summarises the plot of this tale, well known in Japanese literature but mostly unknown to us. 

Wednesday May 16 will be Literature Night. Words On the Streets will feature 'well known Irish personalities' reading European contemporary fiction in various locations of the city centre. To the best of my perception, this has not been publicised much. I only learned about it from a small poster at the Tara Street Station. Nonetheless, after some searching, the list of readers and the readings can be found here, on the City of Literature website.

International Museum Day will take place on May 18. Again, this seems to be little publicised, or indeed little made of, but a few events such as free/reduced entries or special tours are listed here. I am pleased to see involvement by the An Post Museum, which I am told is excellent, although I haven't yet had a chance to visit myself.

Looking forward to June, Dublin Biennial Pop-Up 2012 will be an ambitious international exhibition of contemporary visual art taking place in the Point Village, 15 - 24 June. Featuring an installation by Yoko Ono, this is the inaugural year of the exhibition, which has undoubtedly been powered by the success of the Dublin Contemporary last year. We wish the best of luck to them and will eagerly await more information.

There is a lot going on in this wonderful city - get out into it!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Close Encounters: A John Williams Celebration - reviewed

I was at the National Concert Hall last night to hear the RTÉ Concert Orchestra perform a selection of John Williams' music.  He was 80 earlier this year and orchestras all over the world last night were playing his work.  The RCO had a guest conductor, Michael Seal, who also compered for the evening.  They started off very strong with the main march from Superman.  I've never been mad about any Superman films so I forgot how good that music is, even if it does sound a little bit too like Star Wars in places.  Various other pieces of Williams' work followed, including the wonderful Schindler's List music played by orchestra leader Mia Cooper - a work that won John Williams one of his 5 Oscars, in a year where he beat himself (Jurassic Park) and Jaws.  The first half closed with excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind - some of his best and most musically challenging work.

The second part of the evening featured some pieces I was less (or not at all) familiar with: namely the Olympic Fanfare & Theme, composed for the 1984 LA Olympics, a piece from his latest film, Warhorse, and the Prayer for Peace from Munich.  I was surprised to discover that he had done the music for JFK (Gasp!  Cheating on Spielberg!)  The concert program ended with Jurassic Park, which I think is my favourite, and E.T.  Wait!  No Star Wars (for which he also beat himself in the Oscar race in 1977)? But it was ok, they came back for an encore and did the awesome hair standing up on the back of your neck main theme from Star Wars.  Michael Seal said "I just have one thing to say: A long time ago...."  I hear that music, I'm plunged into the darkness, I see the yellow words floating on a starry background... it will never get old.  And it will not be the last time that I hear John Williams' music played live.  A brilliant performance of brilliant works.  Live Long and Prosper, Mr Williams*.

*Yeah, yeah, mixing my stars up but it felt appropriate!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Whose Life Is It Anyway? is an award-winning play written by Brian Clark, telling the story of a man who has been paralysed in a car accident and wants to be allowed to die. No Drama Theatre's production of the play is currently running in the Sean O'Casey Theatre in East Wall, Dublin 3, and continues until Saturday May 12th. Although the play was written in 1970's England it adapts easily and well to a modern Irish setting.

Whose Life Is It Anyway? manages to be serious without being gloomy or humourless. The confrontations between (and within) those two grandest of professions, law and medicine, each fighting for a just cause, are simply delicious. Good choices in casting, set and costume add to the production, but ultimately the strength of any play lies in providing the actors with the chance to tell an engaging story, and in this respect Whose Life is eminently suitable.

This is an excellent play, and the production is the best I've seen to date from No Drama Theatre. Well paced, well acted and highly recommended.

Tickets cost €12 and can be purchased at or by calling 01 850 9000.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


An exhibition of student photography from Griffith College will take place in La Cathedra on St Augustine Street from 11th - 13th May.  It opens at 7pm on Friday and is free in.  Further details are here.

Cith Intersections #2 - this evening

Dublintellectual's City Intersections series continues this evening at 7 pm in U-Bar on High Street. Entry is free of charge. Here's the organisers' description of the event:
City Intersections is a public forum for the discussion of urban issues facing Dublin today. All are welcome, discussion is open and participation is free. Featured speakers for the second session include:
Mick Wilson (GradCAM)
Lisa Cassidy (
The series' blog is at

Monday, May 7, 2012

Harmless Creatures and Kitty Moss

I should have mentioned this sooner - the exhibitions I saw last week as part of First Thursdays continue until Tuesday 7th. If you happen to be in the Litte Green Street area they're worth a quick look. Harmless Creatures have taken their inspiration from The Wizard of Oz, creating three outfits based on the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man. Kitty Moss's Maud & Minet exhibition in Little Green Street Gallery is a much darker series combining couture, pictures and... I'm not what the right word is for "pair of hands reaching out of a canvas towards the viewer".

Dublin Gay Theatre Festival

As I write this, thunder and lightning are dancing about in Maynooth. I wonder if they're headed to start the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival with a bang.

Lasting until 20 May, this fun and fabulous festival kicks off today, with twenty-two events listed on the website. The website itself is enormously helpful and well designed, so rather than just parrot the information here, I would advise you go along and have a look at the programme and the associated information. Tickets are bookable on the website, as is right and proper. You can also follow the goings-on on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, May 4, 2012

'The World is a Vampire' - Dublintellectual

Following their successful zombie-themed event earlier this year, Dublintellectual return to the Back Loft on St Augustine Steet this evening with an event called The World is a Vampire. The three speakers and their subjects are:
Moïra Fowley, "A Field Guide to Teenage Vampires";
Sorcha NiFhlainn, “Vampire Narratives Post 9/11 & the Presidency of George W. Bush";
Mary Bridgeman, "Dead Vampire is Redundant: Life, Love, and Death in Mystic Falls".

There'll also be the debut screening of a short film called 'Vampire Story'.

Dublintellectual's events vary quite a bit in their format. This should be one of the more light and informal ones, so BYOB and have fun. The event starts at 7:30 pm and there's a €5 charge on the door - well worth it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dublin Writers Festival 2012

The lineup for Dublin Writers Festival 2012 was announced yesterday. Once more, they will produce an impressive selection of wordsmiths to the pleasure and edification of the public. Consider names such as Josh Ritter, Alain de Botton, Mark Haddon, Bryan & Mary Talbot, Wendy Cope, Jeannette Winterson, Mario Vargas Llosa (gasp) and Richard Dawkins. (Who seems to be in Ireland every other month. (Does he reckon he has work to do here, I wonder?)

Aside from the major authorial ones, my attention was drawn by two other events. The festival is acknowledging two Irish literary journals, The Stinging Fly, and the Moth (what is it about flying insects?) by hosting the launch of their latest editions. I am delighted to see such involvement with these quite young, ambitious publications.

The other event that tickled my excitement is an evening titled 'Best European Fiction'. This will present three new writers from the 2012 anthology of European short fiction. One of the writers is Maritta Lintunen, a Finn, and I, as her fellow countrywoman, am of course very excited to see her feature here. If you ask me, not enough Finnish literature is translated into English, but hopefully Lintunen's presence here will awaken more curiousity about her own literary scene.

The festival will take place 4-10 June. Full programme and booking details are available here. The events vary in cost between €7.50 and €20, but some are also free.

First Thursday

Don't forget - it's the first Thursday of the month today, and that means that a range of art galleries and other venues will be staying open later than usual. It's a popular date for new exhibition launches, and I'm hoping to drop by Little Green Street Gallery for their new Maud&Minet exhibition, starting at 7 pm.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May the Fourth be with you

If jazz is not your thing, and let's face, it isn't for a lot of people, perhaps Invasion is more to your liking.  Star Wars conventions are a huge deal, and as far as I know, this is the only regular one in Dublin.  It's on this weekend in Citywest, running all four days.  It's family-friendly too.  There's a huge array of events running.  It may also explain why I saw stormtroppers in the Pavilions last weekend.

Just some of the events that took my fancy are:

Q&A with Lando Calrissian himself (or Billy Dee Williams, as he likes to be known on this planet)
Star Wars weddings (vow renewal only!)
Star Wars Quiz - aiming to discover who is the biggest fan in Ireland
Cosplay - with categories for kids and adults

A lot of these events are repeated every day, so if you are attending multiple days, then you'll have plenty of opportunity to do them all.  There does not appear to be any evening events.

Tickets are €14.50 a day for an adult or €10 for a child over 4.  There's weekend and family tickets available too and there's free parking on site.

And now, why not, here's the awesome Imperial March.

Bray Jazz Festival 4th - 6th May

The 13th annual Bray Jazz Festival is on over the long weekend with an array of different Jazz events, both free and not free, in several different venues around the town.

The headline acts for each night in the Mermaid Arts Centre have impressive pedigrees.  The Tord Gustavsen Trio are on Friday night.  Susana Baca, Peruvian Grammy winner and former minister for culture, plays Saturday night (though I hear this is sold out) and Don Byron's Gospel Quintet play on Sunday.

If you are attending the festival, two important travel factors occur:

There's no rail service between Connolly and Malahide/Howth this weekend.  A terrible time to schedule upgrade works.  People might want to use the train to do, I dunno, day trips.  Not much help to local businesses, never mind the Jazz festival.

ETA: Irish Rail has just announced they are postponing the works and there will be a full rail service as usual after all.  Well done for having the sense to change it.

In better news, there is a local nightlink service running twice nightly during the festival from Bray into town at a very reasonable cost.  Further details are on their website.

I'll be talking to George Jacob, the Festival director, on Artbeat tonight at  20:00 on Dublin City FM.