Pursued by a Bear »

  • Obama, McCain show their arts

    October 30, 2008 @ 1:37 pm | by Fiona McCann

    We all know (ish) what they think about healthcare, the economy, war and the like, but there’s been little comment about the differences in the two candidates for the American presidency when it comes to the arts. And there are differences. Obama, whose arts policy is outlined here , wants to create an Artist Corps of young artists to work in low-income schools, and supports increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. John McCain, who finally released a four-sentence statement on his own arts policy this week, supports arts education though he leaves it up to local entities to decide on funding.

     No big surprises then, and one wonders, given the current state of economic chassis, whether any of it even matters. Americans, if you’re out there and happen to be reading the Irish Times arts blog, will this new release by John McCain have any effect on your vote?

     Here’s his full statement, in case you missed it:    “John McCain believes that arts education can play a vital role fostering creativity and expression. He is a strong believer in empowering local school districts to establish priorities based on the needs of local schools and school districts. Schools receiving federal funds for education must be held accountable for providing a quality education in basic subjects critical to ensuring students are prepared to compete and succeed in the global economy. Where these local priorities allow, he believes investing in arts education can play a role in nurturing the creativity of expression so vital to the health of our cultural life and providing a means of creative expression for young people.”

  • Horror, and the week that’s in it

    October 27, 2008 @ 11:44 am | by Fiona McCann

    It’s that scary time of year again, and I’m musing on my favourite horror stories and films. What is it that makes fiction frightening? Personal bookish favourites include Frankenstein (not for the horror factor, but for its compelling human sympathy) and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (the terror of the uncontrollable within). A course in university on Gothic fiction taught us to read it from a psychoanalytical perspective, which was a fascinating process that only served to augment and internalise the fright therein.

    When it comes to fictional fear-merchants, I should point out that I have always been embarrassingly easily scared, and was forbidden to watch even the Incredible Hulk due to the post-TV show nightmares induced even when my own younger sister found it perfectly palatable. I’ve been petrified by The 39 Steps, King Kong and even the Boys from Brazil over the course of my youth, so eschewed a lot of the grimmer stuff that was terrifying my peers (Poltergeist etc). As an adult, however, I’m about ready to push the fear boundaries again and, while I’ve been freaked by the Red Rumming kid in the Shining, I did manage a full night’s sleep afterwards.

    With this in mind, I’d appreciate any recommendations of scarey fiction – on the page or screen – to get me in the Hallowe’en spirit.

  • Further proof that one doesn’t read as much as one might

    October 22, 2008 @ 6:36 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Finalists for this years’ National Book Awards, presented annually to American authors and won over the years by Saul Bellow, Alice Walker, Don Delillo, Philip Roth and Alice McDermott (all of whom, thankfully, I have read) among others:


    Aleksander Hemon, The Lazarus Project (Riverhead)
    Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba (Scribner)
    Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (Modern Library)
    Marilynne Robinson, Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
    Salvatore Scibona, The End (Graywolf Press)


    Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf)
    Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton & Company)
    Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday)
    Jim Sheeler, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives (Penguin)
    John Wickersham, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order (Harcourt)


    Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
    Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)
    Richard Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press)
    Richard Howard, Without Saying (Turtle Point Press)
    Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press)

    Young people’s literature

    Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)
    Kathie Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum)
    Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
    E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
    Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf)

  • DEAF

    October 21, 2008 @ 2:51 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Never a week nor weekend goes by in this country without a festival, and this coming bank holiday weekend is no exception. The seventh Dublin Electronics Arts Festival (which makes for a handily ironic acronym, DEAF), kicks off on Thursday and runs through to  Sunday with 52 events events planned for various venues around the city, including the National Gallery. The line-up includes Nurse with wound, White Noise,  Trans Am, M83 and DJ Sandrinho with a Whelans’ electronic love-in on Sunday that promises Model 500, Mike Banks, Laurent Garnier, Moritz Von Oswald, Chequerboard, Point B and gazillions more, with Mercuryboy and Metaldragon providing visuals. More information at www.deafireland.com.

  • Dublinr and other linkage

    October 20, 2008 @ 11:16 am | by Fiona McCann

    Seen: A Film With Me In It. A funny 89 minutes of black meets bizarre, with Dylan Moran’s deluded drunkard a particular delight. Saw it in the Lighthouse Cinema which is always a treat, though confused the sign for the lifts for the bathroom sign and did a few circles of the cafe before getting my bearings. Morto.

    Read: Began and am now 40 pages into Netherland by Joseph O’Neill. Suspending all judgment until completion.

    Hotly anticipated: Dublinr, a photography exhbition on Dublin by a group of Flickr-ers at the Joinery Gallery in Arbour Hill, Stoneybatter. Runs from Wednesday 5th to Sunday 9th of November. More information at www.dublens.ie.

  • New Greystones Theatre

    @ 10:39 am | by Fiona McCann

    Good news at last at a time when the threat of cutbacks has everybody in the arts world on tenterhooks: a new multi-disciplinary arts venue has been opened in Greystones, with a theatre that seats 220, a recording studio and rehearsal space. After the loss of beloved venues like Andrews’ Lane theatre, and given the budget’s parsimonious approach to arts funding, it’s good to see a new arts space managed to slip in just before the shutters went down. For more information on Greystones Theatre check out www.greystonestheatre.com.  

  • Cat minus Commedia

    October 16, 2008 @ 11:55 am | by Fiona McCann

    “Corn Exchange has developed a physically playful aesthetic, modelled, it seems, as much on Looney Tunes as Commedia dell’arte. Although that style is curiously subdued here (no mask-like make-up or punctuating drumbeats), the acolytes will know why Rory Nolan’s distant, alcoholic Brick and Simone Kirby’s sexually over-ripe Maggie are whipping their heads towards the audience but never meeting each other’s gaze. The uninitiated will just feel bewildered.”

     Since Peter Crawley’s review in this newspaper, Corn Exchange have made some modifications to their production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, taking the Commedia out of their production of the Tennessee Williams classic and allowing Maggie to at least look at her beloved husband, even if he refuses to return the gaze. Does it work?

    Having seen only the after without the before, it’s impossible to compare but exaggerated eyebrows and accentuated expressions showed traces of what had been taken away, only serving to stifle rather than remove the original stylistic overlay.

     The one thing that did become clear in all this confusion is that Andrew Bennett, Commedia or no, is one of the finest Irish actors around, his turn as Big Daddy as human and compelling as this character can become. Anyone else seen this production?

  • “Fewer festivals, fewer exhibitions, less theatre and less music”

    October 15, 2008 @ 11:26 am | by Fiona McCann

    That’s what we have to look forward to following yesterday’s Budget announcements, at least according to Deputy Chairman of the Arts Council Maurice Foley. “The public can expect fewer festivals, fewer exhibitions, less theatre and less music. Individual artists can expect fewer bursaries. There are also likely to be job losses,” he told the Irish Times, adding, in case there were any doubt:  ”Significant grant cuts are unavoidable, conditional commitments will have to be reviewed and some organisations will need funds from other sources if they are to survive.” If they are to survive?

    So now festivals, theatre, art and music, the things that give us pleasure and allow us an escape from the daily mundanities and grim realities of recession time, are to be taken away too? Any suggestions on where the cuts would be felt less keenly?

  • Posh bingo

    October 14, 2008 @ 11:32 pm | by Fiona McCann

    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga has won the Booker prize, the third debut novelist to do so in the forty years of Booker winners. It’s bad enough knowing he’s only 33, and it’s his first book, but what really pains is the fact that Paddy Power was running 7/1 odds on this book before they closed betting this morning. Anyway. Described in this newspaper as a “fierce, angry book”, our own Eileen Battersby went on to describe it as “a trite and opportunistic study of human rottenness as a way of survival,” adding that at best, it is “merely a clever cartoon for grown-ups.” Which is clearly not what the Booker judges thought. One man’s meat and all, but does tonight’s decision support Julian Barne’s assertion that “the only sensible attitude to the Booker is to treat it as posh bingo”?

  • Booker watch

    @ 12:00 pm | by Fiona McCann

    A quick reminder to all you on the edges of yizzer seats since the Booker shortlist was announced. The winner will be revealed tonight at a dinner in London, with the announcement broadcast live on BBC One’s 10 o’clock news. Last minute predictions, anyone, for a notoriously unpredictable contest? I fancy Philip Hensher for The Northern Clemency, not because I’ve read it, mind, but it seems the sort of thing that Booker judges might compromise on, especially if they’ve put in the time reading all 738 pages of it. Wouldn’t want all that thumb licking to go to waste.  Others are saying it’s Grant’s year, while Paddy Power had our man Sebastian Barry as the 2-1 favourite before betting closed. Anyone out there got a better psychic signal?

  • Theatre festival

    October 13, 2008 @ 4:03 pm | by Fiona McCann

    It’s over for another year, and reviews are mixed, with everyone talking about Waves – “a aroduction that is genuinely doing something that has never been done before” according to this paper’s reviewer Patrick Lonergan – and Gatz, neither of which are shows on which I can offer an opinion.  The best thing I saw was the Abbey’s production of Happy Days with Fiona Shaw, while the most hotly-anticipated show for me, The Year of Magical Thing, left me little more than lukewarm. Anyone out there bowled over by Black Watch? Dazzled by Dodgems? As the festival recedes into memory, is there anything that will stick?

  • The Cripple of Inishmaan

    October 10, 2008 @ 11:25 am | by Fiona McCann

    Druid’s production of the Cripple of Inishmaan, currently running at the Olympia, is an off screen illustration of why playwright turned director Martin McDonagh was so hailed and hyped long before he moved to movies. This is a dark, grim and blackly comic staging of this 11-year-old play, set in the 1930s but with a self-awareness that resonates in the present. Aaron Monaghan plays the eponymous cripple with fitting dignity, while the rest of this stellar cast tread the line between dark and light with admirable skill. My only complaint related to sound levels, with some of the dialogue lost to my delicate (read damaged) ears. Whether this was down to the acoustics at the Olympia or poor amplification, it did detract from somewhat from an otherwise positive experience. Jokes are never funny when they’re repeated, and even less so for other theatre-goers. Anyone see it?

  • Hand it over, Doris

    October 9, 2008 @ 1:54 pm | by Fiona McCann

    French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio has been won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature. In doing so, he’s joined the ranks of Seamus Heaney, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, Jean Paul Sartre, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and some 100 other literary luminaries who have bagged the top spot since it was first awarded in 1901. Le Clezio has published around thirty books, and I have not read a single one. It’s probably time I did, I suppose, so recommendations, as always, are welcome. In the meantime, I still love this clip  of Doris Lessing finding out she’s won. One can get more excited than one gets, you know. YouTube Preview Image

  • Standing ovations

    October 8, 2008 @ 11:33 am | by Fiona McCann

    This Theatre Festival, crowds seem fierce apt to leap to their feet after the final curtain in a manner that almost dilutes the power of the standing ovation. At the opening nights of Metamorphosis, The Year of Magical Thinking and Black Watch, only a smattering of curmudgeons (myself included) remained in their seats while the rest were so enraptured they were propelled out of theirs.

    Either I am impossible to please, temporarily paralysed, contary, or, and this is a longshot, I like to reserve a standing ovation for the kind of rare moments when you really are forced out of your seat in an enthusiasm or emotion inspired by the show you’ve just witnessed and not because the person in front of you is blocking your view. Statistically speaking, the latter would seem unlikely to occur three times in a row in any given week. Am I being churlish? Is the standing ovation the new opening night standard? If so, does anyone else find this an irritating trend?

  • Glen Dimplex New Writers

    October 7, 2008 @ 3:06 pm | by Fiona McCann

    The shortlists for the Glen Dimplex New Writers Awards have been announced, with Allan Bush (Last Bird Singing), Aifric Campbell (The Semantics of Murder), Daniel Davies (The Isle of Dogs), Rowan Somerville (The End of Sleep), David Szalay (London and the South-East) and Robin Yassin-Kassab (The Road from Damascus) all in line for the fiction prize. Anyone any opinions on who should take home the €5,000 prize, not to mention the €20,000 up for grabs for the overall award?

    For the rest of the shortlists, click here.

  • Metamorphosis

    @ 11:42 am | by Fiona McCann

    “Being as good as Kafka is hard, and Farr and Gardarsson are certainly not up to it,” said Fintan O’Toole on Saturday of the Gísli Örn Gardarsson/David Farr production of Metamorphosis. “The performance may defy gravity, but it falls down when trying to attach Kafka’s allegory to something meaningful,” said Peter Crawley. Can the original work by Kafka on which the play is based ever be set aside in our cultural consciousness long enough to allow for this play to be judged on its own merits? Should it be?

    There is always a danger approaching a work that has been ‘adapted’ to a new form. When a beloved book gets the big screen treatment, readers are rarely enamoured of the results, while those who come to it without the literary precursor in mind are often much more forgiving.

    So what happened in the case of Metamorphosis? Much has been altered, as O’Toole pointed out, but isn’t it strangely fitting for a work with such a title? Or was the metamorphosis too much?  

  • What’s in a name?

    October 6, 2008 @ 10:59 am | by Fiona McCann

    This blog has changed name, to reflect life beyond the Fringe Festival and into more general arts coverage. All suggestions of post topics are welcome, though given the fact that we are already over a week into the Dublin Theatre Festival, expect a fluttering of play-related posts in the near future. As you were, then.  

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