Pursued by a Bear »

  • The power and the fury of the graphic novel

    November 29, 2011 @ 7:15 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Comic-book adaptations have long been a mainstay of Hollywood, but when executives moved way from the generic caped crusaders and started drawing on the more aggressive, darker genres on the graphic-novel shelves, they must have been wondering why they hadn’t hit these cash cows up much earlier. Sin City, 300 and Road to Perdition all punched well above their weight at the box office.

    One of the most powerful writers in this vein is Frank Miller, the man behind Sin City, 300 and some of the best Batman graphic novels. He may have lost a few fans with his recent tirade against the Occupy protesters – “a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America” – in a vindictive piece on his blog that would perhaps be more suited to the streets of Sin City. This is unlikely, though, to diminish him in the eyes of the people he has made the most money out of – Hollywood. (more…)

  • Competition: Win tickets to The Government Inspector

    November 25, 2011 @ 1:20 pm | by Laurence Mackin


    This year’s Christmas show at the Abbey is The Government Inspector, Nikolai Gogol’s satirical comedy on local government, brown envelopes and bribes. Roddy Doyle has adapted it for the National Theatre, but these kind of themes hardly need much translation.

    The language, though, is a different animal, and in an excellent article in tomorrow’s Irish Times Weekend Review, Doyle explains the painstaking process of adapting the play without learning Russian. The Abbey has also commissioned Martyn Turner to illustrate the play’s programme, so with his cut-out-and-keep pictures, you can build your own bureaucracy without stuffing a single envelope or slipping any deft backhanders.

    If you can’t wait until then, here’s an interview with Roddy Doyle, where he discusses his involvement in the production.

    We have two pairs of tickets for the play for Tuesday night’s performance (November 29th). To be in with a chance to win, just leave a comment below or email lmackin@irishtimes.com, and we will select two at random. The competition closes at 5pm this evening. All brown envelopes gratefully received. Ahem.

    Ah now that money was just resting in my account. Marion O’Dwyer, Don Wycherley and Liz Fitzgibbon in The Government Inspector

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … develop a superpower

    November 24, 2011 @ 6:47 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Music: Today is Thanksgiving day – observe as it has absolutely no effect on your routine. When I began that paragraph I expected a fluid segue to magically assert itself, but that hasn’t happened so let’s plough on with this awkward contextual judder, shall we? Tomorrow night, Crash Ensemble will still be celebrating in typically bravado style with its Young Americans programme, featuring groundbreaking work by composers from across the water (no, the other direction). Taking pride of place is a premiere of a new work by Nico Muhly, who might be only 30 but is already getting classical types all hot under the collar. He’s already premiered two operas this year – one’s about gay internet hook ups and murder, and the other is about polygamy and sexual exploitation – and he has worked with the likes of Antony and the Johnsons, Björk and Jonsi. You may have already seen him this year as part of the Whale Watching Tour in the National Concert Hall. Also on the bill are pieces from Sean Friar, Timothy Andres, Missy Mazzoli, and Ken Uen. Click here to flaunt your love of all things starry and stripy.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend . . . be nice

    November 17, 2011 @ 6:37 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Puppetry: Thanks to a Catholic upbringing that delivered robust doses of guilt and shame that heightened a fear of, well, everything, statues have always scared the bejeebus out of us. This days, children are made from hardier, more secular stuff, so the National Museum of Decorative Arts and History in Dublin’s Collins Barrack is putting on a performance piece inspired by the statues of O’Connell Street. Moving Statues is directed by Mikel Murfi, and takes place on Sunday at 3pm. Admission is free. We’ll be the ones watching through our hands.

    Music: It’s a tough weekend for gigs in the capital; turn over a cobblestone in the capital and you’ll find a class international act singing their heart out. Saturday night is particualrly chock-a-rock. Anna Calvi will be showing Vicar Street it’s not the boss of her, and if her performances last time round, at the Workmans Club and Other Voices in Kerry, are anything to go by, this should be quite the treat. Meanwhile, Dublin outfit The Dying Seconds are launching their new album Glimmerers across the river in the Grand Social. The band have been honing their chops with quite a few shows in the past year or so, and they’ve gotten the stamp of approval from none other than the kings of hipsterville, The National. Suits you, sir. Glen Campbell will be in the Convention Centre – no description necessary for a man of his stature. And Battles will be bringing their math rock to the Button Factory and possibly stealing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ record for most gigs in Ireland. Well, it is Science Week after all. Anyone for bilocation?

    Art: Jospeh Walsh’s furniture has to be seen to be believed. No you haven’t wandered into the homes and gardens blog instead, and I haven’t been watching too much Kirstie Allsopp online (actually that last bit is a lie). Walsh is one of this country’s top craftsmen and his pieces are carved and worked into fantastic, almost biological shapes that swoop and curve in lines that water would have trouble achieving. His first solo show in Ireland opens tonight at the Oliver Sears Gallery, and features new works from Walsh’s Erosion and Enignum series.

    Here’s my new bed. Cost a few bob but I think it really ties the room together

    Theatre: There are few playwrights with the stature of John B Keane, and he has written few characters with the size and power of Big Maggie. This latest production from Druid builds on that company’s stellar reputation, with an all-star cast and Garry Hynes in charge. Irish mammies are a fearsome lot, but none are more terrifying than Maggie Polpin, played with tremendous louche surliness by Aisling O’Suillivan, and “a Kerry accent so hard it leaves bruises”, according to Peter Crawley. It’s in the Town Hall Theatre in Galway until Saturday and then heads for the Gaiety Theatre next week, before taking in the rest of the country.

    Experimental: If you are looking for something a little more experimental, Netnakisum should be right up your cul de sac. This is a trio that take elements of classical, jazz, rock, madness, derangement and yodelling and throw it at anythign from Viennese waltzes to Britney Spears. It’s improvisation at its most oddball, so hold on to your odd-shaped hats. They play the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge tonight, Droiched Arts Centre in Louth on Friday, and the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray on Saturday.

    Meanwhile, on Sunday night, Australian crew The Necks are bringing their live show to Whelans. This an experimental jazz trio that move from moody, dark mutterings to full bore noise onslaughts – expect simple figures to be built and layered over the course of, oh, roughly an hour, before a no-holds-barred break out. Its challenging, intelligent and ambitious. Nice.

    And speaking of nice, I’ve being writing a lot about jazz lately, so much so that I’m worried I’m starting to turn into this guy. Pass the black polo neck. I’ll resolve your rising chromatic pattern. Great? Wonderful.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  • How do you get jazz a younger audience? Call it hip hop

    November 15, 2011 @ 6:39 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In the past week, Dublin has seen a lot of jazz on its doorstep, and it may have found the answer to one of jazz’s toughest questions: how do you get a younger crowd to listen to the stuff?

    Two concerts in particular stand out, even if they were perhaps at the opposite end of the jazz spectrum. Last Wednesday, Dave Holland and Pepe Habichuela were holding court in the National Concert Hall. Holland is one of the finest double bass players in jazz. He has a CV that beggars belief and even at the age of 65, he has lost none of his metronomic timing or crafted ability to build grooves with punch. Habichuela is a Spanish guitarist with a formidable musical ancestry and tradition in the blood, matched with a virtuosic style full of subtlety and drama. It’s a combination of class and distinction, complemented on the night by Josemi Carmona on guitar and the percussive double team of Juan Carmona and Bandolero (maybe the latter took a leaf out of the footballers’ notebook and decided that one name is much cooler than two).

    The best playing on the night came in the ensemble pieces. While Holland built up a slick, rhythmic foundation, laying down the tracks with authority, Habichuela egged him on with low, guttural growls of “Olé”. Carmona provided an adept and lyrical sparring partner to Habichuela, but it was perhaps the percussion of Josemi Carmona and Bandolero that provided the biggest surprise on the night. Their communication was astonishing, with constant pushes and pulls and beautiful dynamics scattered over their thrilling lines. No four bars sounded the same, but with Holland’s support they never sounded out of joint with the songs, and the tracks’ internal dynamics were never sacrificed.

    Both Holland and Habichuela played solo pieces, but it was Holland’s that carried the greatest emotional punch. In the echoing chamber of the NCH he conjured up colours and dynamics that are deeply uncommon on the double bass – this was an almost physical pleasure to listen to.

    Occasionally, technicality was allowed to take point, but there was plenty to thrill the audience in this set. There were tangos and rhumbas, vision and flair, equal parts Spanish Gypsy intensity and melodic jazz sensibilities, particularly on The Whirling Dervish. This was an exemplary blend of two different approaches to jazz, rooted in tradition and craft, but looking upwards and outwards with the ambition to create something new.

    On Saturday night, it was the turn of the Robert Glasper Experiment to bring a sense of the sublime to proceedings, but in an entirely different fashion. Glasper is an extraordinary pianist, and is often compared to Herbie Hancock. His approach is cutting edge, and hip hop is as much a muse for Glasper as the great and the good of jazz (most of whom Dave Holland has played with, incidentally).

    The night opened with a fantastically swaggering set in the front bar from Mixtapes from the Underground, big bold hip hop of a type rarely heard in this country (or maybe I’ve just being missing out – the collective are based in Rage on Fade Street in Dublin).
    On the main stage, Glasper had a lot to contend with from the off; the odd shape of the Workmans Club meant that the engineer had a headache in getting the grand piano to assert itself above the sharp crack of the kit and snare, but the unevenness in the sound smoothed out as the night progressed.

    Initially, the crowd didn’t quite know how to deal with Glasper’s music, and seemed more content to talk among themselves than to give the trio the quiet room needed to open out their playing. As the set took shape, though, the music made its own arguments and by the time Glasper had rolled his way into a fantastic cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit, the cutting-edge crowd were all in his pocket. When the track boiled down to a spare piano solo – Glasper allowed a slow bass figure to deftly jog along with his left hand, while throwing lyrical top line shapes above it – you could hear a pin drop in the room. This may not be the first band to tackle the track in a jazz context, but they’ve brought something effective and fresh to the table.

    The crowd’s reaction stoked the gig’s atmosphere. This was not a typical jazz crowd, and it was all the better for it. Every change in tone and mood was greeted with bursts of enthusiasm, and after the initial speed bumps, the musicians got the respect they deserved in a wide ranging, free-flowing set of around an hour and 40 minutes.

    So how do you get a young crowd into a jazz gig? Give them something new and innovative, don’t compromise on the music’s intelligence, and put something accessible in the mix too that an enthusiastic crowd can get their teeth into. And it probably helps if you don’t call it jazz.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … dance

    November 10, 2011 @ 5:44 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Listen: It is 35 years since Andy Irvine and Paul Brady released their collaborative album, and their live shows are spoken of in hushed terms. Both are consummate musicians and songwriters who work hard on their craft, and it’s a combination that works – in Irvine you have a musician versed in creating pulsing energy and rhythms, while Brady’s honed lyricism needs no introduction. Their two dates this weekend in Dublin’s Vicar Street have all the makings of some very special evenings.

    Box: Aonghus Óg McAnally’s solo show Fight Night is breathtaking for a number of reasons. The physicality involved is deeply impressive–you try delivering a monologue with anger and bite while skipping rope. McAnally says he trained as hard as a pro boxer to prepare for the show, but this is about more than an impressive hard slog – it’s an insightful, genuinely moving peice of theatre that punches well above its weight and is almost as good as Rocky (my favourite film). It’s in the Mill Theatre, Dundrum, on Friday night and in Sligo later next week.

    Dance: In Dublin, the Project Arts Centre has a fine pair of dance projects to choose from. In The Smell of Want, New York dancers Fitzgerald and Stapleton use short, sharp shocks of speech and dance to test an audience, who can choose from a number of differently priced seating options – anyone for the Lovers’ Swing?

    Meanwhile, David Bolger of CoisCéim is bringing his new work to the stage. Touch Me is a coda to Reel Luck, the company’s acclaimed show from 1995 that dealt with an Ireland on the cusp of affluence. Don’t expect a depressing affair though – there is always promise to be found in the future.

    Jazz: Last night I had the unalloyed pleasure of seeing Dave Holland and Pepe Habichuela commander the National Concert Hall, but the week is far from over for jazz fans. On Saturday night, the Robert Glasper Experiment takes a much more leftfield approach, marrying Glasper’s prolific jazz chops with some serious hip hop sensibilities – well, if he’s good enough for the likes of Kanye West, Bilal, Erykah Badu and Mos Def to work with, then he is good enough for the likes of your earholes. Experience the experiment for yourself in the Workmans Club, and here’s an interview I did with Glasper earlier in the week.

    And to send us out on a classy, jazzy note, here are a few videos worth giving a bit of time to. You may have seen the news the Eddie Murphy has stepped down from hosting the Oscars, after his best bud lost the directing job because he made a few homophobic jibes (the bud that is, not Murphy. Calm down, libel lawyers, calm down.) What you may not have seen is that there is a growing online movement to have the event hosted by the greatest TV presenters in the history of the shiny box – The Muppets (and let’s face it, the frog looks damn fine in a suit). For me, the beauty about the TV show was always how it refused to patronise or pander to assumptions about its audience, so it would happily throw on some of the most cutting-edge musicians in the business beside more familiar, celebrity figures and everyone got the same manic treatment. Few videos made me want to play an instrument more than the first one – a drum-off between Animal, the finest creature (answers on a postcard) ever to pick up the sticks, and perhaps the best jazz drummer to ever put sticks to a snare – Buddy Rich.

    And for something much closer to home – there were more than a few raised eyebrows when it emerged Dublin’s Meeting House Square was getting a makeover. The erection of large umbrellas to cover the square was greeted with disappointment in some quarters, given the distinct lack of open spaces in the city centre, and delays in the construction, owing to the discovery of archaeological remains, didn’t do much to help matters. However, now that the umbrellas are taking shape, this is promising to be one of the most dynamic and exciting spaces in the city, and this video, shot by Conor Steenson, beautifully demonstrates what is a fantastic evolution of a a critical space.

  • “Jazz is the great grandfather of hip hop”

    November 9, 2011 @ 12:11 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Robert Glasper plays his jazz with flair and style, underpinned by hip hop grooves and swagger, with subtle musical threads, writes LAURENCE MACKIN

    IT’S TRICKY trying to corner Robert Glasper for even a moment. “I’m on my way to Madrid and I’m in the Czech Republic,” he says between mouthfuls of airport food, and gulps from a drink that he is suddenly quite upset isn’t in a bottle. “I’m in a restaurant, you order a drink and you want it in the bottle, and then I poured it into a glass without thinking. The bottle is a different experience and now I won’t have it.”

    Glasper can be forgiven for being a little distracted. He’s tearing around Europe touring his latest album, Double Booked, and this Saturday he’s bringing it to the Workman’s Club in Dublin, his first show in the capital, and his second time here after last year’s Cork Jazz festival. (more…)

  • Clap your hands say jazz

    November 8, 2011 @ 4:36 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    For those, who like their music from the jazz end of the spectrum, it’s a good week to be in the capital. Tonight sees Madeleine Peyroux play the National Concert Hall. Peyroux’s music might be a touch too pop for some jazzers’ tastes, but she’s taken a more earthy approach on her latest album – perhaps all those years busking on the streets have rubbed off on her studio work. You can read an interview with her here. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … go to the dog

    November 3, 2011 @ 7:33 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Jazz: It’s that in-between time of year, when there’s a pause to draw breath after the madness of Halloween and the autumn halcyon of arts and theatre festivals, and it’s a chance to prepare for the onslaught of the C-word season, right?

    Wrong. The place is coming down with decent gigs, exhibitions and events over the next few weeks. No sleep till New Year so.

    On the jazz front, there are two tours worth checking out over the weekend. Redivider (you can fiddle about with upper and lower case letters all you want lads, I’m not playing along) are touring this weekend with a selection of guests. Tomorrow night (Friday), they are in the Stables in Mullingar with folk player Tommy Moore. On Saturday they head to Cork to play the Roundy with Paul Dunlea, and on Sunday it’s back to the capital to prop up the Whelans Upstairs bar with Oko.

    For Andreas Varady and Martin Taylor, it’s a strictly guitar affair. The pair are in the Black Box in Belfast on Friday, the Helix in Dublin on Saturday, and in the Model, Sligo on Sunday. Martin Taylor will be familiar to most jazz fans, and if the 14-year-old Varady is still a mystery to you, let this excellent article by Fionola Meredith open a few doors.

    Film: Tonight sees the Kinopolis Polish Film Festival kick into action. If you’re reading this, you have already missed tonight’s screening of Battle Of Warsaw 1920, but you can still see the film because owing to demand the cinema will be showing it until November 10th. Saturday sees The Hour Glass Sanatorium by Wojciech Hass in the IFI, followed by a Krzystof Kieslowski double header, with Camera Buff followed by A Short Film About Killing. The selection is larger on Sunday, with The Flying Machine in Cineworld, and a slew of animations in the IFI, including Little Postman, Scarecrow, and just what the hell is in Zbigniev’s Wardrobe? The cheerfully titled Suicide Room closes out the festival that evening back in Cineworld. Click here for more info.

    Theatre: Pan Pan has been getting rave reviews in Australia of all places for its off-kilter take on Hamlet, which is returning here for a lap of honour. The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane gives the title role to whomever survives a rigorous casting process involving the audience (never ask for their opinion – has X Factor taught us nothing? Oh.) There’s absolutely no way this unhinged show should work, and yet it doesn’t just survive, it thrives. It’s at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire on Friday and Saturday. My money is on the dog.

    Reading: Speaking of dogs, they are something of an obsession for Eileen Battersby, who is having a public interview with author Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, which will be followed by a reading from his latest work, The Marriage Plot. It’s at the Hugh Lane Gallery on Saturday at 3pm. Admission is a pittance of €3.

    And let us end on a theatrical note. This video is the last interview ever by one of the greatest actors ever – Orson Welles. In a well-known and utterly charming conversation with Merv Griffin, he reflects on his life and work in cheerful fashion, including the gig that got the whole thing started – a stint in the Gate Theatre in Dublin. The terrible part is he died just a few hours later. This is a gorgeous piece of archive material.

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