The Index »

  • Ohmigod You Guys! Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre defies gravity on its first birthday

    March 18, 2011 @ 10:55 am | by Laura Slattery

    Happy Birthday to the Grand Canal Theatre, which is celebrating its first anniversary today. As bubble legacies go, Dublin could do worse than this scarlet theatre, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and built by, er, Nama developer Joe O’Reilly. If the Olympia is the interior of an elaborate birthday cake, the Grand Canal Theatre looks like the inside of a heart, with its patrons bobbling like blood cells through its ruby arteries to the strains of touring West End musical productions.

    These are now more likely to come to Ireland than ever before: The Sound of Music*, Sister Act and Dirty Dancing will all have opening nights down in Grand Canal Square over the next 12 months, as the theatre’s general manager Stephen Faloon tells John Collins in this week’s Business Podcast.

    So many ambitious Tiger-era projects were conceived with an entirely different set of demographics and disposable incomes in mind than would prove to exist by the time it came to launch day, leading to crimson faces all round. Is the €80 million Grand Canal Theatre different? We’ll have to wait until later this year for the company accounts that show how the bottom line is working out, but its management, Live Nation, is certainly celebrating bums on seats – more than 500,000 bums, to be precise, in its debut year.

    With any luck, it will only be the upholstery that’s in the red. Faloon has confidence that the theatre’s turnover will be able to defy the gravity of the ticket-repellent economy – the size of the venue certainly gives it a pulling power for big-name big productions that its competitors can’t match.

    “It’s an important thing in terms of economics. There’s 2,111 seats in the theatre,” says Faloon. ”If we look at, say, The Sound of Music, for example, which is coming to us in April, it’s a 14 x 45-foot truck show, so it’s a very, very big show. In terms of the physical cost of bringing that over and the physical cost of housing the 100 people who work on the show, you need to actually have the right amount of seats in your theatre to be able to make it worth their while,” he says.

    “They had a real problem, as did an awful lot of the West End producers, in bringing stuff over to Ireland, as really 1,000 seats didn’t make sense to them financially… I think the word is out now that stuff works here, that it’s financially viable for them to come over here. A year and a half ago we were banging down their doors getting them to come over here. Now they’re approaching us.”

    Like silver white winters that melt into springs – just to pluck a random example from the air – musicals count among my favourite things. These days, most of them are postmodern, yes-we-know-this-is-ridiculous eye-rollers rather than ultra-sincere Climb Ev’ry Mountain types. In any case, the common assertion that big musical numbers merge all human feeling into a crass mush is usually, as far as I can see, made by the same people who refuse to dance at parties. They’re not really emotionally qualified to judge.

    Sadly, anyone who was dragged along to an old-school, knee-punishing Andrew Lloyd Webber behemoth in their emo-teen years probably hasn’t recovered enough to buy a ticket for, say, the sharp, Californian gloss (but adult humour) of multi-Olivier-winning Legally Blonde or the amazingly feminist Oz prequel Wicked, both of which Faloon says he is hoping to bring to Dublin. But the real question is whether the ticket prices are indeed low enough to attract the musical-loving masses in these otherwise joyless times.

     *I saw this touring production of The Sound of Music in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, and while it’s great that Jason Donovan is in gainful employment, everyone knows the real stars of The Sound of Music are the talented kids who take it in turns to play Gretl, the youngest of the Von Trapps.

  • Barbie’s pink dream house fades to grey

    March 7, 2011 @ 1:30 pm | by Laura Slattery

    The six-storey Barbie flagship store in Shanghai has shut down. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

    It was blessed with a restaurant, a spa and more Schiaparelli pink than a candyfloss museum, but now Mattel’s flagship Barbie concept store in China has shut down after less than two years. Based in central Shanghai, the retail haven for all-things-Barbie was part of toymaker Mattel’s grand push into Asia – and as such was at all too safe a distance from the pester power of the multi-careered doll’s Western fanbase.

    Mattel told the Bloomberg news wire this morning that it was planning a new “brand strategy” in China for Barbra Millicent Roberts, who at 52 years of age* is still not showing much sign of middle-age spread (although her waist is wider now than it was as late as the 1990s). The Shanghai sales were a bit lean, however, obliging Mattel to lower its targets for the 37,700 square foot store three times since its opening in March 2009.

    Despite the fact that her plastic limbs and blonde locks are, unsurprisingly, put together in China (and Indonesia), brand awareness of Barbie in the world’s fastest-growing economy hasn’t been sufficient to keep the dream house open for business. Luckily for Mattel, some $3 billion worth of Barbie-branded products are sold worldwide every year.

    Parents unnerved by all the princess pink that mushrooms out of the girls’ aisles in stringently gender-segregated toystores shouldn’t worry too much, however. Academic research published by the marketing expert Dr Agnes Nairn in 2005 suggests that as girls grow older, they reject Barbie – by, er, torturing her. Maiming, shaving, decapitating, microwaving… Barbie barbarism is just a rite of passage for the maturing Barbie-owner. Indeed, it’s probably only a matter of time before Mattel cashes in with its own Doll Destroyer Kit.

    * Technically, Barbie is 51. But it’s her birthday on Wednesday.

  • Spin spin sugar

    February 14, 2011 @ 8:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    Overdosing on sugar may be a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration / survival strategy, but lately the world’s supply of the sweet stuff has slumped like human energy levels – ooh – approximately 20 minutes after chocolate mallow consumption.

    Prices hit a 30-year high recently after Cyclone Yasi was estimated by the producers’ group Canegrowers to have obliterated at least a quarter of Queensland’s sugar cane crop. As a result of the damage in Australia – the world’s third largest sugar exporter – commodity forecasters including Rabobank have warned that global sugar output will probably fall short of demand this year. For its part, the European Union is mulling higher import limits following the panicky clearing of supermarket shelves in Portugal in December.

    Before the birth such complicated deficit-enhancers as CFDs, CDOs and CDSs, there was a time when commodities occupied a more central part of the financial news. This “Dublin Weekly Sugar Report” from the Irish Times of April 15th, 1889, could easily be used to describe last week’s frenetic global sugar trade: “The market has continued to move upward, with considerable rapidity and with some excitement, broken only by momentary pauses… Business has been very large and has partaken a good deal of a speculative character.”

    Updates from Liverpool produce markets into the 20th century went into superfine detail on “Messrs. Tate and Lyle’s” quotations for crystals, granulated and yellows, even citing a price for “Afternoon tea” cubes. Today, raw sugar is the most commonly quoted benchmark, though white sugar futures are studied carefully by food analysts eager to calculate margins and growth prospects for companies, including Tate & Lyle, in the refined sugar and sweetener business.

    The sugar rush in Portugal – the first European country to face a shortage of sugar in more than 30 years – was a brief, temporary affair and some forecasters predict that greater output from Brazil could actually prompt a swing into a world sugar surplus. Still, life without cheap-and-ready access to glucose is something to ponder next time the winds gather up in a crop-destroying frenzy: Valentine’s Day 2012 could be a bitter one for more than just the broken-hearted.

« Previous Page

Search The Index