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  • 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.

  • London 2012 tickets are now on sale – see you at the asymmetric bars

    March 15, 2011 @ 7:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    Tickets for the London 2012 Olympic Games are on sale from today, but don’t all pile in like steeplechasers at a water jump. It’s a marathon, not a 100 metre drug-assisted sprint. The window in which to try and buy some of the 6.6 million tickets is open for a full six weeks, and as part of what event chairman Sebastian Coe calls the “daddy of all ticketing strategies”, ballots will be held for all oversubscribed events.

    So if you are interested in elbowing your way to one of the cheap seats in the claustrophobia capital of the world, you’ve got until April 26th to apply via - by which time I’ll hopefully have figured out what the Modern Pentathlon is all about.

    Indeed, in a bid to contain my excitement about the fact that the Olympics is taking place on Ireland’s doorstep in 499 days, I’ve been trying to think about the bad and/or mildly annoying things about the whole sporting shindig.

    There’s the dispiritingly valid description (by Peter Hitchens) of a typical Olympics as a “festival of cheating”. There’s the tension – given the kind of investment-protection madness that went down at the South African World Cup – that you might be arrested for smuggling the wrong brand of what I will reluctantly call cola into the Olympic Stadium. There’s the deep-seated suspicion that Britain’s Beth Tweddle is the only female gymnast with breasts.

    What else? Well, there’s the constant comparison of various nations’ medal tallies, which somehow manages to miss the human drama of individual sporting achievement, burying it instead in a mindless jingoistic blather. There’s BBC Sport’s insistence on always treating viewers to Michael Johnson’s real-time reaction to a race, thus killing his enthusiasm of all spontaneity.

    There’s the not knowing which is worse: the wearisome nudge-nudge-wink-wink commentary on the beach volleyball or the endless sneering about it being an Olympic sport at all. There’s the sinking feeling, and I accept I might be alone in this, that all that lycra, flag-waving and earnestness combines to make a lot of otherwise amazingly fit people come across as bizarrely unsexy – with the exception of the rowers, that is, 80 per cent of whom resemble the posh twins in The Social Network.

    Yet, despite, or perhaps because, of these Olympic quirks, I’m already planning on spending my 2012 annual leave in London to coincide with this gold medal frenzy, which I plan to sleep off on the couch of anyone living in the south-east of England who I’ve so much as shaken hands with in the last decade – yes, that means you, acquaintance scanning this post via Twitter.

    Ticket prices soar as high as £2,012 – do you see what they’ve done there? – which is approximately £1,950 out of my price range, but happily there are also plenty of £20 tickets for early round events in sports no one is much interested in, like water polo or, er, football. I reckon the BMX cycling could be a fun pick, while the non-sporty person’s sporting hobby of choice, badminton, is surely worth a trip to Wembley Arena. Some people say that if the winners have to be decided by judges, it’s not really a sport, but such prejudice is not going to stop me from marvelling at the diving.

    In all, you can enter the race for tickets for up to 20 events, choosing from 650 sessions across 26 sports and 17 days. Only apply for what you can afford, because a successful bid for tickets means you have to pay for them. Applicants will find out whether or not they have secured their passports to plastic-seated viewing glory by June 24th, by which time Olympic sponsor Visa, the only card you can use, will have already debited the cost of the tickets.

    If I don’t make it to the Aquatics Centre for the synchronised swimming, it’s safe to say I’ll be there in spirit.

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