A round-up of the latest happenings in the arts.
Dublin Fringe Festival, Axis
If this first mini festival, held as part of the wider Dublin Fringe Festival, is a taste of the direction that Irish-language drama is taking we can rest assured that the form is no longer in a transitional phase but is alive and prolific.
Le Luí Na Gealaí () is a translation by Domhnall Mac Síthigh of J. M. Synge's first play, When The Moon Has Set, which takes place in the house of Colum Mac Suibhne's uncle as the uncle dies. The turmoil of the forbidden love between Mac Suibhne and Sister Eileen is well portrayed by Seán Misteál and Sinéad Ní Uallacháin. Áine Moynihan is captivating as the deranged but sagacious Méaraí Ní Choistealbhach, the dead uncle's former fiancée. Noel Ó Briain's excellent production is enhanced by its sound effects and lighting; the latter is pivotal in depicting the stages of the day and the decisions to be made during each of them.
Geasa (), written by Gearóid Mac Unfraith, is set in the trenches of the first World War, although the characters are perhaps a little too well dressed and there is very little evidence of their being dug in: the set features a clean tablecloth and other props. In the absence of proper sound and lighting effects, the sporadic sound of gunshots struggles to create suspense. Domhnall O'Donohue gives a commendable performance as Ogie, but the emphasis is on broken geasa, or promises, between Major Guerin and Ogie's sister, Aoife. This draws attention from the other characters and the main storyline: the death by firing squad of Ranger Bruadar, for desertion.
Gael And Gaul () is innovative, energetic drama, but innovation can never be a substitute for a play candidly pitched at its target audience. The set is adequate, and the acting, although adept and accomplished, is too reliant on the expertise of one person. The story, which is set in Lisburn, is based on the interaction between the settled French, Irish and English communities of the 18th century. The characters are not always delineated, which is confusing and contributes to a lack of continuity. The story needs at least one other fully fledged character - perhaps the boy trying to locate his grandfather - to convince a young audience of its validity.
Cinnín Óir () is a one-person show in which the pace and engagement of the young audience never flag. A vivacious, energetic Cinnín Óir, or Goldilocks, entrances the audience. The placards used to help tell the story do not always work, however, as the detail is unclear and fussy. But the singing and dancing more than compensate: this is a thoroughly enjoyable, bewitching performance.
In Pádraic Ó Conaire () Diarmuid de Faoite leaves no doubt about the aspirations of Irish-language drama. De Faoite's intriguing, dynamic interpretation of the highs and lows of Ó Conaire's life in Ireland and England enthrals the audience. We follow Ó Conaire from his childhood, as a gregarious Galway boy, to his unhinged adult life, in which his literary ability is never fully recognised. The final scene is particularly poignant: de Faoite lays down the hat, apple, stick and ounce of tobacco that were Ó Conaire's only possessions when he died, in 1928. This is a must-see for all theatre-goers, whether they speak Irish or English.
Lig Sinn i gCathú () is an uplifting rendering of a young man's coming of age. The story starts with his last days at university, after succumbing to all the vices college life can bring. Politics are to the fore, as the play is set at Easter 1949, when the taoiseach proclaimed the Free State a republic. This multifaceted drama's most poignant theme is the sexual awakening of Máirtín Ó Méalóid. Darach Dubháin, Marc Mac Lochlainn and Eoin Mac Diarmada give distinguished performances, although the characters played are not always clearly delineated - perhaps the result of the pace required to stage a novel. The execution of the characters played by Brídín Nic Dhonncha is laudable.
Ciarán Ó Con Ceanainn writes: Anraith Neantóige (), by Celia de Fréine, explores the effects of war. Set sometime in the future, its climax comes when Aimée and Guy show a preference for killing a soldier who has discovered their mountain hut, rather than letting him go free, in case they are also discovered. The music is well selected, but the production loses momentum in the second half, diluting the rapport created between the audience and the cast in the first half.
Stair na hÉireann Cineál . . . () is a puppet show that attempts to tell 9,000 years of Irish history in 45 minutes. Its chronicling of the 20th century is interesting but not always suitable for such a young audience. The acting is of a high standard, and the production is funny and proficient.
Regina Uí Chollatáin
Dublin Fringe Festival, SFX
Standing in the foyer, looking in at cellist Raphael Zweifel's sweeping phrases in the auditorium, gives the first hints of physical dislocation in Remote Versions. It's the perfect link to two silhouettes between you and the other half of audience, facing you in the distance. The sense of separation is accentuated by the two dancers' performing only in their own half of the long space. On my side Jone San Martín walked up to us, making eye contact with each audience member; in the distance Fabrice Mazliah was doing the same. You knew there was another side to the story but were influenced by the movement of the dancer in front of you. In a simple ending she showed her palms in different positions, suggesting offering, calming, stopping and soothing. Devoid of touch, it was nonetheless intimate.
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Vicar Street, Dublin
There's no getting away from it: the years are showing. The last time so many greying temples and bald pates were seen at Vicar Street was when Bob Dylan rolled into town. But, naturally, Lloyd Cole is ageing gracefully,
all greying forelocks and languid delivery.
Twenty years after their sublime debut, Rattlesnakes, they deliver every song with panache. Cole's effortful bookishness sounded brittle in the 1980s; now it comes across as entertaining mind games.
Guitarist Neil Clark and bassist Laurence Donegan trade lines as though they'd lived in one another's back pockets for years; sometime software engineer Blair Cowen lends his keyboards a deliciously nerdy intensity while Stephen Irvine, on drums, meets Cole somewhere up there where rock stars lurk, forever poised for the bright lights.
They play Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken with hymnal precision - accompanied by more than a little spontaneous audience participation. Perfect Skin does its soft-shoe shuffle across our memory banks, and later, much later, Forest Fire brings us out in the a cold sweat.
The Commotions' rockabilly sensibilities are amply aired: you could trace a line from them to Neil Finn and Crowded House by way of The Frank and Walters.
Apart from Cole's never-strong voice languishing too low in the mix, this is the reunion we were promised, with bells and whistles on: two hours of heaven that'll fuel countless surreptitious smiles into the office over the coming weeks.
Vivaldi - Violin Concerto in E flat RV253 (La Tempesta Di Mare). Peteris Vasks - Distant Light. Dvorák - Quintet in G Op 77
Distant Light, the violin concerto by the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks, might strike some as being a little too blatant in its efforts to stir the emotions: audiences can switch off if they suspect they are being manipulated.
In the Irish Chamber Orchestra's moving performance under soloist Anthony Marwood on Sunday afternoon it didn't feel like manipulation. Or, if it was, then it was of a seductive kind that invited surrender. The piece is suffused with a sincere, bitter-sweet nostalgia inspired by Childhood Fragments, a book of reminiscences by violinist and fellow Latvian Gidon Kremer, who requested the concerto from Vasks in 1997. Each of us has a childhood to recall; with its serene pedal points, gentle scales that blend into benign clusters and warm, tonal harmonies, this is music that offers a communal conduit to those diverse individual reservoirs of memory that are hidden within a concert audience.
The single-movement work is punctuated by three unaccompanied cadenzas, increasingly animated outbursts that Marwood played with refinement and expressive intensity.
He brought the same qualities to an utterly different context in Vivaldi's La Tempesta Di Mare, the concerto that, of the hundreds he composed, followed immediately after The Four Seasons, resembling it in style and content.
Marwood's playing was nimble and pure, and he drew a tight, well-balanced partnership from the orchestra.
Any intimacy lost in Dvorák's String Quintet in G was compensated for with spirit and commitment under Marwood's lively direction.