Made in DublinProject Arts Centre, Dublin
In its 21-year history, Dance Ireland has evolved from a quasi-union for dancers based in makeshift studios to a representative body providing a range of resources in the purpose-build DanceHouse. It may have lost some angry militancy along the way, but these days Dance Ireland uses it's professional heft at national and international level to carve out important opportunities for dance artists to research and create.
Made in Dublin featured works by local and international artists created during residencies through the Europe-wide Modul-Dance network. Most importantly, the mini-festival offered an opportunity to view the works of emerging Irish-based choreographers.
Liv O'Donoghue's two dances reinforced the sure-footedness and sharp attention to detail that give her work a satisfying sense of completeness. The choreography always operates to its own inner logic so that no movement feels out of place, and her concept and its realisation are in constant harmony. Hear Me Sing Your Song is an exploration of belonging in a world of fluid identities. Two dancers and two musicians set up family portraits on two chairs, where co-existence seems uncomfortable in spite of the underlying tenderness. As they break off into solos and duets there is constant tension between the real and imagined community in which they find themselves.
TEN, a duet with O'Donoghue and Maria Nilsson Waller, is a similarly beautifully realised expression of real and imagined connections, this time between the two dancers' movements.
This sense of confident ambiguity, an openness to the viewer projecting connections or meaning where none might exist, was particularly evident in the Irish-based Elenna Giannotti's beguiling solo, The Look of the Dog. Here minimalist movements are tossed out as she weaves a web of simple movements that seem arbitrary, but coalesce into a deeper-rooted sense of completeness.
Outward confidence and inward vulnerability was at the heart of Philip Connaughton's Mortuus est Philippus. Wearing just boxers, his muscular projecting was gnawed by self-doubt and reliance on fellow dancer Becky Reilly's brief appearances to move him back to centre-stage. An experienced dancer - but new to choreography - he perfectly embodied the tensions between his inner and outer self, and found universality within the personal.
Aoife McAtamney's softer swells similarly shows embodied memories breaking out, carefully drawing her emotions in space through movements bound by inner conflict and tension.
Conflicting identities and physical memories are common touchstones for all four choreographers, who happily are feeding into an already exciting generation of Irish-based dance artists. Undoubtedly, the atmosphere of creative reflection offered by Dance Ireland (and its international partners) is partly responsible for the strong conceptual ballast behind their work. - Michael Seaver
Break a Leg
Viking Theatre, Dublin
If Peter Sheridan's new solo performance was just a memoir about his life in the theatre, it would still radiate a warm appeal for fans of Dublin stage lore and a well-spun anecdote. It's much better than that, though.
In its artful construction, weave of detail and strong pulse of purpose, Sheridan's absorbing performance contains a greater challenge: to make the theatre worthy of our lives.
This is no trite sentiment. Sheridan, neither a born performer nor a man given to self-regard, has worked hard to make the theatre matter - to himself, to a divided community in Sheriff Street in the 1970s and 1980s, and, it is not too much of a push to say, to the country. Not that he would ever tell it like that. Framed as a discussion in a park with his grandchild Xabi, the production, directed by Maggie Byrne, is more sly than saccharine, a provocation disguised as a treat.
Sheridan's father, also named Peter, turned to theatre following the sudden death of his youngest child: "He was always trying to bring people together." Sheridan does the same, charting various relationship through plays: playing Joxer to his father's Cpt Boyle, alienating him with a counter-culture take on Dr Faustus, achieving emotional catharsis through - of all things - Waiting For Godot.
The interplay Sheridan depicts between life and drama is revealing, aping the mannerisms of local "characters" onstage, but dismissing the automatic relevance of plays to those lives: "This was no made-up Shakespeare shite," he says of an early star-crossed romance, although he makes Sheriff Street violence sound as menacing as a kerfuffle between the Sharks and the Jets.
Eliding or gliding over details explored in greater depth in his recent book (for instance, establishing Project or drowning his panic attacks), Sheridan chooses a different destination for this performance: the often invoked but seldom found junction between art and life. His journey combines the fascinating story behind a trilogy of plays about social change in Dublin, drawn from local participants. Their depictions of the emasculated Dublin Docks, heroin addiction and Monto - Dublin's red-light district - merge with a subtle understanding of folktales.
Even the songs he sings, such as Take Her Up to Monto, are more than party pieces; they are records of people, events and tragedies otherwise lost in time. This performance does something directly similar, making a living document of the madly ephemeral business of theatre, implicitly challenging the artform to engage, to reflect and to rouse. It is essential viewing.
- Peter Crawley