Arts Reviews

 

One might have thought the market for ethnic music had diminished, its commercial appeal shrunk to the size of a dot through overexposure to the likes of the many Buena Vista-type outfits floating lifelessly around.

Sexteto

Canyengue

NCH

Sexteto Canyengue disprove this. From Amsterdam via South America, Sexteto Canyengue come across like suave lady-killing, sharp-suited Reservoir Toreadors, instruments at the ready, swishing and sashaying through dramatic and playful music. Formed in the late 1980s by Dutchman Carel Kraayenhof - who had absorbed the rhythms of tango while on an extended visit to Buenos Aires - Sexteto Canyengue play original music as well as that of Astor Piazzola and Osvaldo Ruggerio, two highly regarded figures in the genre.

Making their Dublin debut on Tuesday last - a gig sandwiched in between a short tour of Ireland's cosier venues - instrumentals such as Bad Company, Red Flower, Brown And Blue, My Refuge, Shark and Buenos Aires Tokyo are performed with a heady mixture of grace, skill and humour. Possessed of a cinematic air, the ensemble playing is infused with equal parts dynamism and refinement, with Kraayenhof (on bandoneon, a German counterpart of the accordion) gently egging his superb players on to measured heights of excellence. Go see, hear and be delighted. - Tony Clayton-Lea

Sexteto Canyengue perform at Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, Co Laois, tonight; Old St Mary's Church, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, tomorrow; Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, on Saturday; Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork, Sunday ; and Skibbereen Town Hall, Co Cork, next Monday.

Medici Quartet

Elmwood Hall,

Belfast

Quartet in E flat Op 33 No 2 "Joke"......Haydn

Driftwood on Sand.......................Piers Hellawell

Quartet in B flat Op 130..................... Beethoven

Everything in the Medici Quartet's Haydn felt just right: a lively but steady tempo for the first movement, a dance-like impulse, sturdy but not rough, for the second movement, good tone for the viola-cello duet which opens the third, and a vivacious but well-controlled finale. Accents were carefully weighted and varied according to context, melodic lines were expressively shaped. The point of the famous "joke" is spoilt if the audience is primed in advance, but if they're not, it can still catch people out; it did the last time the work was played here.

Piers Hellawell's Driftwood on Sand offers performers the chance to arrange the different sections in whatever order they wish (the "driftwood") while keeping the place of others fixed (the "sand"). The various episodes show the intriguing sounds that can be conjured from a string quartet - one of the reasons for the durability of the medium - with the sensitivity to atmosphere one expects from Hellawell enriched by a romantic feeling for melody.

Beethoven's Op 130 also offers performers a choice: the later, official finale or the original Grosse Fuge finale, played here. Once again it all felt right; the leader played the famous Cavatina with a fine, noble tone which allowed the inner parts to emerge naturally, and the tempo was spacious without being unduly slow. The Elmwood Hall acoustics do no favours for string players, but the quartet maintained a good tone even in the fugue, which can easily become a bit of a grind. - Dermot Gault

Papa Roach

The Point, Dublin

The intellectual level of the evening was undermined by support band Murderdolls (which features Slipknot's drummer Joey Jordison) signing off their set with the piquantly titled I Love To Say F**k. The Point's roof did not splinter at the response from the audience, which numbered less than 1,500, and comprised Hallowe'en leftovers, curious parents and excited hoodie-wearing children.

Despite its specific themes of nihilism, violence, redemption and weeping-wounds honesty, the pantomime element of metal remains - although the warning call of "look out behind you" is clearly a thing of the past.

Yet it works at different levels, as Papa Roach prove. Doltishly lumped in with the Limp Bizkits of this world, the Vacaville, San Francisco band have been saddled with the nu-metal tag despite their obvious allegiance to other, somewhat more quality influences.

Dressed in black, with three guitarists that choreograph their movements like buckled marionettes, the band are loud enough to have you searching for ear plugs, but also interesting enough to make you stop frowning.

It starts well: a double whammy of pummelling riffs, a hit single in the shape of She Loves Me Not, and enough strobe lighting to cause mass epilepsy. They dispense with their straddling of the nu-metal and hip hop divide by giving it short shrift, playing only a handful songs from their major label debut, Infest. Their follow-up album, Lovehatetragedy, is rifled for songs (including Time And Time Again and Walking Through Barbed Wire); via one bone-crunching tune after another a picture emerges of a relatively straight-laced outfit that is informed by the gloomy spirits of Black Sabbath, The Pixies (whose Gouge Away they cover with aplomb) and Nirvana.

If the venue had been even half full, this could have been a major triumph for Papa Roach. The fact that they energised a meagre turnout with a show of power, restraint and involvement was little short of astonishing. - Tony Clayton-Lea

Dancing At Lughnasa

An Grianán, Letterkenny

Twelve years on from its initial Abbey production, Dancing At Lughnasa feels like a tried and trusted staple of the theatrical canon, largely thanks to its unflagging popularity as a amateur drama staple; professional revivals of Brian Friel's masterwork have, however, proved far fewer and further between than one might realise.

Thus, Letterkenny's increasingly ambitious An Grianán Theatre make a bold stab at reclaiming Friel for themselves, bringing the Donegal play back to the heartland and fashioning a Lughnasa exuding a local flavour - a smart move that invests director Mairead McGrath's production with an invigorating energy.

Lesser productions of the piece have made the mistake of suffocating the rawness of the emotional undercurrent that the playwright expertly conjures, opting instead for easy laughs and an excess of sentimentality.

Here, the inherent bleakness and honesty of Friel's work is suffused with an additional edge in its potent, heightened interpretation of the tunes that brighten its characters' lives (with superbly choreographed movement by Muirne Bloomer), one that at times even suggests the work of Pennies From Heaven-era Dennis Potter.

There's a primacy here that, at times, feels positively inspired: thanks to Kate O'Toole, Cathleen Bradley, Morna Regan, Janet Moran and, in particular, the wonderful Eleanor Methven, we also have a gaggle of Mundy sisters as fine as any production of Lughnasa to date has offered. Well worth a visit. - Derek O'Connor

On tour: Coleraine (tonight, until November 9th), Burnavon Arts & Cultural Centre, Cookstown (November 11th-12th), The Market Place, Armagh (November 13th-14th), Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen (November 15th-16th) Cork Opera House, Cork (Nov 19th-23rd) and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght (November 25th-30th).

Further details: 074 20777