Gig of the Week: Pop will eat itself? Ed Sheeran has already devoured it

Culture guide April 18-23

Gig of the week: Ed Sheeran

April 23rd and 24th, Croke Park, €70-€99,
Pop will eat itself, predicted an indie band from the 1980s, but they didn't reckon on a red-haired bloke from west Yorkshire strolling in and snaffling the whole thing up. Ed Sheeran just seems to get bigger and bigger with each new release and his most recent album has yielded the ubiquitous hit Bad Habits. In December, his song Shape of You became the most-streamed song in Spotify's history, notching up more than 3 billion streams. His Mathematics tour rocks up to Croke Park for two nights this weekend, followed by shows in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Co Cork on April 28th and 29th; and Thomond Park, Co Limerick on May 5th. Sheeran will be doing something radical for the fans – bringing along a full band to back him on such hits as Castle on the Hill, Thinking Out Loud, Shivers and Galway Girl. He's warming up for the shows with small gigs in Whelan's (April 20th) and Vicar St (April 21st) and if you're lucky enough to have tickets for those shows, they'll make a tasty starter for the big musical meal.

Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster

April 20th-30th (preview April 19th), Gate Theatre, Dublin, 7.30pm (Friday 7-9.30pm; Saturday matinee 2.30pm), from €15
How to you create something big, bold and brilliant with just the human voice? Meet Beatbox Academy, a company that need no musical accompaniment because they do all the sounds themselves, taking the Mary Shelley story and expanding it to include all sorts of modern monstrosities. Six performers take the mike for this kinetic, rhythmic show which finds equal inspiration in Pachelbel and The Prodigy, and explores the way the digital age has given rise to new monsters which threaten to engulf our lives and our very souls. This critically acclaimed production by Battersea Arts Centre will demonstrate the power of the human voice to put fifty-thousand volts through this timeless tale.

Music Current

April 19th-23rd, Project Arts Centre, Dublin,
Are you ready for some new adventures in sound? Music Current is a five-day festival showcasing innovative and ambitious music-makers and this year it returns to live action with a programme that promises to be challenging but also lots of fun. A fearless approach is de rigueur for participants, who this year include San Francisco's Splinter Reeds Ensemble performing a work entitled Hypothetical Islands; and New York chamber group Loadbang, who will perform a concert entitled Irrational. Performing from the US, and Ensemble Garage from Germany. Dublin Sound Lab will present four new works created in collaboration with some of our most interesting composers and performers, and there'll be any number of workshops and panel discussions so you can delve deeper into the workings of these creative powerhouses.

Dua Lipa

April 20th, 3Arena, Dublin,
Releasing an album aimed squarely at the crowded dancefloor at a time when clubs around the world were shuttered might seem a risky move, but Dua Lipa's disco-tinged Future Nostalgia proved a tonic in a pandemic and sent her into the stratosphere. Now the crowds will be sashaying into the 3Arena to dance in the flesh to such hits as Don't Start Now and Levitating, and the glamour and glitz will be on full display both in the stands and onstage. The London singer, whose parents are from Kosovo, burst into our consciousness in 2017 with New Rules, a guidebook for weaning yourself off your toxic ex, and most recently sang with Elton John on the chart-topping Cold Heart. Wear your dancing shoes.


An Octoroon

April 21st-May 14th, Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Monday-Saturday, 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2pm), €15-€45
How do you tackle a classic play that has become problematic in our supposedly more enlightened age. US playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins has rewritten Dion Boucicault's 1859 play The Octoroon, substituting the definite article for the indefinite article and turning it into a big, bold statement on race and power in modern America. And yes, actors use the N-word on stage. The reboot and reimagining of Boucicault's original has already played to ecstatic audiences in New York and London but the playwright is naturally keen to see how it is received in Boucicault's home town.

Alan Partridge: Stratagem

April 23rd and 24th, 3Arena, Dublin,
North Norwich's favourite morning radio presenter returns to live action with his latest show, bearing the very Partridgesque title of Stratagem. But what's it about? Well, as Alan explains in the promo video for the show, he's saddened by the way Brexit and Covid has splintered his beloved Britain. He wants to build a bridge between Brexiteers and Remainers, and between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. In this show he outlines his stratagem for reuniting the UK. "What really binds us as a nation is when we all of us, together, can't stand something – like speed bumps or anything changing." If you worry the show may be too Anglo-centric, fear not. We're sure Steve Coogan has a stratagem for bringing his Irish fans along on the comedic journey.

Paper Boat

April 23rd, St Nicholas's Collegiate Church, Co Galway, 5pm,
How do you pack more than 100 singers and performers into a paper boat? No problem for the producers of this new community opera for Galway, which celebrates the history and legacy of St Nicholas's Collegiate Church, Ireland's largest medieval parish church and a hub of spirituality and culture for hundreds of years. Librettist Jessica Traynor and composer Elaine Agnew have woven historical events, ancient myths and current events to tell a timeless story of endurance and perseverance, with help from the Irish National Opera and a 36-piece orchestra under the baton of Galway conductor Sinead Hayes. It begins with the arrival of three strangers seeking sanctuary in the church, and takes off from there, building up to a dramatic, inspiring finale of A Galway Blessing set to the tune of The West's Awake. The production itself has had its share of ups and downs since being commissioned for Galway 2020 but finally the Paper Boat is ready to set sail and make a fitting celebration of the church's 700th anniversary.

Drawda – Drogheda Urban Art Trail

April 23rd, Abbey Lane, Drogheda, Co Louth,
Get your walking shoes on and prepare to step into Irish mythology via this family-friendly art trail around the town of Drogheda, curated by artists Dee Walsh and Brian Hegarty. The route will take you past six new outdoor murals depicting magical events from Irish myths and legends, including the Salmon of Knowledge and the tale of Fionn Mac Cumhail by Irish artist Ciaran Dunlevy, the story of Etain by Dutch artist Nina Valkhoff, and Boann, goddess of the Boyne, by Spanish artist Lula Goce. You can get an accompanying audio tour on your smartphone, and there'll be plenty for the family to do and see around the town on the day.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist