Reviews

 

A selection of reviews by Irish Times critics.

Sweet Apollo
Project Cube, Dublin

By Michael Seaver

She may be influenced by George Balanchine's Apollo but choreographer Liz Roche has created a myth that is much more human than god-like.

Balanchine's Apollo - which has been danced by demi-gods such as Serge Lifar, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov - has a cool and controlling relationship with the three muses, which hints at the misogynistic undertones in the choreographer's own relationship with ballerinas.

There are no hints necessary in Roche's Sweet Apollo, as the performers clearly reflect the choreographer's creative investment. Muses Katherine O'Malley, Lisa McLoughlin and Justine Doswell have a long association with Roche's choreography and perfectly embody her concept and realisation. Newcomer Karl Sullivan enters their slipstream and is seamlessly included in a final quartet, equally sharing movement phrases, in contrast to Balanchine's Apollo's final arrogant ascent up the steps to Olympus.

Roche's performers also can't acquire any god-like veneer through the lens of a proscenium stage. Here the action is played out with audience on four sides in the restricted space of Project's Cube so you can see, hear and, if you don't move your legs out of the way quickly enough, literally feel the minutia of movement. An opening set of solos by the three muses to Stravinsky's bouncy jazz rhythms lead to a stationary hand-holding trio, where some of the rhythms seem to be still bouncing in their breath and bobbing heads. Later quick, breathy and increasingly complex quartets entwine bodies or action slows to a near stop as we are drawn into watching Apollo simply pinching skin.

Therese McKeone's monochrome costumes eventually give way to warm-toned underwear as the journey to enlightenment is complete. It's a journey that's punctuated by Brian Hogan's paintings, which are also inspired by episodes of the Apollo myth. Apollo was the first collaboration between Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky and similarly composer David Turpin's first score for dance, which draws on Stravinsky's original, lends just the correct amount of seasoning to the changing moods and drama.

Various venues until February 11th

Karen Egan Absolute Cabaret
Whelan's, Dublin

By Peter Crawley

Whatever you may have heard, it's wise to take Karen Egan seriously. An accomplished comedian, Egan may string her latest cabaret along a glittering line of witty riffs and self-deprecating one-liners. She may also employ her statuesque figure to comic effect, personifying, in an awkward striptease, grace under pressure. But in Egan's world, laughter doesn't enforce ironic distance. Instead it disarms and draws you closer.

Wilkommen, the opening song of the musical Cabaret, may not first seem an inspired introduction. But in Egan's angular pose - fierce eyes beneath a rakish fedora - its cagey oompah and smouldering multilingualism introduce a singer who will variously describe herself as part-French, part-German and, with impeccable conjugation to prove it, part-Latin. That she trickles it into Moon Over Alabama, a Brecht/Weill composition made popular by Nina Simone, announces a show of global reach: Around the world in 20 songs.

From beret to bowler, top-hat to feather boa, Egan is a consummate role-player; here the unhinged mc, there the passionate chanteuse; first absurd, now sensual - but her voice never wavers. Seeing out the most flippant of gags - a slow-burning jazz treatment of Postman Pat, for instance - she will also be subsumed by the emotive surge of Jacques Brel's Voir Un Ami Pleurer.

Through it all, Danny Sheridan's band deftly negotiate the contrapuntal terrain of Berlin cabaret, the smooth folds of French chanson or Egan's own torch songs - not to mention her merciless japes.

In her comic fillips, Karen Egan's wit may be throwaway. Her performance never is.

Hughie
Bewley's Café Theatre, Dublin

By Gerry Colgan

Many years ago, there was a powerful Dublin performance of Eugene O'Neill's one-act play Hughie, with Joe Lynch and O Z Whitehead. By comparison, odious or not, this current lunchtime production falls well below that standard - but it does not obscure the manifest strength of the play itself.

The story is that of Erie, a small-time gambler living in a seedy New York hotel, and his dependence on its eponymous night clerk. He could always boast to and patronise Hughie, who had become a kind of mascot, but who has recently died. Now, suffering from a massive hangover, Erie meets Hughie's successor, and resumes his old nightly ritual, a drunken near-soliloquy with brief interruptions.

It is a powerful revelation of a wasted and lonely life, fuelled with self-deception. Erie's verbal odyssey takes him through a saga of imaginary conquests, of women, gambling houses and racetracks.

The role of Erie is a difficult one, with its repetitive dialogue and alcoholic meanderings, and Des Cave tended, in the opening performance, to deliver lines rather than a complex character portrayal.

This was not helped by a prolonged and disruptive dry, during which the voice of the prompter was heard all too clearly. It may be hoped and expected that an actor of this calibre will soon find his way to the heart of the matter. Michael Judd's clerk is already there, an excellent foil for his nocturnal patron.

Kelly Campbell directs with, on the face of it, some work still to do.

Runs to February 18th