Reviews

 

Irish Times writers review The Self-Obsessed Tragedy of Ed Malone at the Unitarian Church, the Irish Baroque Orchestra/Huggett at the NCH, NCC/Celso Antunes at the National Gallery, and Roger Waters at the Marquee.

Cork Midsummer Festival: The Self-Obsessed Tragedy of Ed Malone

Unitarian Church

Marfan's Syndrome may be a disease of the connective tissue but there is no failure, genetic or otherwise, in the connections between Edward Malone and his audience for The Self-Obsessed Tragedy of Ed Malone - written and performed by Ed Malone.

This 50-minute exercise (literally: there is a lot of stamping around) consists of what has to be called a diatribe rather than a monologue and reveals, in often raw but always energetic phrases, the real life and the dream life of its eponymous hero.

"Hero" in these circumstances is stretching it a little, as, limbs lax as a string puppet, Malone reminds us that acting is the revenge of the shy or isolated man. Patterned by repeated triplets of enraged questions offered in that brutal, almost tribal Cork interrogative "Haa? Whaaa?" and expressed in a voice of alcohol-smoked timbre, the script has a disciplined flow and a power which is more than personal. Although there is a mention of Marfan's Syndrome - distinguished by a combination of unusual skeletal length, scoliosis and internal symptoms - the condition may blight the performer but does not affect the play. Instead, performed against a backdrop of perilously draped black curtaining in a corner of the little Unitarian Church, the piece, directed by Brian Desmond, is not so much Malone Dies as Malone Comes Out, or wants to.

Otherwise there is no special pleading here, the case is made on behalf of a man, not a victim, and is made with convincing theatrical energy. Whatever the reasons for it, this is a unique voice with a healthy narrative talent. Incidentally, it was obvious here as throughout the Midsummer Festival that one of the great and perhaps lasting benefits of this entire event is its popularity with young audiences, relishing the chance to see quality events in unusual venues.

Ends this evening, 6.30pm and 11 pm (1800-200555) Mary Leland

Irish Baroque Orchestra/Huggett

NCH, Dublin

Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No 3. Sinfonia from Cantata 209. Concerto in D minor for Two Violins. Brandenburg Concerto No 5. Brandenburg Concerto No 4

The Irish Baroque Orchestra's artistic strategies seem to be delivering exactly what is claimed for them. Over the past six years I have heard the IBO in several performances of Bach concertos, including a disappointing account of the Brandenburgs with the distinguished Bach scholar-performer, Joshua Rifkin.

Thursday's all-Bach concert was the last event in the IBO's summer series, and was in a different league from those earlier efforts. The continuo group offered support that was both grounding and animating. Animation came from the top too, in the violin playing of the orchestra's leader and musical director Monica Huggett and her former pupil, Claire Duff.

Those strengths were spread throughout the orchestra, via a drive and energy that was not of the hard-drilled kind, even though the ensemble could be astonishingly tight. One instance of this flexibility was the slow movement of the Concerto for Two Violins, which moved at a languorously sprung one-in-a-bar, and in which Huggett and Duff persisted in articulating their questions and answers as two differing personalities. "It goes like this," said one. "But I can make it work like this," said the other. All three movements had virtuosity of a profoundly musical kind.

Those qualities were sustained when the orchestra was at its full strength of 17 players for Brandenburg Concerto No 4, in which the recorder soloists were Laoise O'Brien and Kate Hearne. In the outer movements, Monica Huggett's solos were scintillating; and everyone seemed to relish the fugal discourse of the finale.

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, in which the players were joined by flautist Julia Corry, was beautifully done. The contrast of manner between this piece and the fourth concerto underlined the impression that this orchestra is not just getting better. It's getting an identity. Martin Adams

NCC/Celso Antunes

National Gallery, Dublin

Schumann - Romanzen und Balladen Op 75 (exc)

Lera Auerbach - Lullaby Op 66. Psalm 130. Psalm 23

Taneyev - Three Choruses Op 27

Bartók - Four Hungarian Folksongs

If you were obliged to market something under a Greek title, you would probably be relieved to be able to include the word eros. So recognisable as the root of the English word "erotic", eros would give you marketing's favourite association: sex.

You would then be obliged, however, to include a little eros in whatever you were selling. The National Chamber Choir hasn't really done so in its summer series, "Eros and Thanatos". There have been good helpings of death (thanatos), but instances of eros (properly, "sexual love") have been rare. I counted two in this concert, which was one more than in the first concert, two more than in the second.

Happily, there was an alternative thread stitching unity into Thursday's programme, which was that, at a stretch, the music could all be considered rather romantic. The most clear-cut examples were the five selections from Schumann's four volumes of Romanzen und Balladen, including a brooding depiction of the Grim Reaper at work (Schnitter Tod), and an atmospheric narrative about a solitary hunter lamenting the death of the miller's daughter (Der traurige Jäger).

Just as rich in 19th-century romantic expression were the Three Choruses by Sergey Taneyev, whose settings nicely match thought with sound and are coloured with word-painting - cow-bells, a thunderstorm - but, surprisingly, show no hint of the nationalist influence so popular with his contemporaries.

Also surprising was the level of romantic expression in three pieces by the young American composer Lera Auerbach (who was in attendance). Her sweet setting of Blake's Sleep! Sleep! Beauty Bright had a real, lullaby tenderness. Here, harmony was rich and warm, whereas her Psalm 130 ("Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee") was laced with a dissonance that was clearly equated to bitterness. Unusually, she chose the original Hebrew for her Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd"), which resonated with the suggestion of gapped, Eastern scales that she somehow smoothly combined with almost Brucknerian chords.

Conductor Celso Antunes and his singers were especially at home in this romantic world, unabashedly heart-on-the-sleeve with wide contrasts and plenty of emotional impact. Michael Dungan

Roger Waters

Marquee, Docklands, Cork

Should pop stars do politics? Roger Waters certainly seemed to think so on a recent visit to Israel where he took time out to spray paint, "No thought Control" and "Tear down the wall" on the West bank barrier.

And so it was in Cork, with images of George Bush, Stalin and Chairman Mao, illuminating lyrics such as Not in my name and Tony, you great war leader you.

He opened with back classics such as In the Flesh, Mother, Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Wish You Were Here and the more recent Leaving Beirut, written after the start of the Iraq war. Perfect Sense Parts 1 and 2 should have completed the first half, yet a power-cut intervened, and Waters and his 11-strong band took an intermission.

They efficiently got through the remainder of the opening set before introducing Pink Floyd original Nick Mason on drums. The set-up now included Andy Fairweather Low, Snowy White, Dave Kiliminister and Ian Ritchie as well as Katie Kissoon, PP Arnold and Carol Kenyon.

Yet the prospect of two Floyd original members performing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety was the main draw here, and aided with superb visuals, Waters and Mason stuck faithfully to the script. A seminal album it may be, but live, it sounded entirely fresh, helped by good old-fashioned showmanship from Waters, futuristic lighting and the 5,000 strong crowd - many in blissful ignorance of the smoking ban - chanting every line.

Two and a half hours in, and still time for an encore of The Wall, and Comfortably Numb.

"You've been great," enthused Waters, before leaving the stage to rapturous applause. Brian O'Connell