Critics review Molly Bloom, The Jewish Wifeand Capuçon, Capuçon, Angelich
Smock Alley, Dublin
The famous soliloquy that brings Ulysses to its fragmented, audacious finish contains just eight sentences. Dense with intimate memories, half-formed thoughts and erotic fantasies, they run, babble, surge, digress and double-back for more than 60 pages, encountering just two punctuation marks on that wilful journey.
In rendering the "Penelope episode" as a solo performance piece, Eilín O'Dea has tamed that text into speech; finding the breaks and breaths between thoughts; hacking a trail of lucid sentences through Joyce's overgrown jungle; doing the hard work so you don't have to. O'Dea's conversational delivery certainly makes Joyce's words accessible, in keeping with the popularising ethos of the Bloomsday Festival, but scholars of modernism may look at Molly's stream of consciousness and suggest that its difficulty is largely the point.
Watching Molly Bloom is a distinctly different experience to reading her, of course, but the production seems reluctant to assert its independence. No one - neither O'Dea nor her directors, Liam Carney and Patrick J Byrnes - is credited with adapting the work, as though admitting to any intervention would be akin to meddling with Joyce's masterpiece. But while it hardly takes liberties, most of the effort of Big Hand Little Hand's production lies in editing and parsing the text, sculpting the shape of a character for O'Dea to inhabit. Had they more licence to meet Joyce's experiment with a similarly adventurous theatrical language, it might have made for a more rewarding stage experience.
As it is, O'Dea's performance, not to mention her recall, is certainly impressive, whether or not she quite squares with our perceptions of the character (I'm not sure how Molly, raised in Gibraltar and living in Dublin, would have settled on a west of Ireland accent).
Moving around déshabillé in her equally dishevelled bedroom, she is every inch the sensualist Joyce imagined, describing her adultery with flagrant desire, jumbling her thoughts of life, loss, confinement and relationships with abandoned sexual imagery.
That may be why Carney and Byrnes have such difficulty luring her away from bed, rarely finding convincing outer displays for her inner monologue.
While Molly's thoughts read like a groggy accumulation of details, slipping eventually into a sleepily romantic reverie, O'Dea must sharpen her focus instead, sitting upright and alert for her famous, final affirmations.
The emphasis is necessarily different, but the intention is the same: on the stage, as on the page, Molly gets the last word.
Runs until June 21st. The Bloomsday Festival continues until June 16th
The Jewish Wife
Éigse Arts Festival,
Town Hall Theatre, Carlow
The Jewish Wife is one of 24 oft-forgotten playlets from Bertolt Brecht's early career. Originally themed alongside companion pieces as Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, Martin Crimp's terse translation loses nothing in this self-contained production for Éigse Arts Festival.
As directed by Aoife Kavanagh, The Jewish Wife is no less effective for its economy, and at 35-minutes long is a satisfying and complete meditation on the private implications of war-time politics.
Set in Berlin as the second World War is about to break across the country, The Jewish Wife is an intimate glimpse of a Jewish woman's life as she prepares to leave her gentile husband for the safer haven of Amsterdam.
As Judith, Cathy White occupies the stage alone for the first 25 minutes of the play: we watch her packing, calling friends to tell them that she's leaving, rehearsing her husband's final farewell, and waiting, waiting, for his arrival home and their inevitable tragic goodbye.
Aoife Kavanagh's gentle direction extends the tension of Judith's last few hours in the flat by playing out the first 10 minutes in absolute silence. However, all the fussy stage business and White's mannered performance seem somewhat at odds with Paulo Foley's detailed, naturalistic set. What would happen, one wonders, if the stage world mirrored the warped world-view that is inexorably shaping Judith's future? If the absurdity of such arbitrary beliefs as "you can't be bourgeois unless you are blonde" were reflected in the production's aesthetic?
Frank Mackey's belated entrance as Judith's frazzled husband Fritz seems to confirm the necessity for a darker, less reverential approach to the text, one that will unsettle an audience as well as move them. Brecht himself pioneered this viewpoint in his later work: a bitter pill needs no sweetening with poetry.
Éigse Carlow Arts Festival continues until Sunday
Capuçon, Capuçon, Angelich
IIB Bank Music in Great Irish Houses Festival
The French brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon (a violinist and a cellist, born in 1976 and 1981) are musicians at the top of their game. They're regular participants at Martha Argerich's festival in Lugano, work as soloists and chamber partners with the great and the good of the musical world, and feature in a regular stream of CDs from Virgin Classics.
Their debut at the IIB Bank Music in Great Irish Houses Festival was a rather unusual affair. It was the festival's first visit to Beaulieu House outside Drogheda, Co Meath, a most atmospheric setting, with the feel of a lived-in house rather than a museum piece.
It is also one of the festival's smallest venues, and the two musicians didn't seem to know where to put their music stands on their tiny platform, which was placed in a corner rather than centrally - they swapped places before they started. And they certainly didn't know how to handle the challenges of such a small performing space.
The result was a kind of assault. The playing sounded as much combative as cooperative, as the duo made their individualistic ways through pieces by Schulhoff, Ravel and Kodály.
It was all rather reminiscent of a comic, competitive vocal duo by Rossini, but without the humour.
The actual instrumental sound, of course, was luscious and full. But it was altogether too loudly projected, and the two players didn't fully seem to connect with one another through the actual music. On this occasion, the Capuçons came across as players who conceive of music as a matter of independent melodic lines, a kind of pure counterpoint, without the grounding of any harmonic foundation.
Renaud's violin playing was the more assertive and authoritarian, while Gautier's cello-playing more persuasively explored a few moments of quieter seductiveness.
For their second festival appearance, in the conservatory at Killruddery House in Bray in the glorious sun of Monday evening, they were joined by one of their regular musical partners, American pianist Nicholas Angelich. He proved to be a valuable addition to the ensemble, quiet and unassuming in manner, but always a force for cohesion.
His understatement made for an unbalanced account of Haydn's Gipsy Rondo trio, where the violin was allowed to dominate unduly. The famous finale, played without any disfigurations of rubato, was, as ever, the highlight of this work.
The soloistic inclinations of the violin playing were felt, too, in the piano trios by Brahms (Op 101 in C minor), and Shostakovich (Op 67 in E minor).
The challenging tightrope walk for the cello that opens the Shostakovich was faultless, and it was that same work's spare, intense largo which showed the three players at their collective best.
The IIB Bank Music in Great Irish Houses
Festival runs until Sunday