GERRY COLGAN reviews The Winter’s Taleat the Project Cube and  MARTIN ADAMSgives his opinion on The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra at the National Concert Hall.

Project Cube, Dublin


The fifth annual Shakespeare production by Classic Stage Ireland, directed as always by Andy Hinds, is well up to the standards the company has set for itself. It is a no-frills interpretation in which the characters are sharply etched and the verse dialogue is spoken with precision; a traditional homage to the author. The acting is controlled and persuasive, rising to scale dramatic peaks as required.

More than most of Shakespeare, this play has its improbabilities, notably the final scene in which a statue of the supposedly dead Queen Hermione (Audrey McCoy) comes to life to be reconciled with King Leontes of Sicilia (Chris JJ Heaney), who had imposed the death sentence that fate enabled her to elude. The cause of his wrath was an unprovoked jealous rage, directed at her and his friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia (Chris Gregory). Without an Iago to underpin it, the passion seems too wayward for credibility.

The compensations for these distractions are many, including the depth and brilliance of the writing and the dramatic flow of the plot and emotions. Following the tragedies of the first part, Leontes seeks vindication for his deeds from the Oracle of Delphi, and receives instead the condemnation he deserves. His life enters its penitential winter, but redemption lies ahead as the next generation picks up the reins in a new spring.

Several of the smaller roles earn prominence here. Australian Andy Blaikie steals virtually all his scenes with an effervescent, cheeky-chappie performance as Autolycus, his energetic clowning slotting neatly into the dissolving tragedies. Neil Hogan is excellent as the sturdy Camillo, as is Lesa Thurman as the faithful Paulina. This is a very enjoyable version of one of the Bard’s last plays. Until Jan 24

Dowdall, RTÉ NSO/Maloney

NCH, Dublin


John Buckley– A Mirror into the Light. In Winter Light. Mats Larsson Gothe– Poi. Hoddinott– The Sun, the Great Luminary of the Universe. John Buckley– Campane in Aria.

John Buckley was the featured composer in this Horizons concert. His programme featured three of his works, plus two by others whose music he admires. All, except one by Buckley’s former teacher, the late Alan Hoddinott, were written since 1998, and the music by the three composers had striking qualities in common.

Everywhere, one could hear the interest in orchestral colour that Buckley mentioned in his lucid pre-concert talk. The joyful, fanfare-filled textures of A Mirror into the Light(1999) glitter and display a strong interest in exploring instrumental resources.

In Winter Light (2006) reworks Buckley’s piece of the same name for guitar and flute (2004), using a small orchestra instead of guitar. William Dowdall’s flute-playing, now tense and forceful, now beautifully limpid, felt always right. The scoring for percussion, harp and strings fitted naturally with the solo part, though that pleasing fit softened the rather more terse relationship that is one of the original’s strengths.

Swedish composer Mats Larsson Gothe (born 1965) was in the hall to hear his 1998 composition, Poi. He and Buckley share a fascination with colour, in this case revealed through a modernistic, jagged neo-classicism and general complexity. A brooding, muscular concern with colour and complexity was heard in Hoddinott’s The Sun, the Great Luminary of the Universe(1970), which, like almost all the music, was inspired by literature.

Buckley has written that “composition is an attempt to grasp and give expressive form to the fleeting inner images of the imagination”. That explains the tendency for so much of the music to flit rather than drive forward. Yet, as Campane in Aria(2006) showed, Buckley can be at his strongest when he chooses to drive. The performance, by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gavin Moloney, was impressively exuberant.

The Horizons series continues at 1.05pm on Tue, Jan 27, with music and choices by Ben Dwyer