A selection of reviews by Irish Timescritics


There was more than a hint of school disco at the 02 as Spandau Ballet – reunited and obviously feeling good – flounced back into the limelight. Particular thanks for the 1980s atmospherics go to the couple in the back row – I kid you not, that wastheir chosen location – who took their cue from a lusty rendition of Spandau super-ballad Trueto launch into a bout of ferocious snogging. Those were indeed the days, my friends.

To be fair, snogs were few and far between – audience members were too busy checking their mobiles to see that the babysitter was coping, and snorting the air for the scent of lost youth, to be diverted by any bumping and grinding. Spandau’s demographic has matured since Truedominated the charts – and the slow set – for four weeks in spring 1983. You could be forgiven, though, for thinking little else had changed since the Londoners’ heyday – 1983 was the year Ireland’s recession became “official”, the dole queues were lengthening, boys’ haircuts were getting weirder . . . all we need is an abortion referendum and a bit more emigration and we’ll be back to the future. It was an irony that wasn’t lost on the audience, one of whom confided that after seeing Spandau Ballet at the RDS in 1994, she emigrated. Not that she’s blaming the boys, of course.

At this gig, Spandau Ballet reminded us why they were pop stars in the first place. The five original band members – Tony Hadley, Steve Norman, John Keeble, and brothers Martin and Gary Kemp – have put aside any recriminations over their acrimonious 1999 court battle about song royalties and retrieved their oeuvre from the New Romantic wasteland. They will pocket an estimated €13 million from this tour. What recession?

But it’s the art that counts. And the Londoners still have their mojo, if not their errant fashion sense. Tony Hadley still has a pair of lungs on him, Gary Kemp can still whack out a tune, and Martin, well, Martin’s still got it going on – cue screams every time he got a name-check. Opening with a full-on version of To Cut a Long Story Short, the guys tantalised us with a string of their more minor hits before giving the fans what they wanted: a medley of jukebox classics.

A poignant version of the Belfast-set Through the Barricadeshad the audience of Old Romantics up on their feet. Instinction, Communication, Lifelineand Chant #1had them longing for the days when a guy could wear a skirt with impunity. Trueprovided – what else – the perfect excuse for the snoggers, and Goldwas the no-brainer choice for a finale that had the 1980s kids forgetting about unemployment, staycations and moany teenage children. Or maybe it reminded them . . . that could have been the point. ANTHEA McTEIRNAN

An Seanfhear Beag/ Ahhhh!, Baboró festival, Galway

The play has been on for nearly 15 minutes, and the audience – comprising about 30 schoolchildren, six teachers and two critics – is becoming a little restless. A senior infant decides to lead a spontaneous round of applause. Everyone joins in, though it’s not clear what we’re clapping for. A wise-looking five-year-old turns to her companion. “I’m sure that something good is about to happen,” she says confidently. She’s right – in a moment, a dog will arrive on stage, and everyone will laugh. Two lads beside her have just started a conversation about helicopters, which they will continue for 20 minutes. In short, everyone is having a good time.

The production is An Seanfhear Beag, part of Galway’s Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, and it’s an engaging fable about an old man whose loneliness is assuaged when he meets a stray dog. Using puppets and musical instruments, the four performers, from Galway company Branar, enact the story almost entirely without words, though there are some brief statements in Irish. After the play, one of the performers asks the children to tell him what the story was about.

Although they verbalise their responses with enthusiasm, it is notable that they also promise to draw pictures of their favourite scenes upon their return to school.

Wordless enactment is also a feature of Ahhhh!, a show for children aged between 18 months and four years.

Where interaction with the audience occurs only at the end of An Seanfhear Beag, here it’s essential to the whole performance. The lone actor, Jay Ryan, proudly shows us his toys and plants, letting the children give his pet piggy a kiss. He blows bubbles, and cleans our shoes with a feather duster. Everyone present is charmed; indeed, two toddlers take to the stage to get a closer look at Jay’s toys. Produced by PigNut Productions, this is a thoroughly enjoyable – and aptly named – performance.

Both shows should be enjoyed on their own merits, but it’s also fascinating to observe how their creators experiment with visual storytelling, a feature of theatre-making internationally. This makes theatre accessible to children who either haven’t learned to talk yet, or who are learning a second language. As always with Baboró, there’s the delight of knowing that anything can happen, that the young audience are co-creators of the meaning of each performance, and will always exercise that entitlement. PATRICK LONERGAN

Baboró finishes on Sunday. An Seanfhear Beagtours until Oct 29, to Donegal, Roscommon, Ballymun, Drogheda, Castlebar and Blanchardstown. Ahhhh!tours until Oct 31, to Letterkenny, Drogheda, Castlebar, Waterford, Birr and Blanchardstown.;