Irish Times writers review Wedlock of The Godsat the Project Cube, the Young Camerata Ireland Trioat the NCH, and Input/Outputat the Project.
Wedlock of The Gods, Project Cube, Dublin
Old customs die hard in Wedlock of the Gods, an early work by Nigerian playwright Zulu Sofola, now staged by Dublin-based art and education group Camino de Orula. Sofola's play, an overwrought tragedy in which the human spirit is crushed by inflexible tradition, spells out its points firmly, reiterates them frequently and reaches such a din of didacticism that, 35 years on, it can be hard to take seriously. Director Kunle Animashaun, however, feels its message is urgent enough to be worth delivering at a high pitch.
Set amongst the Ibo of Sofola's native Nigeria (neither the play nor the production confirm the exact context, or whether events take place in a colonial or early postcolonial period) the play is more interesting for its evocation of culture than for the slow meandering of its plot or its deliberately straight-forward dialogue.
As Odibei (Yemi Adenuga) frets around her home following the untimely death of her son, it is her addled clicks and whistles that convey more of her emotions than the exposition. Of the younger generation, a very happily widowed Ogwoma (Nofe Liberty) and her long-frustrated suitor Uloko (Uche Odikanwa) represent a more modern outlook, partly because their swift union has violated their society's marital taboos and partly because both performers could pass for Calvin Klein models.
Sofolo sets out her traditionalism/ modernism stall early - there is a sceptical religious strand in which the gods are invoked to support each argument while the devil is the underwriter of every opposing view, and a discretely subversive take on tribal patriarchy: the men here make all the decisions, but the women here take all the action. These were provocative stances to take in African theatre in the 1970s, but Animashaun never sketches that context nor facilitates a contemporary transposition, and the result is something that feels oddly rootless.
This production may yet provide the groundwork for the amateur company to build on its multicultural agenda, although the play itself is monocultural.
That's no bad thing, were Animashaun's programme note not keen to stress the play's broader relevance to Irish society and the issue of suicide in particular. Sofolo's work tends to balance social concerns with superstition, and, despite the steady construction of thorny realities in this play, the final tragedy is unequivocally an act of witchcraft. Sofola may give us little hope for the marriage market, but in the friction between the modern and traditional or realism and myth, other unions can prove just as difficult. - Peter Crawley
Runs until Sat
Young Camerata Ireland Trio, NCH, John Field Room, Dublin
First convened by Barry Douglas at last year's Clandeboye Festival, the Young Camerata Ireland Trio includes the festival's 2004 and 2006 Young Musician laureates, pianist Michael McHale and flautist Eimear McGeown.
The group's cellist, Brian O'Kane, has recently netted two top bursaries for the pursuit of further studies at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Their performance in the National Concert Hall's Summer Sounds at Lunchtime series reached the high standards of technical assurance, instrumental balance and interpretive insight you'd expect from Douglas's proteges.
Three individual musical personalities were nonetheless strongly present. In Weber's striking Trio in G minor Op 63, McGeown's sensitive intonation and seemingly inexhaustible breath control revealed an unfamiliar, darkly romantic side to her instrument.
Her formidable tongue-and-finger coordination was at its finest in the cascades, trills and chirrups of the Sonate en concert Op 17 (1952) by Jean-Michel Damase - a neo-classical frippery that suggests, but never quite attains, the wit of a Poulenc or the cool of a Jacques Loussier.
O'Kane picked out some wonderfully rounded pizzicatos in Weber's pastoral slow movement, and was powerfully song-like in the ensuing clouds-and-sunshine finale.
But this dedicated chamber musician impressed most, perhaps, with his remarkable handling of the cello part of Haydn's Trio in G Hob XV:15.
Its almost entirely ancillary character was transformed into a fascinating succession of luminous phrases.
Enthusiasm almost got the better of both McGeown and O'Kane in Piazzolla's tango Muerte del Ángel, where they were encouraged by a few glimpses of McHale's concerto-level sonorities.
Elsewhere, McHale had been the trio's discreet backbone, responding to each composer's every thought with a pianism that was tastefully gestured, delicately graded, and infallibly clear .-Andrew Johnstone
Input/Output, Project, Space Upstairs
It was hardly an overture, but Trouble Penetrator's musical introduction to the two dance pieces in Input/Output did fulfil the traditional role of setting the mood for what was to follow (although unfortunately failed in the other customary task of silencing the audience before curtain-rise).
The group of five mix - or sometimes don't mix - elements of jazz, musique concrète and turntable into a full-spectrum of punch and vivacity, creating an individual soundworld that needs a bit more chewing than the normal music for dance. This music certainly isn't sonic wallpaper for the action, rather a needy collaborative partner that needs careful attention from the choreographers, which presumably was the challenge that brought the creators together.
The lightness found in Rebecca Walter's past works was evident in play along, even the title suggesting a flippant non-engagement with her collaborators. Vidal Bini, Alex Sieber and Maya Lipsker present open-palmed balances and off-centre lurches before gently running to another spot onstage.
Loose-limbed phrases appear, then reappear later in a different order and you begin to notice how the changing music is altering repeated movement. Ironically, the movement looked most eloquent in silence when lighting designer Aedín Cosgrove's straw side lights and purple overheads created an ethereality never found with the grounding music.
Vidal Bini's first solo in Maya Lipsker's Schlomot reflected the choreographer's dialogue between the internal and external. Standing still as three other dancers (including Rebecca Walter) lay prostrate behind, he tenses arms and shoulders and soon straining tendons are pulling him out of alignment.
The sense of struggle finds an emotional correlation with the dark sounds and this is maintained throughout the work so that even the simple act of untying another person's shoelaces can appear sinister. Towards the end the musicians emerge from behind their instruments to lie on the floor, just like the dancers, in what feels like a rare act of support, but there is a subtle matching of visions between Lipsker and Trouble Penetrator right up until a final unison dance to the funkiest music we've heard all night. - Michael Seaver
Runs until Sat