The Cherry Orchard - New Theatre, Essex Street

 

A hundred years or so ago, Anton Chekhov captured a handful of characters at a crossroads of Russian history and human psychology; and today, in The Cherry Orchard, they still weave their melancholy dreams into an absorbing tapestry. There are so many threads here. Madame Ranevskaya, a fading aristocrat, is in love with the idea of love because only thus can she justify to herself the wasted years. Lopakhin, son of serfs and now a successful merchant, is caught between obeisance to the old and commitment to the new, unable to bridge their social and emotional chasms. The eternal student Trofimov is an impractical idealist, a landowner desperately seeks to borrow to pay his debts, old servant Firs opts for the benevolent slavery he has always known.

So it goes. The men are either weaklings or powerless to change things, the women unable to express their emotions or fulfil their lives. They are paralysed by the juggernaut of history, set on courses they cannot alter. The cherry orchard is sold as building land, and an epoch closes. The story, and its people, touch nerves.

This is a worthy revival of a great play. Ronan Wilmot has directed it with fidelity to its inner truths. Elizabeth Moynihan as Ranevskaya captures the attitude of impractical hauteur, David Murray's Lopakhin is a moving portrayal, and Damien Devaney's Trofimov is appropriately intense. Niall Walsh's simple stage design and Tara Walsh's costumes add unobtrusively to the ambience in the refurbished New Theatre; those who have yet to visit it should be pleasantly surprised.

- Gerry Colgan

To December 20th and from January 3rd to February 10th; to book phone 01-6703361

Ag fanacht le Daidi na Nollag - The Crypt

Amharclann de hIde's latest production, Ag fanacht le Daidi na Nollag, a puppet show for children written by the poet Gabriel Rosenstock, features a menagerie of the weird and wonderful: a wise old badger; a dancing ostrich who can't keep her underwear on; a singing sheep; a crow that quacks and two naughty raconteurs, Iuiriais and Iuirieis, who aren't averse to bashing each other over the head - but only if it's strictly necessary.

On a snow-covered roof-top our two protagonists are initially in some confusion as to whether they are waiting for Daidi na mBolg or Daidi na Nollag. Once the difficulty is cleared up they try to be good. e gag which the children watching with me got instantly and enjoyed no end.)

While passing the night waiting for Santa, friends come and go; offering a little advice or a song to help pass the time.

The puppets by Noel Lambert and Eva Lunden are imaginative and colourful and the voice talents of Gavin O'Connor, Mary Ryan and Rosenstock himself add to the whole experience. Does Santa come? What do you think?

- Pol O Muiri

Runs in the Crypt, Dublin Castle, until Friday, December 15th at 10.15 a.m. and 12 p.m.; on Saturday December 16th at 12 p.m. and from Monday, December 18th until December 23rd at 12 p.m. To book phone: 01-6713387

At The Drive In- Temple Bar Music Centre

Punk's not dead, it's just mutated into a far more creative and varied monster, mostly thanks to a legacy of US bands such as The Stooges, The Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, Sonic Youth, Nirvana - the list is long.

The latest act to take up the reins are At The Drive In, from El Paso, Texas. Their renown as a live act preceded them on their first visit to Ireland, and the Temple Bar Music Centre was seething with both stalwart fans and those just there for the experience. And a peculiar experience it was too. Though full of the energy associated with Punk, frontman Cedric Bixler preceded the show with a plea for no crowd moshing, imploring those assembled to be nice to each other. The contradictions didn't end there. Looking more like a disco dancer circa 1970, and dancing like a cross between John Travolta from the same era and a Russian folk dancer, his presence onstage overpowered even the band's noisy set. Their music takes Punk as its starting point, with shouty chant-along choruses in nearly every song. Rhythms and guitars were complex and varied from Omar, with very little cliche or repetition. The basic fivepiece set up was augmented with backing tracks and noisemaking shenanigans from singer Bixler.

- John Lane