The Irish Times critics' choice


  Irish Times writers preview future events including the return of My Bloody Valentine, Brian Friel's adapton of Hedda Gabbler andMartin McDonagh's movie debut

My Bloody Valentine

Mixing bubblegum pop with buzzsaw guitars has provided many a rock band with a blueprint for a moderate career, and for a while it seemed as if Dublin's My Bloody Valentine (now back together) would have just that. Formed in 1984, the band were guided to oblivion by their chief sonic technician, Kevin Shields, whose obsessively meticulous approach shaped the band's sound. Shields - to call him a maverick would be understating it somewhat - has flirted with other bands (notably Primal Scream) and film soundtracks (Lost In Translation), but nothing has surpassed MBV's double whammy of 1988's Isn't Anythingand 1991's Loveless.

2008 sees a flurry of activity for the reformed band, including the recording of new material and a live appearance at US open air festival Coachella. Galvanized rumours of an appearance at Electric Picnic (which has strong line-up ties with Coachella) refuse to disappear. TCL

Electric Picnic. Stradbally Estate, Co Laois. Aug 29-31.

Cecil King at Imma

A welcome survey of the work of a pioneering 20th-century Irish abstract painter. Cecil King (1921-1986) was a successful businessman and art collector when he started to paint. His first solo show took place in 1959. His early work, while highly stylised and formalised, displays an attachment to representational motifs. There is a strong graphic feeling about it from the beginning. But when he came into contact with the work of the American painter Barnett Newman in the late 1960s he was emboldened to relinquish representation and move into pure abstraction. Throughout his life, he was supportive of the cultural scene on many levels. AD

Cecil King. Imma, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Feb 27 to May 18

Smashing Pumpkins

They remain one of the US's greatest rock bands, a notion fuelled by the evidence of three superlative albums (1993's Siamese Dream, 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and 1998's Adore) and a lead singer/frontman (Billy Corgan) who refuses to engage with mediocrity. Ego drives Corgan to extreme limits, which is possibly why, after a failed band attempt with Zwan in 2003 and an aborted solo career, he has decided to reassemble Smashing Pumpkins once more for - what else? - world domination. TCL

Smashing Pumpkins. RDS Main Hall, Dublin, Feb 9; King's Hall, Belfast, Feb 10

William Forsythe Company at the Dublin Dance Festival

As if the highlight of the Dublin Dance Festival (formerly International Dance Festival Ireland) returning wasn't enough, the festival's new director, Laurie Uprichard, has invited the William Forsythe Company to Dublin with the much-admired piece Three Atmospheric Studies. Forsythe, one of the world's most respected choreographers, has produced work for companies all over the world, and was director of the Ballett Frankfurt for 20 years until it was closed down, apparently for financial reasons, in 2004 to great public outcry. Three AtmosphericStudies was one of the first pieces created with his new company. Its three parts present images of war in different times and places, going from a medieval painting of the crucifixion by Lucas Cranach the Elder to the bloodshed in the war in Iraq, following a mother's agony and fear with regard to her son. Forsythe's damning statement is as political as it is sociological and philosophical: despite our belief in human progress, we haven't advanced much in 2,000 years. CM

The Dublin Dance Festival. April 17 to May 3

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension

Probably the most influential jazz guitarist since Wes Montgomery, John McLaughlin will lead his 4th Dimension quartet with Gary Husband (keyboards/drums), Mark Mondesir (keyboards/drums) and Hadrian Feraud (bass guitar) in what - amazingly at this stage in his long career - is his Dublin debut. Truth-seeker and student of philosophy as well as guitarist and composer, the former Miles Davis and Tony Williams sideman counts among his numerous influences John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Indian music and rock, and it's a safe bet he could fill Vicar Street several times over. But someone should tell his website that Dublin is not in the UK. RC

John McLaughlin, Vicar Street, Dublin. May 30

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Is there no stopping Bruce Springsteen performing on a regular basis in Ireland? And why doesn't he just move over here if he loves us so much? Following on from his Seeger Sessions gigs and in a move, no doubt, to assuage any guilt he might have felt in not playing down South this year (Belfast's Odyssey on Dec 15th was his only Irish gig with the E Street Band in 2007), Springsteen lays on the durable charm at Dublin's RDS Arena next May. With the E Street band in tow, and with yet another superb album, Magic, under his belt, we can safely surmise that this one will be one of the best gigs of 2008. TCL

Bruce Springsteen. RDS Arena, Dublin. May 22, 23 and 25.

(Sold out)

Friel's version of Hedda Gabbler

Brian Friel once considered his affinity with 19th century Russia, and the tragicomic characters who roam his adaptations of Chekhov and Turgenev, as a sympathy with those who "seem to expect that their problems will disappear if they talk about them - endlessly". One wonders what kinship the great writer will discover in the terminally bored, socially suffocated and equally loquacious Norwegians of his first Ibsen adaptation. This world premiere of a new undertaking by Friel, staged during the Gate's 80th anniversary year and coinciding with the fresh unveiling of the theatre's new wing, should be the epitome of an event. PC

Hedda Gabbler opens at the Gate Theatre, Dublin on Sept 30.

The Passionat Easter

One of the new year's most ambitious TV drama productions, The Passionwill follow the last week in the life of Jesus Christ and is due to be shown across a full week on BBC 1 before Easter. The writer is Frank Deasy, the Irishman who won an Emmy award this year for the final two-part episode of Prime Suspect. The producer is Nigel Stafford-Clark, who developed the critically acclaimed BBC reinvention of Bleak House. The cast includes Joseph Mawle as Jesus, James Nesbitt as Pontius Pilate and Laura Fraser as Mary Magdalene. MD

The Passion. BBC1, March

Hugh Douglas Hamilton at the National Gallery

Hugh Douglas Hamilton is a major figure in the history of Irish art and this welcome survey of his work, curated by Anne Hodge, will bring together 40 paintings, pastels, prints and albums. Hamilton was a brilliant pastel portrait artist but also extremely capable in other areas. His stay in Italy, where he was influenced by the sculptor Canova, was central in shaping his vision. AD

Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808): A Life in Pictures, National Gallery of Ireland. End of September to mid-December (exact dates to be confirmed)

Berlioz's Requiem

Berlioz's Requiem, or Grande messe des morts, to give it its full title, is one of the most spectacular works of the 19th century. The composer asks for more than 200 players (including nearly 38 in the four off-stage bands) and 200 singers. Clearly, this is rather more than the National Concert Hall could accommodate. So May's performance by the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra will be reduced to fit. But don't let that put you off. The grandeur of the work is not entirely dependent on the sheer numbers involved. Gerhard Markson conducts, and the tenor soloist is Daniil Shtoda. MD

Berlioz's Requiem. NCH, Dublin. May 23.

Wexford Opera opening

The waiting will be over in October, when the Wexford Festival gets the chance to present its first opera production in its new home. The theatre that's currently being built on and around the site of the old will be substantially bigger in all key respects - auditorium, stage, pit, backstage and rehearsal areas - and is expected to deliver 21st-century creature comforts to replace the cramped conditions of old. The first production to grace the new stage will be Rimsky-Korsakov's Snow Maiden, followed by Richard Rodney Bennett's The Mines of Sulphurand Carlo Pedrotti's Tutti in Maschera. The building schedule is a tight one, but all going well it's expected that there will also be a gala opening concert sometime towards the end of September. MD

Wexford Festival Opera. Oct 16-Nov 2.

Miquel Barceló at Imma

The Spanish painter and sculptor Miquel Barceló came to prominence during the 1980s, the era of Neo-Expressionism. His hugely energetic, richly textured works, drawing on myth and tradition, evoke Tapies and other great Spanish precursors. Latterly Barceló has spent much time in Mali, where he has a home, and much of his work has been influenced by the region. He will show large and small-scale paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and sketchbooks. AD

Miquel Barceló: Travels in West Africa. Imma, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. June 25-Sep 28.

Impressionists at the National Gallery

The word Impressionist is still music to the ears of the gallery-going public and in this show, curated by Janet McLean, the National Gallery of Ireland is combining its own increasingly strong collections of Impressionist paintings with loans from abroad to explore a central area of subject matter - interiors, windows, balconies and threshold spaces - for Manet, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Signac and Caillebotte. AD

Impressionist Interiors. National Gallery of Ireland Millennium Wing, Dublin. May 10 to Aug 10


Traditionally, Oxegen is the teenage rite-of-passage open-air event. What started with Lisdoonvarna (and subsequently with Trip to Tipp/Féile) many years ago has mutated into a relatively streamlined, music-heavy event. The big news for fans of Oxegen (and there are, crucially, more fans than detractors) is that it is being extended to three days in 2008, with one major band, Kings of Leon, already confirmed. For the music fan, this means more manna from heaven in the abstract shape of power chords. For organiser MCD it will surely mean even further strategic planning in order to keep 80,000 punters gainfully occupied over three or four days. TCL

Oxegen. Punchestown Racecourse, Co Kildare, July 11-13.

Martin McDonagh's movie debut

Having collected an Oscar for his short film Six Shooter, playwright Martin McDonagh makes his feature film debut as writer and director with In Bruges, which has been selected to open the Sundance Film Festival next month. An offbeat thriller, it features Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as a couple of hit men hiding out in Belgium after a difficult job in London, on the orders of their boss (Ralph Fiennes). In Bruges they become caught up with Dutch prostitutes and a film crew shooting in the area. MD

In Brugesopens in late March

Oedipal Macbeth

How's this for inspired casting? In the role of Macbeth, the man corrupted by toxic influence, we have Rory Keenan, a gifted actor still in his 20s. As Lady Macbeth, who does not so much stoke his ambition as become its domineering architect, the redoubtable Barbara Brennan. Those Oedipal shivers in Selina Cartmell's thrillingly unusual take on Shakespeare's pulse-racing play for Siren Productions should, at the very least, distinguish it from Second Age's simultaneous staging.

Expectations are higher still as the visionary director reassembles her Titus Andronicuscollaborators: among them designer Jean-Guy Lecat and actor Olwen Fouéré, who plays all three weird sisters. Something wicked this way comes. PC

Macbethopens at The Empty Space in Smock Alley, Dublin, on Feb 28

Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day-Lewis well deserves to receive his second Oscar (after My Left Foot) for There Will Be Blood, which is directed with tremendous accumulating power by Paul Thomas Anderson ( Boogie Nights, Magnolia)and spans the period 1898-1927. Day-Lewis plays a cold, self-made, hands-on businessman who strikes oil and makes a fortune, regardless of all those he exploits in his acquisitive greed. In a performance of staggering depth and complexity, Day-Lewis portrays this misanthrope in all his sly charm, steely determination and volcanic ferocity. Anderson's riveting, intense drama unfolds to a richly imaginative, aptly discordant score by Radiohead lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. MD

There Will Be Bloodopens in late February

McGuinness's Miss Julie

Whatever about the tragic inflexibility of power, status and lust in August Strindberg's most famous play, Miss Juliehas proven thoroughly adaptable. Its blurred naturalism has lent itself to film, opera and even ballet versions, while theatrically it possesses a well-stamped passport. Here, Frank McGuinness's recent version relocates the power play from Sweden to 19th-century Northern Ireland, making the countess (Catherine Walker) a member of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy and the footman (Declan Conlon) a swaggering Orangeman under the assured banner of the admirably prolific Landmark Productions. Offering a quite different take in October, PurpleHeartwill stage Patrick Marber's version, setting the class struggle in post-war Britain. PC

Miss Julie opens at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin, on Mar 1


Originating as a stage play acclaimed in London and on Broadway, Frost/Nixoncomes to the screen with the two leading actors from the theatre production reprising their roles: Michael Sheen as David Frost and Frank Langella as Richard Nixon. The focus of the drama is on their famous 1977 TV interview, three years after Nixon became the first US president to resign. Ron Howard directs the film, which is scripted by Peter Morgan, who wrote the original play along with the screenplay forThe Queen, in which Sheen played Tony Blair. The cast also includes Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Matthew Macfadyen and Toby Jones. MD

Frost/Nixonopens in September

Hugh Lane bequest

For the first time since 1913, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane will show all 39 pictures that make up the Hugh Lane Bequest, including several Impressionist masterpieces. Also on show will be many of the works that made up the gallery's collection as originally established by Lane. AD

Hugh Lane Centenary Exhibition, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, opens on Jun 26 and runs throughout the summer.

McPherson's The Seafarer

It has been a long time coming - The Seafarerfirst opened in London in 2006 and the Abbey has taken a softly, softly approach to securing its staging here ever since - but Conor McPherson's mythic and yarn-spinning play about Dublin, the sea and a high-stakes game of poker with the devil, finally marks his National Theatre debut under the direction of Jimmy Fay. Much has been made of the seduction of McPherson away from the Gate, but that theatre has certainly not severed its long association with the writer. No sooner does The Seafarerfinish than Garry Hynes's new production of his celebrated The Weiropens on Cavendish Row. PC

The Seafareropens at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on Apr 30

Stewart Parker anniversary

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Stewart Parker, whose dramas both address and transcend the horrors of violence and absolutism with wit, ingenuity and compassion. Rough Magic's artistic director Lynne Parker revisits the first and last plays of her uncle's career with the political whimsy of the musical Spokesong- one of the few plays to suggest that sectarian disputes could be overcome by cycling - and Pentecost, his more sombre masterpiece set against the background of the Ulster Workers' Strike. A co-production with the Lyric, the plays will be performed in repertory as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast (in early May) and in Dublin immediately after. PC

Spokesongand Pentecost. Venues TBA, Belfast and Dublin, May-June

Radiohead at Malahide Castle

Despite changing the business model for major bands releasing records (in October they released their new album, In Rainbows, in download format for a self-determined fee), Radiohead nonetheless release the album, on December 28th, in traditional CD format - good news for those people who view the downloading process as an unsuitable option for listening to music. This means that by the time the band perform at Malahide Castle next June, we'll all be singing along to it; factor in songs from the band's often superlative back catalogue (1995's The Bendsand 1997's OK Computerare justifiably regarded as classic rock albums) and their reputation for staging virtually unsurpassable shows, and you've got a bona fide rock music highlight of 2008. TCL

Radiohead. Malahide Castle, Co Dublin. Jun 6 and 7

Opera Ireland's Ariadne auf Naxos

The two big Richards of the opera world - Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss - are mostly notable in the history of opera in Dublin by their absence. This spring, for the second time in less than 10 years, Opera Ireland will add to their limited engagement with Strauss through a Dieter Kaegi production of Ariadne auf Naxosthat comes to Dublin from the Slovak National Theatre of Bratislava, and the National Theatre, Prague. The other opera in the season is Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. MD

Opera Ireland. Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. Mar 28 to Apr 5.

Celebrating Arvo Pärt

February's intense focus on the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt  was not actually pre-planned. Eamonn Quinn's Louth Contemporary Music Society commissioned a new work, The Deer's Cry, from the composer and, independently, RTÉ chose him to be the subject of the RTÉ Living Music Festival. The LCMS is bringing the State Choir Latvija to Drogheda and Dundalk, and the Living Music Festival offers more than 20 of Pärt's works over three days, including Lamentate, the Berliner Messe, Passioand Tabula Rasa. Pärt, who was once branded a "holy minimalist" (along with John Tavener and Henryk Górecki) will be making his first visit to Ireland for the February performances. MD

State Choir Latvija. St Peter's Church of Ireland, Drogheda, Feb 13; St Patrick's Cathedral, Dundalk, Feb 14; RTÉ Living Music Festival, Dublin. Feb 15-17

Kahlo and Rivera at Imma

This show draws on the Gelman Collection of Modern and Contemporary Mexican Art in Cuernavaca, Mexico, which includes many significant works by the phenomenally popular Frida Kahlo and her partner Diego Rivera. Kahlo's self-portraits were at the heart of her endeavour and several well-known examples, such as Self-Portrait with Monkeys, are included. Rivera's works may not have the same iconic quality as Kahlo's, but they are important nonetheless. AD

Gelman Collection: Kahlo & Rivera Imma, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Nov 26 to Mar 1, 2009.

Britten's Peter Grimes

Opera North's takeover from Welsh National Opera of the annual full-scale opera seasons at Belfast's Grand Opera House has been rather low-key. That may change this year, when the Leeds-based company's February offerings include a performance (one night only, Wednesday 20th) of Phyllida Lloyd's highly praised production of Britten's Peter Grimes. "Electrifying and engulfing," was the view of the Independent, and the Guardian suggested it "may be the perfect Peter Grimes". It shares the short Belfast season with Puccini's Madama Butterflyand Jonathan Dove's "family opera", The Adventures of Pinocchio. MD

Opera North. Grand Opera House, Belfast. Feb 19-23.

Gergiev conducts Stravinsky

Valery Gergiev of St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre is one of the hottest tickets in town wherever he conducts. He became principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra last January, and makes his Dublin debut in his new role in March. His programme of Russian heartbreak includes Stravinsky's Petrushka, in the original, 1911 orchestration (which is rarely heard in Ireland), and Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony. MD

London Symphony Orchestra/Valery Gergiev. NCH, Dublin. Mar 14.

Steven Isserlis and the Irish Chamber Orchestra

Steven Isserlis, one of the most charismatic of cellists, directs the Irish Chamber Orchestra for the first time in February. The programme concentrates on Haydn, and takes the unusual and risky option of presenting three works in the key of D major.

Isserlis is the soloist in the Cello Concerto in D, and he conducts two symphonies, one early (No 13), and the other late (No 104, the London). MD ICO/Steven Isserlis. NCH, Dublin, Wed, Feb 13. Tel: 01-4170000. UCH, Limerick, Thurs, Feb 14; CIT Cork School of Music, Fri, Feb 15.

Edited by Gerry Smyth

Tony Clayton-Lea, Ray Comiskey, Peter Crawley, Michael Dervan, Aidan Dunne, Michael Dwyer, Christine Madden