Concert: John Grant at the National Concert Hall


In January 2020 I bought a pair of tickets to see John Grant in the National Concert Hall that was scheduled for May 2020. I had seen him the previous March in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, and had been awestruck by his voice and music. Another show was welcome. Obviously the May 2020 show was postponed – until August 2020. Remember those innocent days when we believed that the pandemic would last a few months. That postponed show was again rescheduled to May this year. Did that show proceed? Of course not. By this point the concert was an article of faith. I was not going to get a refund. It would happen one day. That day was yesterday. On the fourth attempt, the concert finally went ahead.

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Review: ‘Straight to video’ at the Project Arts Centre

Last night I went to see ‘Straight to video’ by Emmett Kirwan at the Upstairs Space in the Project Arts Centre – my first trip to this theatre since ‘Well that’s what I heard’ in the Downstairs Cube in December 2019. I was looking forward to it. Emmett Kirwan’s last play ‘Dublin Old School’ was excellent and was adapted into an impressive film. I’d last seen him perform in ‘Riot’. That was a collaborative piece however. This was entirely his script.

Set in the 1990s the play is about the staff in a rundown video shop named ‘Video Venture’ in Tallaght. Owner Barry (Emmett Kirwan) has installed a sunbed in the corner to try to diversify his business (he’s been losing trade to the ‘video van man’ who has been renting illegal videos from the back of a van). Barry lives in the walk-in safe in the shop, after his wife threw him out for engaging in a sordid sex act with a hairdresser to whom he was not bound in holy matrimony. Shop assistant Carl (Colin Campbell) is bored with his life – a semi-closeted gay guy who lives with his gangster brothers – dreams of a new life. His best friend is fellow shop worker Claire (Kate Gilmore) who is caring for her ill mother while her feckless brothers idle about.

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I went to an interpretative dance version of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’

I am not a fan of Samuel Beckett. There. I have said it. With the exception of ‘Waiting for Godot’ I find his work dreary, incomprehensible and stupefyingly dull. This may be more a reflection on me, and my lack of intelligence than it is on Beckett. After all the great and the good speak of the playwright in hushed, reverential terms. When I look out my window I see a massive bridge that has been named after him. That’s earned right? Or maybe he has been placed on an intellectual pedestal and to extoll his virtues is to signal ‘Yes, I too am an educated, sophisticated person?’

Why then would I go to see a French, interpretative, modern dance adaptation of ‘Endgame’?

Because I was asked to. As part of the 2021 Dublin Dance Festival, the world renowned Compagnie Maguy Marin was performing ‘May B’, over three nights in the O’Reilly Theatre. Samuel Beckett actually offered his blessing to the dance company for this interpretation.

I didn’t know what to expect. I knew my feelings about Beckett. The expression ‘French, modern-dance interpretation of Endgame by Samuel Beckett’ was chilling. But I was willing to take a chance. There was a chance that it was going to be a pleasant surprise.

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Live: Camille O’Sullivan in church

When I went to see Bjork in the Point Depot, back in December 2019, little did I realise that it would be almost two years before I would return to a concert hall for a gig. I have seen live music in the meantime – namely at a trad session in Gellions bar in Inverness, Scotland in July – but the queen of Iceland was the last paid concert I attended. That’s not to say I have not bought tickets. I have bought many tickets, only for the pandemic to postpone or cancel the gigs. I will be seeing John Grant in the National Concert Hall this month, two years after the initial purchase. When my friend called last month to ask if I was interested in seeing Camille O’Sullivan, my affirmative reply was instant.

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Theatrical: ‘The Visit’ by Deirdre Kinahan at the Draiocht

As part of the 2021 Dublin Theatre Festival, ‘The visit’ by Deirdre Kinahan is playing at the Draiocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown. Last night was the opening night of its four night run, and I had a ticket.

The Draiocht is a lovely venue, with unusual theatre seating – namely that it is quite comfortable. Disappointingly I was seated in the back row. This seems to be the standard, while theatres are operating at only 60% capacity – lone audience members are banished to the dark recesses and edges, while the groups get the good seats. It makes financial sense I suppose. At least it is not as mercenary as some of the other schemes in operation by the theatre festival.

Take ‘Conversations after sex’ in the Project. In-house tickets cost 26.50 eur. Meanwhile they are charging the same price for the live-stream and on-demand tickets. I was baffled when I saw that. The theatre has suffered since the pandemic but to charge that price for what essentially is a YouTube video of a live performance is not treating the audience with due respect. Surely it’s common sense that no-more than a cinema ticket price be charged for an onscreen viewing?

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Theatrical: ‘Purple snowflakes and titty wanks’ at the Peacock Theatre

Sarah Hanly’s debut play ‘Purple snowflakes and titty wanks’ is currently running as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It is a co-production with the Royal Court Theatre in London, and runs in Dublin until 16th October.

A one-woman show starring Hanly, it tells the tale of Saoirse Murphy from her religious secondary school years in a convent school in Enniskerry, to the bright lights of musical theatre college in London. The story is relayed as a conversation between Saoirse and her best friend Aisling, as she struggles with an eating disorder, and her attraction to other girls, while navigating the minefield that the sexual politics of life in a mixed sex school.

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Theatrical: ‘Rearing is sparing’ at the Axis

Currently showing at the Axis in Ballymun, as part of the 2021 Dublin Theatre Festival, is Thommas Kane Byrne’s latest play ‘Rearing is sparing’. Starring Karen Ardiff and Denise McCormack, it tells the tale of two north inner city Dublin women as they sit separately, outside a courthouse. Anita’s (Denise McCormack) son is on trial. They narrate their tale, and that of each of their two sons, and how their actions have affected both their lives, leading them to this point.

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Theatrical: ‘A Wilde Fan’ at the Draiocht

Bottom Dog Theatre company from Limerick produced a show at the Belltable Theatre in Limerick in  November 2019. It was called ‘A Wilde fan’. It is a one man show, written and performed by Limerick actor Myles Breen, and directed by Liam O’Brien. The plan I believe had been to tour the show around the country in the new year. Then came Covid…

Early in the pandemic the show was live-streamed from the Belltable and I attended that online show. I was impressed by the play – despite the obvious limitations of streaming any live theatre. With the pandemic hopefully nearing its conclusion; and with audience attendance now increased to 60% capacity; I was happy to revisit the show in its live form at the Draiocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown last night.  

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Infected!

My quarantine has ended and I am allowed back on the street.

What,  pray tell, are you talking about, I hear you asking? Only that I caught Covid-19, and have spent the last fortnight coughing and spluttering in my home, hiding from the world to prevent me spreading the Plague to others.

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Theatrical: ‘Walls and windows’ by Rosaleen McDonagh in the Abbey Theatre

This week sees the debut of ‘Walls and windows’ by Rosaleen McDonagh in the Abbey theatre. A play which tells the tale of a Traveler couple Julia and John Reilly as they navigate their way through 21st century Ireland. So for the third consecutive night, I took myself to the playhouse.

Before the play began, the artistic director of the Abbey, Caitríona McLaughlin, made an announcement. The character of Julia was meant to be portrayed by Sorcha Fox, but due to unforeseen circumstances, she would now be played by Sarah Morris who would be reading her part from the book. This was worrying – even with the best efforts and intentions of the actor stepping in at the last minute, this would surely damage the flow of the piece as it is thrown off kilter by the unavoidable inclusion of an unrehearsed actor?

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