Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dublin Fringe Theatre Festival 2008

Dublin's Fringe Theatre Festival of 2008 finished ages ago, like last August or something, so now is a good time to post considered responses to what I saw at it. I typically make it to almost nothing in this every year, despite my official claims to wuv the theatre. This year, though, I saw three things.

The first one was The Darkroom, written by Neil Watkins, directed by Karl Shiels, and performed in the Players Theatre in Trinity College. It began with Karl Shiels (famous as Dublin's scariest actor) making a voiceover announcement.

"Please turn off all mobile phones and pagers.

"Now.

"Now.

"Now!"

Even though I knew that I had left my phone at home this had me quivering in terror lest someone would ring me.

The programme billed Darkroom as a play about washed up retired superheroes, implying that it would be some kind of HIV/AIDS parable. Sadly, there were no former supers present in this play, as it was actually a series of vignettes set in the seedier end of Dublin's gay scene. It also had loads of songs in it, though not the kind your granny would like. One was called 'Suddenly Semen', about a woman realising that she has been impregnated by her HIV positive rapist, while 'Under Ratzi' discussed how the current Pope is much sexier than the old. A lot of it seemed like maybe it was just being transgressive for the sake of it, though you had to admire the craft. There was a lot to like about this, play, but I feel that I am not really the target audience for this kind of thing, and I did feel a bit out of place in my Nightwing costume.

And then next day at lunchtime in the Project Cube I saw A Distinct Glimpse, a collaboration between singer Natasha Lohan, dancer Megan Kennedy, lighting designer Aedin Cosgrove, and my old friend and quaffing partner Gavin Kostick. This didn't really do it for me – all the individual elements seemed excellent, but I didn't really get what they were doing together. I did like when the dancer started climbing through the audience and lying on people, and pondered yet again whether dance is just an excuse for perving, given the extent to which contemplation of the human form's perfection seems to be such a big part of it.

Gavin Kostick does seem to own the Fringe, though. Last year he deservedly won the Spirit of the Fringe award for a production where he recited almost all of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. This year he was doing this A Distinct Glimpse as well as writing an open air performance of a play about The Wars of the Roses (missed by your correspondent because I, eh, wrote down the wrong month in my diary) and some other things. He also did Heart of Darkness again in the Real Dublin Theatre Festival. Busy man.

The last thing I saw was Moonflight by some crazy German guys. This was another devised piece, and seemed to be all about the moon – travelling to it studying it, and its contemplation. It featured music (both recorded and played) as well as movement that bordered on dance, together with the reciting of various things about the moon (Galileo's retraction, some other sciencey stuff about it, Neil Armstrong climbing down the Lunar Module ladder, etc.). Some of it was meant to be funny, some of it wasn't, and it was all done very straightfacedly. I liked it a lot. Given how in broad terms (music, movement, talking) it was not that unlike A Distinct Glimpse, I thought a bit about whether there were any objective criteria that led to me liking one more than another. Ultimately I think not, except maybe that you can always rely on the Germans.

The musical pieces in this were all moon based and broadly German, so they did what I think was that one by Schoenberg and also various versions of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (including a pop-jazz music version with lyrics, bizarre). Moonlight Sonata is a very beautiful piece of music, but once a winking Bill Bailey came to mind I found it very hard to keep a straight face while they were playing it.

One particularly striking Moonlight Sonata thing they did was have it play on a pre-programmed synthy keyboard, turned on its side so that the lighted keys were visible to the audience. There was something genuinely magical to watching the keys move on their own through the beautiful music.

Coming soon: A report on an actual play I saw in the Theatre Festival, all those months ago!

Moonlight Panda

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