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Canaries

Eavan Gaffney in Canaries. Image uncredited. In his most recent instalment for Musings In Intermissions critic Chris McCormack astutely posted something obvious. Astute because it's an obvious that's not always recognised. Namely that Louise Lowe could be considered a master playwright. It's understandable why this might be hard to recognise given Lowe's collaborative way of working with ANU and the kind of theatre she makes, her reputation as a director and artistic director, the fact she rarely, if ever, credits herself as writer, and because she has something of an aversion to the limelight. One can readily imagine her cringing in discomfort at any hint of attention, heaven forbid a compliment. But the truth is Lowe is something of a master playwright. In fact, when it comes to making theatre, she's something of a genius. A trait that extends to her capacity for making film, as her short movie Canaries, showing online as part of The Pumphouse Presents, makes all too clear. Set during the years 1915 to 1918, Lowe's minor epic follows two girls, Mae and Florence, working in the Dublin Dockyard Munitions Factory in Dublin Port making shells for the British Army during World War One. Their health and safety is low on the company's agenda, whose working conditions leave both girls exposed to the risk of aplastic anaemia and toxic jaundice. The latter turning worker's skin yellow, giving rise to their nickname, canaries. An explosion at the Kynoch cordite factory in Arklow in 1917, killing twenty-eight people, ignites in Florence a desire to fight for proper working conditions. But Mae is fearful of the backlash, given that being a woman in a man's world is already hard enough. The money she makes at the factory, and the independence it lends her, being better than anything she's ever known. Even if she is being slowly poisoned. While being a master of anything recognises significant achievement, no master is ever perfect. Canaries, too, is often far from perfect, even if its strengths far outweigh its less successful moments. As in other works by ANU and Lowe, there's a conscious intention to reclaim forgotten histories married to an impeccable attention to historical detail. Along with a less than seamless join between personal stories and political messaging, a strained dichotomy that often informs ANU's work. Railing against the abuse of workers, and soldiers, Lowe's political message often elbows its way centre stage courtesy of the worn out rhetoric of trade unionism. Acknowledging that such language was likely to raise the roof in 1917, and even allowing for Lowe sharing similar political convictions today, the homogenised rhetoric sounds like something tagged on by a staunchly insistent committee member to ensure we got the point. Sounding hollow when compared to how Lowe's characters talk about foxtrots, moisturiser, or their husband returning from war, their language rich and personal, making the same political statements far more effectively when characters themselves are the message. When it comes to story, the short scened narrative doesn't quite find its way home, and the heavy handed metaphor of a living canary does it no favours. Yet a side story of a soldier returning from Gallipoli adds cohesion, depth and texture. Still, one senses that story was never the intended focus. What Canaries offers is a sensitive study of two women, beautifully articulated by Lowe's glorious visual vocabulary. A smile, a glance, a frown, all craft something that fills the screen from a multitude of angles, then reaches out beyond it to haul you in. For if the set needs to be singular on account of Covid, Lowe's cinematic aspirations are always pushing at the possibilities. Throughout, Lowe frequently subverts an accommodating naturalism with moments of dance and movement, lending Canaries a Terence Davies arthouse vibe. One in which the ordinary and extraordinary sit side by side informing each other. Yet Lowe can't take all the credit, nor would she want to. ANU's impressive presence in the form of Owen Boss (design), Lynnette Moran and Matt Smyth (producers), Leanna Cuttle (Line Producer) and Maree Kearns (costumes) is evident throughout. Yet the real stars are relative newcomers Aggi O'Casey as Mae, and Eavan Gaffney as Florence in what is not just inspired casting it's, what's that word again, genius. O'Casey and Gaffney love the camera and the camera adores them in return. Capturing Florence and Mae's inner worlds, they convey their closest secrets with such composure and conviction it almost feels like a betrayal. If there's a sense, on occasion, that Lowe corrals her characters into becoming mouthpieces for another history and politics lesson, O'Casey and Gaffney ensure we never loose sight of two young women forced to live, work, and die under impossible conditions. A master constantly works at perfecting their craft. Or, in this instance, crafts. Playwright, director, teacher, theatre maker, and currently film maker, Lowe can probably make a mean lasagne too, all while juggling cats. Limits being something she has little respect for. With Canaries, Lowe appears to be testing the cinematic waters, and the omens could be worrying for some. Visually moving in places, showing undeniable promise, film's gain might well be theatre's loss if Lowe and ANU decide to pursue this avenue. For Canaries is bursting with promise, Lowe's cinematic short story showing both range and depth despite an impressive visual economy. From the opening scene where Irish and British flags are being positioned, Canaries strives towards cinematic poetry and often gets there. Canaries also delivers an early Christmas present with O'Casey and Gaffney, both equally capable of setting the world alight. Catch them now in two gorgeously judged performances, exquisitely shot by Lowe, before the fanfare starts. Canaries' history might be stronger than its story, but it's always heartfelt and beautiful to look at. And you also get Sinéad Diskin's superb, heart aching score thrown in, like an extra special Christmas treat. Canaries, written and directed by Louise Lowe and presented by ANU Productions, runs as part of Dublin Port Company's The Pumphouse Presents till December 23. Available free of charge as a gift from Dublin Port, donations will be accepted towards a new artist development fund to be managed by Axis Ballymun. For more information visit Dublin Port Company.

Theatre for One

Theatre for One - Kate Gilmore in Queen of the Pyramids. Image Jed Niezgoda. Theatre. At least one person in a space performing to at least one other person. As definitions go it’s workable enough, though you'll probably need a considerable amount of time to unpack it. Still, it also serves as a workable definition for a peepshow. The kind that dominated Times Square in the good old bad old days, or pop up in a mid 80s Madonna video. Most importantly, it's a definition that comes close to a serving as a succinct description for Landmark Theatre and Octopus Theatricals brilliant Theatre for One, which uses the peepshow format for its own theatrical gains. Delivering six monologues of five to ten minutes duration, Theatre for One makes it painfully clear why there is no substitute for live theatre. Theatre for One might feel homegrown, but it's an Irish twist on an American import. Tony award winning designer Christine Jones, originally created and designed Theatre of One along the lines of a peepshow in 2010, setting it up in Times Square where peepshows once abounded. Even so, this is strictly an Irish affair, featuring works from Emmet Kirwan, Stacey Gregg, Marina Carr, Louise Lowe, Mark O'Rowe and Enda Walsh. A line-up featuring representatives from the literary cream of the crop; Kate Gilmore, Kathy Rose O'Brien, Sean McGinley, Úna Kavanagh, Derbhle Crotty and Peter Campion speak to the same calibre in performance, delivering superb character studies you're not ever likely to forget. Taking place in what looks like a post-modern Tardis having crash landed in the socially distanced Abbey foyer, the audience is escorted into a small, red cushioned interior and sat facing a glass pane surrounded by mirror lights. A sliding screen obscures the far side of the room. The door closes, the room darkens, the screen slides back and so begins the first brief journey. And it's live. Exhilaratingly, refreshingly, couldn't be done any other way live. It might be tempting to think Theatre for One's one on one format lends itself to easy translation online, but the immediacy, intimacy, and importance of the performer's physical presence a few feet away is vital and inescapable. Zoom just won't cut it. Theatre for One - Kathy Rose O'Brien in Brilliant by Stacey Gregg. Image Image Jed Niezgoda. Due to the huge demand for tickets, it was only possible to catch Queen of the Pyramids by Emmet Kirwan, featuring Kate Gilmore, Brilliant by Stacey Gregg, featuring Mary Rose O'Brien, and Cygnum Canticum by Marina Carr, featuring Sean McGinley, all three superbly directed by Srđa Vasiljević. Of which any one is enough to blow you away and leave you screaming for more. Whether it's being enthralled by an effervescent Gilmore with her black eye, psycho-terrorist, and a need to hide what she means; or sit with a heart wrenching O'Brien as a struggling new mother recognising the hugeness in small mercies; or listening to a contemplative McGinley speaking to the recesses of the soul, the experience is unutterably powerful. Moving, intimate, visceral, the superlatives line up like people queueing for tickets. Those lucky enough to secure one will also come away with a new found, awestruck appreciation for the skill and craft of the performer. Brought television close, eyes can sear or be stained with tears. Words are conveyed by a controlled vocabulary of tone, gesture and expression that's beguiling to behold. At times the intensity can feel like who'll blink first. But you would never bet on yourself winning this game of chicken. For those averse to text based, naturalist drama, Theatre for One's up close and confessional stylings might feel like a gimmick. One that indulges in manipulative, soft-core, emotional porn. Even if that were true, it offers so much more, being a theatrical experience bigger than sum of its stories. Theatre for One is a breath of theatrical fresh air. Not just because it's live performances provide some much needed light in the theatrical dark of recent months, but because Theatre for One is a profoundly affecting experience. Theatre has enjoyed too few wins this year. Theatre for One is a winner. And it is not to be missed under any circumstances. Theatre for One by Landmark Productions and Octopus Theatricals, presented by The Abbey Theatre and Dublin Theatre Festival, supported by Accenture and Dublin City Council, runs at The Abbey Theatre until December 23. One ticket admits to one play. To see multiple plays, multiple tickets will need to be booked. For further information on Theatre for One, and on Theatre for One (and a Little One), visit The Abbey Theatre.

Alternatively Terrific & Gentle

Justine Cooper, Jenny Roche, and Liz Roche. Image by José Miguel Jiménez. You can make an audio recording of a concert, play, or book. Audio recording dance really isn't an option. Dance is primarily a visual medium, which has further restricted its creative options under Covid. With necessity being the mother of invention, Liz Roche Company re-invented their latest work, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle in response to social distancing. A work in which choreographers and performers Jodi Melnick (New York), Liz Roche (Dublin) and Jenny Roche (Limerick), with Justine Cooper substituting for Melnick in performance, set out to remake the idea of performance in an effort to explore the relationship between living beings and the natural world. Seeing the body and nature as sites of constant change, and of creation and destruction, they set out to create an initial dance piece to serve as a starting point for collaborative responses from a number of choreographers and performers from across the globe. Inspiration arising from an array of texts, music, letters and visual art, the title taken from a love letter from composer John Cage to choreographer Merce Cunningham where he describes the intensity of rain one afternoon as “alternately terrific and gentle.” So much for the blurb. The reality being, as T.S. Eliot once remarked, a case of there being more to the poem than the poet knows themselves. Begun in 2019 and intended for a live audience, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle was completed during lockdown, and its nine short films frequently find the medium itself becoming the message. A work whose visual framing, particularly by José Miguel Jiménez, often dominates what's being framed. Including some terrific soundscapes by Robert Boston. Paul Whyte. Image uncredited. Featuring one trio, along with a selection of duos and solos, its possible to jump into Alternatively Terrific & Gentle at any given point. Sequentially, however, the series begins with dancers Justine Cooper, Jenny Roche, and Liz Roche establishing the initial movement sequence which informs all that follows. As the dancers prepare, silence is warmed by laughter creating a sense of rehearsal and discovery that permeates many sequences that follow. Yet from the get-go the dancing body is made subservient to the gaze of the camera which seems more intent on its own processes. As a result, the sheer gorgeousness of Jiménez cinematography ends up suggesting a high end, teaser trailer for a production you really should go and see. Close to the four minute mark things become far more interesting as Boston's sublime score kicks in and the dancers begin in earnest. Patterns emerge and are shared, and with no contact taking place between dancers the sense of distance is reinforced. Making the most poignant space the distance between dancers who never meet. Gently subverted during a wonderfully flowing mirrored sequence in which a momentary synchronicity is achieved. It might only be temporary, but it's a moment infused with hope and memory. Colin Dunne. Image by José Miguel Jiménez Throughout, Jiménez's camerawork doesn't so much frame the experience as interpret it, focusing the eye where the camera wants it to go when it may want to linger elsewhere. As a result the camera becomes too much an interpretive spectator to constitute a fourth collaborator, like a person watching a movie and explaining to you what it's about. A far more effective synergy is achieved when movement converses with Boston's minimalist score, which harmonises beautifully with the dancers movements. Even so, when it's all over, you come away feeling you've seen only part of it. The rest lying just beyond the periphery of vision. Or the camera lens. An attempt later on to suggest what the live installation might have been like had it gone ahead falls short under Jiménez music video sensibility. Fractured, fragmented, using split screens and often shot at distance, the sense of three dancers occupying the same space is lost to the camerawork. Even if Jude Foley's haunting vocals add another level of engagement. The template now established, the second sequence sees dancer Paul Whyte responding in a corner. Here Pippa Samaya's camera takes a fixed position, for the most part, and leaves Whyte free rein to do his thing. Moving in beams of light which craft birdlike shadows, later deepening into an inky dark, a sense of nature is wonderfully established. Boston's agitated score, channelling the spirit of Evan Parker in places, haunts with a synth like drone as Whyte's body shifts in and out of shadows; momentarily here, partially there, then disappeared; the unsettling agitation of music and movement softened by their directness, crafting a simple yet intriguing piece. Mufutau Yusuf. Image uncredited. The challenges of creative discovery are made visible in Colin Dunne's sensitive response. Once again, Jiménez's camera attempts to play with the space between spectator and collaborator only to reinforce it. If the camera takes a more fixed position at times, the meta-use of half screens and split screens often distract from Dunne who appears to struggle with the creative process, his isolation and vulnerability captured with an almost documentary style beauty. For those for whom the creative process itself constitutes work, there is much to relate to here. For those more interested in the work arising out of that process, there's a sense of being teased with fragments from a work in development that still remains unfinished. None of which is to be found in Mufutau Yusuf's superb solo where the discovered looms larger than the process of discovery without ever eclipsing it. A fluid body rendered almost insignificant by vast swathes of impersonal concrete, Yusuf is the only living soul with nowhere or nothing to connect to. A last man on earth speaking superbly to the loneliness and isolation of social distancing with a simplicity that is never simplistic. Easy, repeated gestures executed against a lifeless concrete landscape; the emptied space becomes Yusuf's partner and competitor. As does Boston's excellent, piano driven score. Davide Belotti's camera and editing is always informed by Yusuf's presence and movements, offering an extremely satisfying sense of collaborative effort in which medium clearly serves both message and messenger without sacrificing its own presence. Malcolm Low and Jodi Melnick. Image uncredited. Just past the half way mark and a series of brief duets featuring Jodi Melnick find her playing against stark landscapes. In Church & Salt dancer Colin Dunne appears to extend his solo piece into a duet in which he dances alone in a church whilst Melnick dances alone before a mountain of salt. Ever upright and erect, feet shuffling and sliding dominate both sequences, with both dancers eventually juxtaposed by a split screen. Quarry, featuring Melnick and Malcolm Low, takes place, aptly enough, in a quarry. In which Jiménez edits camera work by Dean Villarini and Art Becofsky into a dissonant series of contrasting images where the immensity of the space often smudges the dancers into blurs in the distance. Dissonance mirrored by Boston's uncharacteristically overbearing score that plays with, and against, movement. At times resembling an avant garde music video, at others looking like the latest upload on Tik Tok, a sense of the dwarfed body battling an immense landscape permeates both works. Two text driven pieces round out Alternatively Terrific & Gentle on something of whimper. Rachel Donnelly might claim to think more in images than words when it comes to memory and emotion, but it's imagery that tips its hat a little too neatly at Krapp's Last Tape. Nor is the irony escaped that despite Donoghue's assertion, Liv O’Donoghue frequently finds Donnelly's words drowning out the images. Efforts to force the observer to create their own images feel contrived, as does the horror movie style ending. Maïa Nunes. Image uncredited A soundscape and performance by Maïa Nunes opens like a soulful dirge or poetic incantation. Yet it soon becomes dull for proving visually uninteresting, resembling stills from the live action version of Jungle Book. Full of Disney friendly, hip hop meditations on rain and ancestors, its erotically breathy soundscape deserves far better. Trying too hard to not try too hard, it doesn't try hard enough in places where it should. Spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on Nunes' back, it almost seems as if she's trying to shun the audience. Less art installation so much as the artist as installation, Nunes is often far more interesting than her words and lyrics, as a short, close-up sequence evidences, suggesting what might have been. Alternatively Terrific & Gentle speaks to spaces, music, and to movement dominated by a sense of discovery and process. And to art being shaped more than captured by the camera lens. As for the benefits of collaboration, viewed sequentially, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle begins with a dance piece and ends with a glorified music video with lots of posing and very little movement. Along the way it finds some interesting compliments and contrasts, and some not so interesting ones. Seeking multiple responses and a plurality of viewpoints, it's bound together by a featherweight chain not nearly robust enough to unite into a collective whole, and so never achieves that something greater than its individual parts. A testament, perhaps, to the importance of live performance, which might well have brought everything together. As it stands, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle might seek a new way of creating a performance, but it's a way wherein dance and movement often become its victims, looking like the poor relations of performance art and the camera. Even so, Alternatively Terrific & Gentle speaks poignantly to the isolation of artists under Covid. Reason enough for those who bought tickets to the cancelled live installation to hopefully not request refunds. Alternatively Terrific & Gentle by Liz Roche Company was streamed online Sunday, December 14. For more information visit Liz Roche Company

Mezzo Masterpieces #3 Paula Murrihy

Mezzo-Soprano Paula Murrihy. Image from stream. Mozart is certainly Irish National Opera's flavour of December. Following on from INO's concert performance of his German language opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, INO conclude their Mezzo Masterpieces series with an Italian selection from Mozart sung by renowned Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy. Once again the Office of Public Works provide another truly sumptuous setting, the iconic Kilkenny Castle, whose Picture Gallery is illuminated to perfection by Kevin Smith. Hosted by Fergus Shiel, whose soft spoken passion always leaves you eager to listen, Mezzo Masterpieces #3 makes it three for three for INO delivering another memorable evening of music and singing. Performing the overture to Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito Peter Whelan, conducting the Irish National Opera Orchestra, gets things off to a lively start. The arrival of Murrihy to sing Parto, parto, ma tiu ben mio, accompanied superbly by Conor Shiel on clarinet, transforms the room, the evening and the experience into something wholly other. Like playful, comic melodramas, many of Mozart's Italian operas plumb the emotional depths while also scaling comedic heights, living life loud and large and with near impossible vivacity. Something Murrihy captures sublimely with a series of stunning and invested performances, marrying a vocabulary of vivid visual expressions to her outstanding voice. Featuring an awful lot of trouser roles, Murrihy sings extracts from Così Fan Tutte, Le Nozze Di Figaro, Idomeno, and Don Giovanni, revelling as a consummate storyteller. Baritone, Seán Boylan, impressively singing Hai già vinta la causa from Le Nozze Di Figaro, and Fin ch'han dal vino from Don Giovanni, also delivers two physically invested performances. If all the world's a stage, Murrihy can create worlds and characters onstage with just a look, a smile, or by merely arching an eyebrow. Creating a story telling experience in which gestural mannerisms enrich her memorable singing, making for an intimate, almost immersive experience. Since the unwelcome arrival of Covid, INO have worked tirelessly to deliver quality opera experiences during 2020. Despite the rapid approach of the year's end, INO are not quite finished yet. With arguably their most innovative production so far 20 Shots of Opera will feature twenty newly commissioned short operas by twenty composers. In keeping with the spirit of the season, 20 Shots of Opera can be streamed free from December 17. Mezzo Masterpieces #3 featuring Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy performing a selection from Mozart, was live streamed from The Picture Gallery, Kilkenny Castle on December 10 and is available online until December 23. 20 Shots of Opera, featuring twenty newly commissioned short operas by twenty composers can be streamed for free from December 17. For more information visit Irish National Opera.

The Abduction from the Seraglio

Soprano Alina Adamski. Image uncredited Decisions are curious things. Take Irish National Opera's concert performance of Mozart's 1782 comic opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, a German language singspiel which uses spoken dialogue instead of recitative. Originally due to be performed in the Gaiety last May before having to be cancelled due to Covid, INO took the decision to proceed with a concert performance. Omitting dialogue in response to social distancing, they opted to rely solely on singing and Mozart's sumptuous music. Using subtitles not only to translate from German, but also to fill in narrative blanks. And it's a decision that doesn't quite pay off. Still, given the amount of setbacks the arts have suffered recently, you have to admire INO's aspirations under impossible circumstances. Especially in light of the Government's incomprehensible and soul crushing decision not to re-open theatres. A kick in the teeth right up there with, say, your world class soprano getting a throat infection and having to withdraw at the last minute. Funny you should mention that. Set in Turkey, Mozart's comic opera finds the lovelorn Belmonte in the lavish gardens of the Pasha, Bassa Selim, attempting to rescue his love, Konstanze, and her spirited maid, Blonde. Assisted by his servant Pedrillo, Belmonte sets out to thwart the surly and burly Osmin who is intent on keeping the captive women trapped in the Pasha's harem. On paper it has all the right ingredients. Tenor Dean Power as Belmonte, tenor Andrew Gavin as Pedrillo, bass James Platt as Osmin and soprano Sarah Power as Blonde are each wonderful, with Platt's bass singing sounding truly impressive. The riveting soprano Alina Adamski as Konstanze is simply marvellous. Due to sing the role of Konstanze at the Frankfurt Opera before theatre closures, Adamski replaces Claudia Boyle who had to withdraw because of a throat infection, and does so with considerable grace and style. Throughout, Peter Whelan conducts the Irish Chamber Orchestra and Irish National Opera Chorus with verve, capturing the heart, heat and humour of Mozart's opera. Some beautifully sung arias, a thrilling end to each act, and a vocal quartet in the third act that's to die for, what's not to like? And yet. Brimming with love, lust and longing, infused with a lust for life and some barely concealed love for lust, The Abduction from the Seraglio is an opera in which character and narrative are absolutely crucial. Omitting a key character in Bassa Selim, and with narrative engagement and character suffering in the absence of dialogue, something vital gets lost in concert. Even allowing that singspiel lends focus to individual songs, the tapestry they attempt to weave is only ever glimpsed and hinted at. Unlike INO's hugely successful Mezzo Masterpiece concerts, which showcase key singers singing a selection of greatest hits from different parts of the repertoire, The Abduction from the Seraglio is a complete opera. Missing key components, it doesn't translate quite as successfully. The Abduction from the Seraglio is one of Mozart's most demanding operas. Posing unique challenges for bass, tenor and soprano, particularly during key arias, a concert performance offers an opportunity to enjoy some rare listening riches. All of which a superb quintet negotiate beautifully with an almost unassuming ease. Even so, as a tale steeped in the exotic, infused with an earthy eroticism, along with rich veins of humour and terrific characters, The Abduction from the Seraglio is an opera that demands to be staged. To be performed as well as sung. Here, the experience is similar to listening in on a studio recording in which some parts have been left out. Vocally it's an excellent recording, but it's haunted by the shades of what should be there, screaming to be heard and seen. One can only hope that a staging may not be beyond the bounds of the possible post Covid. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, presented by Irish National Opera and the National Concert Hall in partnership with Irish Chamber Orchestra was live streamed from National Opera House, Wexford, on December 5 as part of the NCH Classical Livestream Series. Mezzo Masterpieces #3 featuring Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy, performing a selection from Mozart, will be live streamed from The Picture Gallery, Kilkenny Castle on Thursday, December 10 at 8.00pm and available online for fourteen day after. Tickets and information available from Irish National Opera.

Slice, The Thief

John Cronin in Slice, The Thief. Image from live stream A legend in his own mind, Slice is a bicycle thief great at what he does. Just ask him, he'll tell you. Less a hard man so much as a man hard done by by some real hard men, Slice talks himself up laughing at everyone elses madness and stupidity. Apart from his mates, Sean and Kieran, whose loyalty is without question. In Slice, The Thief, writer Lee Coffey's one man tale from 2016, we once again find ourselves traversing a world of normalised violence and nifty nicknames. One where a stolen bike takes us on a ride through the underbelly of Dublin. A place where travellers, drug dealers, brothel owners and a merciful angel see threats of violence unleashed like horror on a loop. If it all feels a little familiar, that's because it essentially is. Even so, a terrific performance by John Cronin, and some strong direction by Aaron Monaghan go a long way towards elevating Coffey's ambitious script into something memorable, If Slice, The Thief highlights Coffey's impressive skills with words, the story of a man out of his criminal depth is not always worthy of that skill, despite a last second twist that leaves you smirking. Coffey's taut, snappy, energised writing, whose superb rhythmic and rhyming structures resemble an epic rap poem at times, sees the almost musical interplay of words, sounds and rhythms being crucial and mesmerising in themselves. Still, both tone and the tale being told, as well as Slice himself, feel lifted from a Guy Ritchie gangster movie. One in which the gore is cranked up. As a protagonist Slice's normalised racism and love of his own voice see him coming across like some loud mouth runt of the litter. Someone surrounded by events and people who are often far more dynamic, stronger and interesting than he is. John Cronin in Slice, The Thief. Image from live stream As with most one person performances, the worse often amount to little more than bad character studies while the best border on interpersonal encounters. Cronin's Slice falls somewhere in between, having enough meat on the bone to amount to a significant character study, even though he's someone we don't really encounter. Primarily due to Aaron Monaghan's brave and unsettling direction. Ensuring Cronin never plays to camera, a sense of listening in and looking on at someone speaking to somebody else makes eavesdroppers and voyeurs of us all. Instead, Cronin's Slice plays like someone talking loudly on the Luas, wanting you to overhear but not directly talking to you. Encounter further undermined by Cronin's emotional register never straying too far beyond the safely removed distance of story teller. Yet, in an odd way, it works. Helped by some well worked lights, along with a superbly effective and understated score by Derek Conaghy. Mostly though, it works because Cronin is mesmerising, making the small man talking a big game relatable and even likeable, and bringing the world and characters surrounding Slice vividly to life. Like a joke best enjoyed had you been there, Slice thinks both himself and his story are far more interesting than either actually is. What's really interesting in Slice, The Thief, is the manner in which his story is told. Thankfully the unlucky loudmouth got lucky in having Coffey's words to tell it, Monaghan to direct it, and Cronin to bring it all together with a hugely engaging performance. Slice, The Thief, by Lee Coffey is available online till 8:00 pm, Sunday, December 6 for ticket holders. It will run as part of Dublin Port Company's The Pumphouse Presents from December 19 to December 23. Available free of charge as a gift from Dublin Port, donations will be accepted towards a new artist development fund to be managed by Axis Ballymun. For more on this and other upcoming shows, go to Axis Ballymun or Dublin Port Company.

Leper + Chip

Conall Keating and Amilia Stewart Keating in Leper + Chips. Image from stream. When normality returns and this Covid nightmare leaves us with few fond memories, should someone decided to give awards to those who showed resilience over and above, Mark O'Brien and the team at Axis Ballymun must be serious contenders. Whether it's Axis Chats, Axis Bootleg Series, their artist initiatives and continuous planning, this small venue with a big heart, and bigger ambitions, has refused to let Covid knock it off its feet. Indeed, from a certain angle, it seems busier than ever, enhancing its reputation as a venue where artists can thrive and grow. Artists such as Lee Coffey, whose own reputation is again enhanced with an excellent remount by Axis Ballymun of his debut play Leper + Chip as part of Dublin Port Company's The Pumphouse Presents. Originally produced in 2014 by the inimitable Karl Shiels and the incomparable Laura Honan at Theatre Upstairs, Leper + Chip revealed Coffey as an up and coming writer to be watched. An assessment shown to be wholly justified with his staggeringly brilliant follow up, A Murder of Crows in 2016. Since then Coffey's star has been in the ascendent, and justifiably so. Reuniting original cast members Conall Keating as Leper and Amilia Stewart, now Amilia Stewart Keating, as Chip, Coffey's two hander has now become a family affair and, then as now, benefits immensely from its two stars natural chemistry and dynamism. Not that early signs are encouraging. Feeling like Howie The Rookie's less literate cousin, Coffey's alternating monologues by two damaged, Dublin souls can border on poverty porn in places. Connecting across a crowded room of normalised violence and nicknames, Coffey's little ditty about Karl and Siobhan sees the Leper looking to get laid and trying to hook up with Chip whose looking to stir up a little chaos. As mayhem ensues, a rollercoaster of batterings and beatings follows till it all feels painfully familiar. Yet it's the cracks where the lights shines in that show Coffey's true strength. He may not play hugely with rhymes but he's a master of pace and rhythm, cranking the intensity and energy to near breaking point. Structurally clever, for the most part, Coffey can play with alliteration and verbal mirroring to establish intimate connections where none appear to exist. A sublime reversal near the midway mark and everything becomes wonderfully fresh and deliciously charged due, in no small measure, to the electricity between its two stars. If events catapult towards their tragic and violent end a little too quickly, conveniently, and a shade unconvincingly, the interplay between Conall Keating and Amilia Stewart Keating has already won you over and blissfully broken your heart. Part of the rich legacy of the late Karl Shiels, whose top class direction infuses every second on stage, Leper + Chip delivers an intensely energised forty-five minutes that is not to be missed. Brought superbly to screen by Laura Honan, Francois Gray, and Coffey himself. Leper + Chip by Lee Coffey premieres online till 8:00 pm, Sunday, November 29 for premiere ticket holders. It will run as part of Dublin Port Company's The Pumphouse Presents from December 19 to December 23. A ticketed event, it will be available online free of charge as a gift from Dublin Port. Donations will be accepted towards a new artist development fund to be managed by Axis Ballymun. For more on this and other shows in The Pumphouse Presents, which features work from ANU, Fishamble: The New Play Company, and Axis Ballymun, go to Axis Ballymun or Dublin Port Company.

14 Voices From The Bloodied Field

14 Voices From The Bloodied Field. Image uncredited. November 21, 1920. One hundred years to the day that Croke Park became a killing field during a Tipperary v Dublin match. Instructed to search supporters for IRA members British Troops, along with members of The Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans, opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd killing fourteen. A reprisal for the assassination earlier that morning of fourteen British agents. It became known as Bloody Sunday, long before Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972. With 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field, the Abbey Theatre, in association with the GAA, sets out to commemorate that fateful day, and to give voice and recognition to the voiceless and forgotten; the civilian victims. Some as young as ten and eleven years old. Following the Abbey's Dear Ireland format, 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field again delivers a series of monologues thematically linked. Fourteen monologues created by fourteen writers, directors, and actors which owe more than a passing nod to Michael Foley's superb book The Bloodied Field. Celebrating the lives of the victims at the heart of this centennial commemoration, there's a vivid sense of the ordinariness and vitality of their lived experience, of their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Whether wanting to get married, score the winning goal, or simply watch the match, it's coming to know the people at the heart of this tragic event that make this tragedy all the more powerful. And turns Croke Park into hallowed ground. Steve Blount in 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field. Image by Ros Kavanagh A fact brought home during a heartfelt introduction by legendary GAA commentator Micheál O' Muiricheartaigh, after which the great and good of Irish theatre, new and old, serve up a hefty dish. Beginning with the tale of Jerome O'Leary, age 10, which sees scene stealer, Jake Verrecchia, being an absolute revelation. As is Jack Galvin as the 11 year old William (Perry) Robinson. Whether its Laurence Kinlan, under Stephen Rea's direction, reminding us why Tom Kilroy is a national treasure, or Marty Rea serving up plenty of songs and none of that aul Abbey Theatre shite, (playful references to The Abbey featuring in several pieces) there's an extraordinary vitality to it all. From a put upon Steve Blount, to bride to be Caitríona Ennis, you come to experience the richness lost that day. As well as better understanding the enduring hatred for the Black and Tans and the reverence in which Croke Park is held. Throughout, what writer Timmy Creed calls 'a minute's silence that goes on forever' is deeply resonant. Cradled in some fine writing, direction and performances in which monologues capture both the sublime and the sentimental. Yet there's also a sense of too much of a good thing and too little of what's needed. Fourteen monologued variations on a theme, spread over three and a half hours on a screen, is likely to test even the most ardent GAA, theatre loving supporter after a working week of Zoom. Also, the unforgivably short, two day online run means you most likely will have to binge watch. Which risks the experience blurring into the best audition showreel ever. For 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field deserves time to be absorbed. Time to grab a tea or wine break. Indeed, given the superb quality of the scripts, direction and performances, along with the importance of the subject matter, it deserves more than a 48 hour run. Christy Moore in 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field. Image by Ros Kavanagh 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field sees imagination and storytelling giving voice to the forgotten. Throughout, Croke Park is both stage and story, and an integral part of Ireland's cultural life. Yet at the heart of 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field is ordinary people written out of history being rewritten into the now. Larger than the sum of its parts, 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field draws to a close with Christy Moore's reimagined rendition of Minds Locked Shut in which he names the victims from 1920 - Jerome O'Leary, James Burke, Michael Feery, James Matthews, Thomas Ryan, William (Perry) Robinson, Joe Traynor, Jane Boyle, Michael Hogan, Tom Hogan, John William (Billy) Scott, Daniel Carroll, Patrick O'Dowd, James Teehan. Those who Micheál O' Muiricheartaigh calls 'the dead who shall live forever'. 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field, presented by the Abbey Theatre in partnership with the GAA, is available online until midnight, Sunday November 22. For more information visit The Abbey Theatre.

Mezzo Masterpiece #2 - Tara Erraught

Mezzo Masterpiece #2 - Tara Erraught. Image by Pat Redmond. Bel canto. Translated as 'beautiful singing'. Yet beautiful singing isn't simply singing beautifully. The technical aspects - legato, trills and leaps, messa de voce, breathing, position and support of the voice - take years of practice and a lifetime to master. Many hope to be called, but few are chosen to be its exponents. Irish Mezzo-soprano, Tara Erraught, is one of opera's chosen. In Mezzo Masterpiece #2 - Tara Erraught, Irish National Opera showcase bel canto singing and Erraught's talent, with Erraught revealing why she is taking the world by storm. Produced in partnership with the Office of Public Works, Mezzo Masterpiece #2 also showcases the iconic St. Patricks Hall, Dublin Castle. Within whose walls Fergus Shiel conducts the Irish National Opera Orchestra in a rousing performance of Bellini's sweeping overture from I Capuleti E I Montecchi, (Romeo and Juliet) to get the evening underway. Bold, brash, and deliciously bombastic, hearts are set to racing and expectations raised. As if a gauntlet is being thrown to Erraught, daring her to follow. A brief respite as Irish National Opera's Executive Director, a debonair Diego Fasciati, outlines the evening, and Erraught takes up the challenge. By the time she concludes the exquisite short aria, Se Romeo t'uccise un figlio, followed by the impassioned, and unannounced, La tremenda ultrice spada, you are helplessly spellbound. Tara Erraught with Irish National Opera Orchestra conducted by Fergus Shiels. Image by Pat Redmond. Simply put, Erraught is simply extraordinary. Her singing conveying the lyrics, everything that lies beyond them, and something uniquely her own. Her voice, a magnificent instrument, shows amazing virtuosity, which, under Shiel's expert baton, traverses the height and depths of her emotional and vocal registers with ease. With Dopo L'oscuro Nembo, from Bellini's lesser known, Irish based opera, Adelson E Salvini, Erraught gives voice to the heartache words can only point to, leaving you curious to hear the full opera. Rossini's rarely heard aria Ah, Se È Ver Che In Tal Momento from, Il Barbiere Di Siviglia finds Erraught buoyant, soaring to musical and emotional crescendos then diving to endearing diminuendos. Amy Ní Fhearraigh . Image by Pat Redmond. Tempering the flourishes of bel canto with a charming touch of verismo, Irish soprano Amy Ní Fhearraigh's interpretations of Sì, Mi chiamano Mimi from Puccini's La Bohéme, followed by Lo son l'umile ancella from Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, prove something of a revelation. Looking composed and confident, rising star Ní Fhearraigh seems the type of singer capable of lighting up every recess of the stage with her voice and presence. Her captivating singing is such you could listen all day, and long into the night. Indeed, INO's showcasing of up and coming talent is not only commendable, it offers an opportunity to earn bragging rights for being able to say, "I saw them, then.' And you will want to hear Ní Fhearraigh, and hear more of her. Tara Erraught. Image by Pat Redmond. Rounding out the evening with a trio from Rossini, Erraught returns with Bel raggio lusinghier from Semiramide and Assisa a' pie d'un salice from Otello. The latter highlighting the silken harp skills of Dianne Marshall. Finishing with the delightful Tanti Affetti from La Donna Del Lago, aptly translating as 'so many emotions' Erraught reminds you why her star is shining so brightly Whether singing joy unconfined or heartbreak by the numbers, Erraught is simply divine. As in lNO's magnificent La Cenerentola, Erraught is wholly immanent and utterly transcendent, displaying power and precision in the service of passion, with a youthful vulnerability that belies the wisdom in her voice. Indeed, to listen to Erraught is to listen to miracles. Mezzo Masterpieces #2 featuring Mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught performing a bel canto selection was streamed live from St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle on November 15 at 8.00pm and is available online for fourteen day after. Mezzo Masterpieces #3 featuring Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy, performing a selection from Mozart, will be live streamed from The Picture Gallery, Kilkenny Castle on December 10 at 8.00pm and available online for fourteen day after. Tickets and information available from Irish National Opera.

Mezzo Masterpieces #1 Sharon Carty

Paula Murrihy, Sharon Carty and Tara Erraught (L-R). Mezzo Masterpieces by Irish National Opera. Image by Alphabet Soup. Given the pressing need to translate live performance online in recent months, Irish National Opera's Mezzo Masterpieces serves as a timely reminder that the simplest thing done well is often the simplest solution. Streaming three live concerts from three historic venues (available online for fourteen days afterwards), each performance features an Irish Mezzo-soprano singing a series of themed pieces. With the support of the Office of Public Works, Halloween night saw the ballroom of Castletown House, Celbridge, host the INO Orchestra and Mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty for the first concert of the series. Who, along with Soprano Kelli-Ann Masterson, delivered a hefty helping of Baroque interpretations in which Handel, and witches, play a dominant role. Not that matters get off to an auspicious start. Attired in black masks and dark clothes, and maintaining strict social distancing, the INO Orchestra under director Claire Duff set the tone with the Overture from Handel's Alcina while looking like deadly assassins from a Christopher Nolan movie. INO's ever charismatic Artistic Director, Fergus Shiel, resembling a nervous news reader clutching his notes, doesn't always appear his confident or camera ready best. Indeed, at times he positively seems to crave a baton to hide behind. Yet Shiel's almost school-boyish delight proves irresistibly infectious as he enthusiastically outlines the Baroque themed evening. The arrival of Sharon Carty in a strapless gown with sweetheart neckline, sporting a jewel encrusted necklace that looks like it could cover the national Covid debt, seems initially strained, her opening to Cara Speme from Handel's Giulio Cesare In Egitto a tad tense. But Carty soon settles and is nothing short of mesmeric. Nothing else to do but admire the opulent chandeliers, statues and busts of Castletown House, exquisitely lit by Kevin Smith, and settle in for an hour of trills and triumphs and top class coloratura. Sharon Carty and Irish National Opera Orchestra in Mezzo Masterpieces. Image taken from stream. Delivered with some style by Carty throughout. Gelido in ogni vena from Vivaldi's Farnace, sees Carty traverse her vocal and emotional registers, her voice sublime, her face a mask of anguish. If the acoustics of Castletown House aren't always the most accommodating for warmth or fullness, Carty turns their limitations to her service, her voice sounding like it's hollowing out the depths of time. Alcina, making its second of three appearances, returns in the form of Tornami a vagheggiar, delivered with aplomb by Kelli-Ann Masterson, the Wexford born Soprano nailing her credentials firmly to the mast. A trip through French Baroque courtesy of Marc-Antoine Charpentier by way of excerpts from Médéé sees Carty shine once more with Quel prix de mon amour and Noires fils du Styx, before INO Orchestra showcase their own exceptional talents with two musical pieces from the same opera. The return of Masterson, and Alcina, with Credete al mio dolore confirm Masterson's huge promise, her power reined and released in perfect service to the song. Carty's closing rendition of Dopo notte from Handel's Ariodante, arguably her best performance of the night, finishes proceedings with some big singing as Carty owns every note and trill. Leaving the deadened silence due to the absence of applause seem grossly unfair, casting a decidedly eerie tone over proceedings. Sharon Carty and Irish National Opera Orchestra in Mezzo Masterpieces. Image taken from stream. If the camera has limitations, it allows the audience up close and personal in a way a staged performance seldom does and an audio recording never can. Watching Carty as she navigates the technical and emotional demands of the songs reveals opera as a way of life, as well as a way of seeing, hearing and expressing life. One that makes huge demands on those who practice it. For those who love listening to it, for whom even its fussy and unfussy protocols only add to its charm, seeing Carty this close reveals the intensity and hard work involved and proves something of a privilege. Pared back to basics, Mezzo Masterpieces offers a timely reminder that, despite its frequent use of pomp and spectacle, opera is first and foremost about the voice. And a voice like Carty's can open up worlds in a way that is simply exhilarating. Mezzo Masterpieces #1 featuring Mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty, was streamed live from Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare on October 31. It is available online until November 14 from Irish National Opera's website. Mezzo Masterpieces #2 featuring Mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught performing a bel canto selection will be streamed live from St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, on November 15 at 8.00pm and available online for fourteen days after. Mezzo Masterpieces #3 featuring Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy will be streamed live from The Picture Gallery, Kilkenny Castle on December 10 at 8.00pm and available online for fourteen days after. Tickets and information available from Irish National Opera.

Dublin Theatre Festival 2020: Embargo

Callan Cummins, Matthew Malone and Mary Murray in Fishambles EMBARGO. Photo by Anthony Wood Politically Personal It's a case of covering familiar ground for both Fishamble: The New Play Company, and playwright Deirdre Kinahan, as the politics of the past get reframed in the present in Embargo. Like their brilliant Inside the GPO, Fishamble again set out to interrogate a place and time in Irish history. That place being Connolly Station, via a significant detour to Kells and the Pump House in Dublin Port. The time being the oft forgotten arms embargo during the War of Independence, when Irish workers refused to transport British guns or soldiers. Like sitting on a stalled train waiting for breakdown services, nothing much happens in Embargo after initially leaving the station. At which time it ventures retrospectively back upon itself to begin explaining a brutal tar and feathering and why a woman desperately needs to get to Belfast. Come the half way mark and the character driven narrative, by far the best thing about Kinahan's politically charged script, has barely moved forward, with the tracks ahead blocked by a truck load of revisionist history. Even so, it's already clear where the story's going, whose slim pickings are rationed out like grains until its powerful ending nears. Which, even if you don't quite buy it, still leaves you very much enthralled. Callan Cummins, Matthew Malone and Mary Murray in Fishambles EMBARGO. Photo by Anthony Wood In a vein similar to The Unmanageable Sisters, Kinahan once again addresses the past to highlight how the Irish Republic broke its promise to its women. Showing a Joycean leaning towards the epic in the everyday, Embargo's occassionally pompous tone strains under its Greek references. Structurally, echoes of a Greek chorus are peppered about, with the cast adding forced emphasis to words and lines in places. Throughout, Kinahan's overwrought language self-consciously strives for seriousness, heavily invested with trade union and nationalist rhetoric. Supported by a droning score by Denis Clohessy, which also seems to be seeking gravitas. Director Maisie Lee struggles valiantly to bridge the distance between script and screen, culminating in a clever final image helped by Zia Bergin-Holly's intriguing set and impressive light design. Yet performances are disparate throughout, with the whole struggling to stay on its feet. Like a graduate from the Ron Burgundy school of journalism, the sensitive Gracie sees Matthew Malone monologuing meaningfully to camera when not executing dialogue, his dialogue proving far more effective. Meanwhile, Mary Murray's prop-less Jane is cranked up to such a degree she seems to have strayed in from another play. Even so, Murray is value for money, knowing how to work a camera and an audience. Callan Cummin's laconic Jack convinces as a wannabe Jim Larkin type, rehashing trade union and nationalist rhetoric of the 1920s, but with none of the great orator's power, and very little of his compassion. Callan Cummins and Matthew Malone in Fishambles EMBARGO. Photo by Anthony Wood Advocating the personal over the political, Embargo's personalities serve as political mouthpieces in this strong, if slow trundling story. Feeling like Strumpet City:The Sequel, and offering up tidbits of revisionist history, you could be forgiven for thinking rage might have been a more suitable title seeing how often it gets talked about. Throughout, there is a genuine attempt to transfer a theatrical work online in as innovative a manner as possible. Ensuring that if Embargo highlights the hurt inflicted on women during the War of Independence, and on many of the Republic's more sensitive souls, it also highlights the strains impinging on the artifice that is theatre online. Embargo by Deirdre Kinahan, produced by Fishamble:The New Play Company, was commissioned by Dublin Port Company and Iarnród Éireann as part of Dublin Theatre Festival. Originally live streamed from Connolly Station and the Pump House, Dublin Port, Embargo is available online until October 25. For more in formation, visit Fishamble:The New Play Company

Dublin Theatre Festival 2020: The Party To End All Parties

The Party To End All Parties by ANU. Image by Larry Burrows/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images. Invisible It's a misconception that ANU make small shows for small audiences. In truth they make big shows for small audiences. Shows with historical and political sweep, with a multi-intersectional aesthetic, dealing in places and people that reveal universes in the particular. Their latest, revised adventure, The Party To End All Parties, running as part of Dublin Theatre Festival is another case in point. Using April 18, 1949, when O'Connell Bridge became the focus for celebration as Ireland was official recognised as a republic, The Party To End All Parties covers familiar ANU ground thematically, dramatically, and theatrically. Yet it proves unique in trading ANU's up close and physical experience for one in which the action is viewed online, from behind the safety of a screen. Even so, in The Party To End All Parties, moments of visceral, emotional intimacy are never far away. Like many productions this year, things could have been very different for The Party To End All Parties had Covid not come calling. If ANU's production shows the hallmarks, at times, of having had to hurry to adapt to the latest Government sting in the tail, it proves robust at using crisis as a catalyst in a work about using crisis as a catalyst. An exploration of Dublin and of time, and of Dublin in this time, a cast of three — four, arguably, if you include the silent spectator, five if you include the city and its residences, or six if you include a photo bombing seagull — interrogate themselves and Dublin as both strive towards a frail and uncertain future. Nandi Bhebhe is a woman, or a metaphor, who believes herself invisible. Robbie O'Connor is man without hope. A deeply affecting Niamh McCann is a social worker way past personal and professional burnout. Each offer a thread woven into two overlapping and complimentary paths for the audience to travel. Being online, you are allowed travel both, one after the other. And you should, for deeper meanings emerge and performances are simply excellent. Even if the real, standout performance belongs to writer and director, Louise Lowe. Nandi Bhebhe in The Party To End All Parties by ANU. Still. Lowe, ever eager to acknowledge her fellow collaborators, underplays her own writing at times which is often considerably skilful. As is the case here. If Lowe knows how to make men speak, she knows how to make her women sing. And none sing sweeter, or sadder, than a deeply affecting Niamh McCann as a woman who participates in an unconventional intervention to save herself. Often crafting hand held images that flow with a fluid, poetic sensibility, Lowe isn't just comfortable behind the camera, she looks positively radiant. Like Terence Davis, Lowe shares a deep affinity with working class sensibilities, and of the cinematic image being bigger than the limits of its frame Throughout, Lowe doesn't labour trying to replicate a theatrical experience online. Instead she allows images, character and text to tell their story and achieves something approximating the theatrical in terms of a real immediacy. At one point Carl Kennedy's genius score, in terms of simplicity, sends the sounds of the street pulsing through Bhebhe's body as she dances in the Ballast Office, caught up in the agonised pull and push of the city. A moment which sees Lowe jettisoning the restraints of the realist frame to try say something more truthful, powerful, and poetic. Robbie O'Connor in The Party To End All Parties by ANU. Still With the city as his set, Owen Boss's design might appear minimal, but his framing of that set, and his attention to detail, including three clocks in the Ballast Office, infuse Lowe's images with vitality and richness. As do three compelling performances. Bhebhe's tale might prove the least satisfying for seeming to halt rather than end, and for offering too much Vox Pop with too little personal meat on the bone, but Bhebhe takes the crumbs of character thrown her way and fashions them into something fulfilling. Robbie O'Connor's wonderfully restless agitation, along with Niamh McCann's soul searing confessional, find image, gesture, tone, and words married in two superbly invested performances. Crafting moments you can't turn away from. Yet moments where words risk elbowing their poetry into the frame at the expense of other considerations. Sacrificing clarity in places, it can feel like hearing most but not all of the story, like you missed something important as it all hurries towards its end. Till you remember Lowe is dealing in the poetry of the commonplace not it's prose. Still, a little more elbow room might have made for a clearer view in places. Niamh McCann in The Party To End All Parties by ANU. Still. A man on a bridge urges you to do what he himself seems unable to as the final image leaves you looking at something that isn't there. How, then, can we reconnect with a landscape that has gone? Replaced by shiny feats of engineering passed off as architecture that could be anywhere in the world? Where can hope take us? Do we still have time? Poignant, and understatedly powerful, The Party To End All Parties doesn't lose something in translating online so much as trade some things for others. And reveals Lowe as an extremely talented director behind the camera. Like Dublin itself, The Party To End All Parties is steeped in visual and verbal poetry. It might be wound a little too tight at times, but given the time bound conditions under which this tale of time was fashioned, its successes far outweigh its teething pains. Indeed, theatre might worry that ANU and Lowe might like the challenge of the cinematic image a little too much. For, visually, The Party To End All Parties is hugely impressive. And McCann is simply magnificent. One important aside. While tickets to The Party To End All Parties are free, twenty-two people are listed in the programme as having worked directly on this show. There were undoubtedly more. The number involved in The Abbey's The Great Hunger is close to sixty. Shows in DTF involve many artists who face uncertain futures. They need your support. When booking tickets at DTF you will see a Save Me A Seat link. This allows you to make donations of €25.00. If you can afford to, it will be the best, and most appreciated donation you will make this year. The Party To End All Parties by ANU and Dublin Theatre Festival is online until October 10. For further information visit Dublin Theatre Festival

© 2020 Chris O'Rourke