Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!!

Soooo - there's no way tonight will be any scarier than the last few weeks. (If you're a certain Big Ignorant F*cker From Offaly, anyway). So let's rack it up - embrace the fear and screw it anyway! Drag that moth-eaten celtic tigerskin out from under the stairs and fling it on top of the bonfire - smack it, hack it - armagnac it! Feck the doom, just neck the shrooms - and maybe when we all wake up, the hangover will be better than the current reality. After all, its nearly Nov 4th! Maybe we're about to see the first glimmer of some kind of hope for a lonnnnnnnnnng time. If you squint, you just might might make it out, just maybe, just possibly......can you see it? Can you? Yes, yes we can.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Synth Eastwood : Cycles

Synth Eastwood are currently gearing up for their next show, on the theme 'cycles'. Nice open theme, which should make for an interesting mix of perspectives - looking forward to seeing it all on Friday 24th October at a few venues in Temple Bar, Dublin ; Filmbase, The Button Factory & Meeting House Square. Here's a sneakpeek at my submission (here's hoping it makes the cut).

This guy is The Right Honorable Lord Gustaf Lesley 'Les' Augtrom 1799 - 1864. Leading ethnopharmacologist of his time and last recorded Cyclops of the modern era. Members of the Swedish royal family are believed to carry his monocular gene to this day. Or something.


Wayhay! I've finally got round to sorting out my website. I've kept it simple, but with plenty of new work to look at and I've also taken a solemn vow over the body of a dismembered lego star wars character (not saying which one) to keep it updated more regularly from now on. Why not pop over for a look around - unless of course you've actually come to this blog directly from the site - in which case ....Hi! :-)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Writing for Children Event

I was at the United Arts Club last night for Irish Pen's Writing for Children event - a panel discussion featuring Mags Doyle from Childrens Books Ireland, Helen Carr, Editor at O'Brien Press and Oisin McGann, author and illustrator. Irish Pen's own Sarah Webb was the moderator, and the event concluded with Q&A from the audience.

It was a very interesting and informative evening. While there was the familiar territory of classic dos and don'ts re manuscript submission, all panellists contributed further points of interest. McGann's overview of lessons learnt as he moved from novice to successful author were a highlight. A very pleasant guy, I had a nice chat with him in the bar afterwards. Among the audience of aspiring and published writers were Poetry Ireland's Dave Maybury and a few members of the Illustrators Guild of Ireland. Good company led to pints - so this post is being written with slightly fuzzy recall.

Luckily, Sarah has a bit more detail about the event over on her blog, here - phew!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

O Brothers!

As mentioned previously - I went along to review theatre O's production of Enda Walsh's Delerium at the Peacock Theatre last week, for those nice people at the Evening Herald HQ magazine. The review is now online and can be read here. The play runs until October 25th and I thought it was great craic! So do get along if you have a chance.

Also, if you fancy adding your voice to the critical mass, Irish Theatre magazine are running a Critic's Forum tomorrow (Oct 10th) at Project Arts Centre. A panel of critics, moderated by poet, playwright and presenter of RTE's Arts Show Vincent Woods, will be discussing some of the major productions from this year's Dublin Theatre Festival. Contributions from the floor will be welcome too. Kick-off is 4pm.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Byrne and Eno : Its-a Happening (again)


Well whadyaknow - those erstwhile mavericks of the New Wave are now quite middle-aged. Hasn't stopped them getting back together to do the collaboration hustle. Good thing? Bad thing? Thing Thing!

I've quite a soft spot for their 1981 album 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts'. Along wih whale sounds, The Cramps and The Goon Show, it brings me back to the hazy basement rooms of my studenthood. A hugely influential album, this new one (with its Miranda July-ish title) isn't really along those lines, but these two particularly crispy heads are always going to bring some sonic sparks to the equation - so check it, Brethren (Sisters too!) There's a free download of the warmly funky track Strange Overtones waiting for you!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Black Watch - Scotland, the rave

Well, the Heavily Sponsored Dublin Theatre Festival is in full swing. We went along to the RDS last night for National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch. This is a heavily hyped production, widely acclaimed since first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe back in 2006. We were lucky - it seems the previous night’s performance was cancelled due to structural concerns about the specially erected banked seating. Didn’t know that until today.

The play draws directly on the experiences of soldiers from the Black Watch regiment tours in Iraq, specifically their controversial redeployment to more dangerous combat zones, in order to relieve US troops. Further themes are the war’s questionable legitimacy and the amalgamation of the Black Watch with five other Scottish regiments, in the context of the regimental history (referred to as The Golden Thread).

There’s no doubt this is a highly impressive production, with critical accolades a-plenty. Performances are consistently strong and there are a number of highly inventive set pieces in the staging, incorporating a pool table, projections, strobe lighting, bagpipes, TV screens, military drill and exceptional choreography. The blurb claims universal critical praise, but I overheard a few doubters as the audience filed out. I may have been one myself.

There seems to be a lack of clarity in the aims of the piece. Are we getting the soldiers story? If so, why is so much obscured? We see the squaddies serving together, chilling out in the pub, interviewed by a writer - yet they remain two dimensional. OK, we have the sarge, the cheeky one, the ladies man, the toffee-nosed officer, the new boys – all sound familiar? Obviously these tropes don’t arrive out of thin air – but they’re not particularly unique to the Black Watch either. I remember similar character sketches in Spike Milligan’s war memoirs. At no point do we get a sincere sense of any personality bar the cliché.

Now, I know this is drama and concessions must be made – but I left feeling that the ‘BigBangBoom’ factor, while providing a raucous evening’s entertainment, actually served to obscure what truths might be mined here. A bit like Riverdance being presented as an insight to Irish sectarianism? Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But there was a definite emphasis on spectacle, and I felt the pacing at times seemed more suited to TV than theatre. This, coupled with martial piping and some superfluous drilling near the end, seemed to drag into mawkishness. The dangerous glamour of fatigues and guns is embraced, so that the military tattoo references seemed overplayed – tilting the balance towards gung ho, and away from the human aspects of the story.

On the plus side, there’s excellent exposition of the regimental history, in one of those inspired set pieces, involving the evolution of the distinctive uniform. There are few punches pulled where the legality of the invasion is concerned. There’s excellent use of symbolic language throughout; ‘bullying’, ‘porn’ and ‘petrol’ recur. I also learned what ‘toby-tag’ is (although I’m not sure I really needed to).

Anyway, bang-for-buck-wise, I shouldn’t be complaining. One hour and fifty minutes, (without an interval) passed with little discomfort or boredom. The audience mostly loved it and who says good art needs to hit all the buttons anyway?

Funnily enough, I found myself thinking of Tropic Thunder and wondering which of these two productions was the more disturbing. Ben Stiller’s movie – glibly playing war for laughs (and hilarious in parts) had me seething at times for a society in the grip of ‘the biggest Western Foreign policy mistake ever’ (to quote one of the Black Watch characters) packing out cineplexes for their explosive fix. Here, where the wounds are exposed with more intentional gravitas, I wondered why I wasn’t more moved.

(BTW we also went to Delerium, Enda Walsh's collaboration with theatre O at the Peacock, the previous night. The Evening Herald has first dibs on that review - I'll link to it when it's published. Suffice to say it's well worth a look!)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Guild, Guide, Gateway and... Graduate?

Nice article by Fiona McCann in today's Irish Times marking the 30th Anniversary of Poetry Ireland. It's a good overview of a great organisation, and raises again the embarrassing and illogical oversight that sees the representative organisation for the most internationally recognised Irish artform still without a dedicated building to call home! Anybody who's visited their cramped office, just off Stephen's Green, knows full well the limitations of the (lack of) space and is given cause to reflect on just how much is achieved from such a humble hub. I particularly like Denis O'Driscoll's description of the organisation as "a guild, a guide and a gateway". Indeed it is.

To mark the anniversary, Poetry Ireland has announced the inaugural All-Ireland Poetry Day - tomorrow Thurs Oct 2nd - and is supporting readings in all 32 counties. The Dublin reading takes place in that reliable venue, the Unitarian Church.

However, I'll be attending a suburban satellite event; Deansgrange Writers Group and Dalkey Writers Group are coming together to mark the day with a reading upstairs in the Graduate Pub (beside Killiney Shopping Centre) on Rochestown Ave, from 7-11pm. There's no intention to detract from PI's activities, we just thought it might be nice to do something out Dun Laoghaire direction. Trekking into town all the time can be demanding on the Burrough dwellers.

I'll be among those reading, and there'll be an open mic (well, I don't know that we'll need, or have, an actual mic - should be pretty intimate and informal). If you're interested in reading, get there early and make yourself known on arrival. Or just drop in for a drink and support your local poets!

Happy Anniversary Poetry Ireland!