Bawdy burlesque cabaret, Japanese electronica, pavement performances, American paranoia given the experimental Laurie Anderson treatment, 12 Sardinians and a lost film, the winner of the third annual Andy Kaufman Award ... There's much more than just theatre to this year's Dublin Theatre Festival.
With a programme crammed full of enticing acts, the stops have certainly all been pulled out for the big 50th anniversary celebrations of the oldest English-speaking theatre festival in the world. Demonstrating that bigger can indeed be better, this year's line up boasts 221 performances with 33 shows from 13 countries over 18 days. Best news of all, though, is that they're all cracking shows. And we haven't even scratched on all the other sideline events in this year's extra special festival, with debates and documentaries, rehearsals and readings, screenings and probably some screaming too.
Particular must-see shows from the main programme include Radio Macbeth, set in the guts of an abandoned theatre when actors and their ghostly predecessors battle for the best parts; political satire at its acerbic finest in BLACKland; a hypnotic combination of dripping water and dance in Hibiki; the hip-hoppity acrobatics of Traces; a much-anticipated double bill from one of today's true theatrical masters, Peter Brook, and pretty much everything else.
If you do stray off the more traditional beaten thespian path, though, you will encounter some quirkily unforgettable creations. How about an evening in the company of the Gorgeous Morons? Did we mention that at least one of them will be naked at some point during the show and she happens to be Miss Coney Island 2006? From two of New York's most acclaimed cabaret stars, Bradford Scobie and the eponymously gorgeous Julie Atlas Muz, Gorgeous Morons will feature "scenes that some may find offensive". Sounds just our kind of thing.
For something with a tad more decorum and noticeably more attire, Sonos 'E Memoria sounds like an intriguing proposition. Apparently, Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Cabbidu stumbled across lost footage of 1930s Sardinia and this has been sensitively restored and will be accompanied by a colourful troupe of musicians from the island, led by internationally-feted trumpeter Paulo Fresu.
For a show with an unpronounceable but intriguing title, top prize has to go to Japanese electronic artist Ryoji Ikeda and his show C41 And Datamatics [ver.1.0]. Don't worry, we haven't a notion what the title means either, but apparently these are actually two separate pieces and they both have something to do with the integration of sound, acoustics and subliminal imagery in the exploration of sensation. Ikeda has been wowing the world with his new techniques, though, and this performance will be taking place in the rather sumptuous surrounds of our Irish Museum of Modern Art and should certainly be worth a gamble.
On that musical note, you can expect similar levels of eccentricity from the inventor of the tape-bow violin, which has a tape head in place of strings, and a strip of magnetic tape in place of the hairs on a bow. Yes, we could only be talking about American performance artiste extrodinaire, Laurie Anderson. Anderson was in the festival last year as part of the Leonard Cohen night and will be in town again this year to present Homeland, her perspective on the changing face of the United States in the 21st century. We may only be seven years into the new millennium, but America's paranoia and general instability have developed rapidly and Anderson has never been one to tiptoe around a white elephant.
Staying with all things vaguely melodic, Reggie Watts may have won the Malcolm Hardee Award and the Andy Kaufman Award, but he really should win another prize for his truly fabulous coiffure. Hair aside, Watts straddles the divide between comedy and music, veering towards the former with a little of the latter thrown in for good measure. There's not much you can say about his show for the festival at the not so new New Theatre as it hasn't been created yet and won't be until the night itself -- Watts' trademark is his improvised musical comedy.
For some decidedly fringe-esque on-the-spot theatre, why not take a nocturnal wander around the Italian Quarter (or Quartiere Bloom, to give it its official title)? Turn a corner and you might find yourself as the impromptu audience for La Marea. A series of rotating 10-minute scenes overseen by Argentinean director and playwright Mariano Pensotti in association with Bedrock Productions will reveal the inner thoughts of the people you pass in the street everyday. They'll be popping up in cafes, on balconies, in shop windows and even on the pavement. Is the person standing next to you really arguing with their girlfriend or are they both just acting?
But possibly the most unmissable event of the festival -- and that's not just because it's free -- will be On The Case. A generous present to Dubliners from this year's title sponsors, Ulster Bank, this outdoor show will be presented by Australia's most celebrated aerialists, Legs On The Wall, and promises to be quite the spectacular night out. Combining impossible acrobatics, abseiling, cartooning, circus, text and projections, this show will transform George's Dock in the IFSC into a vertiginous stage as a woman falls through the sky.
It might be stretching the point to say all the world's a stage, but for the next two and a half weeks at least, all of Dublin will be a theatre festival. n
See www.dublintheatrefestival.com for full programme details