Tuesday 25 July 2017

Zeitgist... Cinema, visual arts, concerts, stage

Far From the Madding Crowd
Far From the Madding Crowd
Get Up & Go
Elliott Smith
The Staves
Take That
Laura Marling
Technology meets art: One of Mayhew's My Head is in My Hands prints
Declan Conlon in Hedda Gabbler
The Way Back Home

Paul Whitington

A round up of the best of what's on this week in cinema, concerts, visual arts and stage this week.

1 Thomas Vinterberg's handsome and sumptuous adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd is the most interesting of this week's releases, and bravely tackles a very complex novel. Carey Mulligan plays the beautiful headstrong Victorian farm owner Bathsheba Everdene, whose hesitations over three very different suitors will have disastrous consequences for her, and them.

Vinterberg's film will inevitably be compared with John Schlesinger's iconic 1967 version, in which a resplendent Julie Christie played Bathsheba, but in truth the new movie is a very different film, a more earthy and gritty account of hard country lives. Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and up-and-coming Belgian actor Mathias Schoenarts co-star as Ms Everdene's unfortunate lovers, and Vinterberg's film is splendidly photographed.

2 Dublin has rarely looked more hip and cosmopolitan than it does in Brendan Grant's likeable and understated new comic drama, Get Up & Go. The film takes place over a single, disastrous day in the lives of young slackers Colin (Killian Scott) and Alex (Peter Coonan), whose friendship is sorely tested by work, women and each other. Colin, a budding comedian, is mooning over Lola (Gemma-Lee Deveraux), a beautiful, neurotic girl who thinks he's a bit of a pest.

Alex is going out with Lola's sister, and is about to emigrate to London when she tells him that she's pregnant. But instead of sticking around and doing the right thing, Alex starts scrounging together enough money to get on the boat that very afternoon. When Colin loses his job this task becomes more difficult, and strains in their friendship come bubbling to the surface. At times, Scott and Coonan seem like a latter-day Vladimir and Estragon as they aimlessly wander the streets of a bleary, post-recession Dublin, and both actors excel in very different roles. Coonan's portrayal of charming wide boy Alex is particularly pleasing, and he manages to make this monster of self-absorption curiously likeable. A clever little film.

3 I love a good documentary, and Heaven Adores You, which is currently running at Dublin's IFI, offers a fascinating if slightly sanitised account of the life and death of singer/songwriter Elliott Smith. The shy and retiring Texan troubadour was thrust into the spotlight in 1998 when his song 'Miss Misery' was used in Good Will Hunting and earned an Oscar nomination. A bit like Kurt Cobain, also the subject of a recent documentary, Smith was disastrously unprepared for fame and fortune, and drug, alcohol and mental problems compounded his problems.

Nickolas Dylan Rossi's film explores Smith's troubled Texas childhood with the help of family and friends, and photos and home movies are accompanied by his early experiments in song writing. Heaven Adores You is at its best when chronicling Smith's time in Portland in the mid-1990s, where he formed several bands and seemed at his happiest.

But sudden fame seems to have undone him, and in 2003 he was found dead at his Los Angeles home, having apparently stabbed himself in the chest.

Needless to say, conspiracy theories still abound among his passionate fan base, and a premature death never does a musician's reputation any harm.

The parallels with Cobain, though, are inescapable, and in a touching clip from an interview he gave shortly after his unlikely appearance at the Academy Awards, Smith said quietly: "I'm the wrong kind of person to be big and famous".

Concerts

By John Meagher

1 Watford have just been promoted to the Premier League and three sisters from the London commuter town are flying high, too. The Staveley-Taylor siblings have attracted glowing reviews for their close harmonies and folk music that's rooted in the English tradition, but with nods to the US as well. The Staves just released their second album, If I Was, and if it sounds a tad like critical darlings Bon Iver, that just might be because that band's Justin Vernon was on production duties.

The Staves, Olympia, Dublin, Wednesday.

2 She may be just 25, but the bright young thing of English folk is more prolific than most. Laura Marling's new album, Short Film, is her fifth to date and her work ethic in the studio seems to be matched by her commitment to touring. No stranger to the venerable old theatre on Dame Street, Marling favours a stripped-back delivery and her smartly crafted tunes pack quite a punch. She used to date Marcus Mumford of the annoyingly popular Mumford and Sons, but let's not remind her of that.

Laura Marling, Olympia, Dublin, Thursday.

3 Supergrass cut an exuberant path through British music in the 1990s, although their brand of guitar rock seemed to be on the periphery of the Britpop charge led by Blur and Oasis. Frontman Gaz Coombes was as much famed for his luxuriant lamb-chop sideburns as he was for his band's witty, clever songs, and it's hard to escape the notion that he never quite received his due as a really smart songwriter.

His solo career has been conducted in the margins, but the opportunity to catch him in a relatively intimate environment like this is not to be missed.

Gaz Coombes, Dolan's Warehouse, Limerick, Friday.

4 The 'boyband' who are all old enough to spawn an actual boyband between them continue to go from strength to strength since reforming in 2006. There have been three 'comeback' albums, all of which proved that they truly were the best manufactured group of their era. Robbie Williams is no longer involved and nor is Jason Orange, but the other three - Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald - seem happy to soldier on regardless.

With their most recent album, III, topping the charts, who can blame them?

Take That, 3Arena, Dublin, Friday and Saturday.

Visual arts

By Declan Long

How much of your life is experienced via smartphone or tablet? For many of us, these sleek, touch-screen machines are always at hand, always in-demand. 

More and more, our muddled memories rely on them as back-up. We increasingly depend on them for accessing information - and for connecting us with others.

We see the world in serial glimpses: swiping through slideshows or selecting from multiple open windows. Images appear in a dizzying abundance.

Paris-based Irish artist Jonathan Mayhew is fascinated by such discreetly powerful devices.

Like many young artists, his work responds to the pleasures and confusions of obsessive screen-time. In his recent series of digital prints, 'My Head is in My Hands' (on show at the Farmleigh Gallery in Dublin's Phoenix Park), Mayhew combines cropped imagery of human hands and internal components from hand-held devices. On the one hand (as it were), Mayhew maintains strict control over his material, arranging shots of computer hardware and human digits within orderly squares and rectangles.

On the other, he hints that technology exceeds our control -the pieces in his pictures could be coming together or flying apart - exerting uncomfortable pressures.

What's more, the candy-pink and highlighter-yellow hues of the framing squares seem garishly commercial - sickening in their lurid glow.

Decades ago, abstract artists such as Mark Rothko or Joseph Albers painted glowing squares in efforts to achieve deeper understandings of perception. Mayhew's taut compositions are also systems for analysing vision - but radically re-programmed for our distracting, digital world...

My Head is in My Hands by Jonathan Mayhew is on show at the group exhibition Intelligent Machinery at Farmleigh Gallery, Phoenix Park, Dublin, until May 31.

Stage

By Maggie Armstrong

1 You know it's Irish summertime when performers try to lure you into the parks. Angels in the Park is a set of 10-minute playlets in some of the country's most salubrious green spaces. You can throw down a picnic rug and prepare to be moved by dramas that go deep in short snaps of entertainment. It is five for one: Angels in the Park by Graham Stull; Life After Fred by Colum Kavanagh; The Deal by Catherine Barry; Street Angel by Oliver McQuillan and Nobody Smokes Anymore by Peter Sheridan.

Beaulieu House, Drogheda (Monday), Kilruddery House, Bray (Sunday, May 10), Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh House, Co Wicklow. (Saturday, May 23 and Sunday 24).

2 The cut-glass accents, the mesmeric costumes, the cool stabs of wit. Hedda Gabler in The Abbey shouldn't be missed if you like things beautiful, and the honey-coloured set and flickering fabrics almost serve as a graceful dance. The classic has been revived by a stellar cast and crew: leading playwright Mark O'Rowe adapted the script; Annabelle Comyn directs; Peter O'Brien made costumes and Catherine Walker amuses as the manipulative desperate housewife at the core, Hedda.

Abbey Theatre, until May 16.

3 A boutique piece of theatre I wouldn't like to miss in the capital is Being Norwegian by Scottish playwright David Greig at the Bewley's Café Theatre. Gemma Doorly co-stars with Karl Shields (Intermission, Fair City), the artistic director of Theatre Upstairs over Lanigan's Bar, who have co-produced the short romantic comedy about "two lost souls". Karls says: "It's a killer play". We trust him.

Bewley's Café Theatre, May 5-30.

4 Charolais, one of last year's Fringe winners that has been pleasing the critics, is on its way to The Everyman Palace in Cork. Critic Emer O'Kelly, of the Sunday Independent, declared it a "hilarious take on rural life…full of wisdom and tenderness". Written and performed by Noni Stapleton, the play tells of a farm girl, her pregnancy and a Charolais heifer who is the rival of her lover's affections. Sounds kooky, but this short play is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Everyman Palace, Cork,

May 13-16

5 One for the kids. An adaptation of Oliver Jeffers' children's book The Way Back Home embarks on a national tour. The play, by Galway company Branar Teater teamed with innovative Danish company Teatar Refleksion, comes hot on the heels of a sell-out run in London's South Bank. Jeffers, who hails from Belfast, has won multiple awards for his picture books and this play serves his work with a mix of puppetry, animation, original music and design. The story is about a little boy on a quest to outerspace and there must be no better way to entice the tots to the theatre than a Jeffers story.

Mayo, Meath, Galway, Dublin, Louth, Longford, Donegal, Sligo, Tipperary, Roscommon, Laois, Kildare, May 12 - June 12, see www.branar.ie.

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