Saturday 17 March 2018

Pearse: the Jazz version

IT'S often a case of the emperor's new clothes in Dublin theatre circles. And some pretty flabby bodies. Ideas are praised as we put our game face on across social networks, revealing several more faces behind the backs of the praised. I met up with Alan Gilsenan, the award-winning documentarian and theatre director, who agreed that we could all do with being a little less satisfied with ourselves -- though he has a kinder take on it.

"There's a terrible decency in action, he says, "where we go along to something and we all think it's crap. Yet we tell everybody its great. 'It's fantastic. I loved it'. Meanwhile down the pub you're like 'Goooood that was awful."

He goes on to explain. "I don't think our critical faculties have been honed. A lot of the work is parochial, smug and feels formulaic. Yet you still see these shows venerated as some kind of landmark production. Revolutionary. Breakthrough. And you're like, 'c'mon lads, this is just boring'."

Disappointed by theatre, he found satisfaction in the dance world, particularly the Dublin Dance Festival, where his new work in progress, The Burning House, will be shown later this week.

His elegy for Patrick Pearse, a collaboration with trad legend Martin Hayes, is very much visual theatre. Non-narrative, the piece is neither historical nor logical, and he hopes it will have the sense and motion of jazz music.

"It steps away from the politics and history and all the literal stuff we know about Pearse. This is about the emotive stuff, the intangible stuff. Martin's music articulates that." It's the first phase of what he hopes will be a much larger production staged as part of the centenary celebration of 1916. "While the piece certainly isn't about 1916, the Rising was an artistic statement as much as a political statement. Historically, it was a failure, yet symbolically and theatrically it was a success.

"With plans afoot to commemorate 1916, the problem remains; what do we do about Pearse? We've become embarrassed by him. I think we should explore him, remember him, listen to him. Do justice to his spirit."

The Lir, Saturday, May 19, 5pm, Sunday, May 20, 8pm, €10,

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