Sunday 25 February 2018

Pixies bring a heavy dose of nostalgia, while Gray's life is lacking depth

Rock: The Pixies, live at the Marquee, Cork

Influential: Black Francis of The Pixies
Influential: Black Francis of The Pixies

The Pixies inspired a generation of frustrated young men to strap on guitars and shriek until their eyes bulged and their throats were raw. But despite influencing icons as far flung as Nirvana and a middle-aged David Bowie, the group never quite escaped the cult rock ghetto - the price, surely, of their visceral weirdness and the hormone-charged eccentricity of singer Black Francis' Adrian Mole-meets-Salvador Dali lyrics.

After imploding in a fog of passive aggression in the early 90s, the Boston quartet reformed 12 years ago and have ever since earned a decent living on the nostalgia circuit.

'Greatest hits' shows can be patchy affairs, though the Pixies are unique in that even their most obscure album cuts are wildly beloved. On the final night of the Live at the Marquee festival, 'Bone Machine' and 'Something Against You' coasted on Francis's untrammelled ferocity and Joey Santiago's buzz-saw guitar; the frontman's melodic sensibilities were meanwhile on display on Velouria and Subbacultcha, twisted showcases for his twin obsessions of sexual vexation and imminent alien invasion.

Amid the carnage, there was space, too, for an old-fashioned singalong as they unpacked bubble-gum curio 'Debaser' and 'Where Is My Mind?', a chillingly hummable rumination on mental illness.

The Pixies were here to rock, and rock they did.

- Ed Power

Theatre: Arlington [a love story], Leisureland, Galway

In a capacious clinical room, a young woman is waiting. There are surveillance cameras in the corners, uncomfortably bright lighting, a fishless aquarium that spontaneously erupts, a row of blue plastic chairs nailed to the floor, a window giving no sense of a world existing outside. She is busy performing the rituals of someone who has been kept waiting for a very long time. With his trademark determined indeterminism, Enda Walsh's newest play is about oppressive captivity, manipulation and the ebbing possibility of being saved.

The curtain peels further back to reveal an adjoining cramped surveillance room. An anxious man is on his first day of work observing, this woman is his subject. He gabbles unstoppably.

Performed by Hugh O'Conor, this unnamed young man appears extremely vulnerable. We learn her name is Isla (Charlie Murphy), she is more distanced from reality as if she has been gradually emotionally deadened. But for all his bumbling he manages to bring her dreams to life.

There are strengths, Oona Doherty's incredible movement as she wonderfully fills the space in a brilliant dance segment, Hugh O'Conor's enduring endearment as he believes in hope. But there is a lack of cohesion and momentum.

This does not pack the same visceral punch as Walsh's previous works, it is more measured and considered.

Theatre: Invitation to a journey, Black Box Theatre, Galway

If ever an actor was born to play Irish modernist design legend Eileen Gray, it is the wonderful Ingrid Craigie. Gray's work encompassed many design forms and this show fittingly brings together dance, theatre and music.

Created by CoisCeim Dance Theatre, Fishamble and Crash Ensemble, the titular journey begins with Gray's grandniece concluding a lecture about her famous relative when she is approached with a lucrative offer to mass produce Gray's Roqubrune chair.

This somewhat clunky construct allows the introduction of some key biographical facts, opening a door into Gray's life.

David Bolger's perceptive choreography roots us in a certain world, there is an understanding of the fluid movement that Gray's design was famous for, the three dancers providing different shadows: Gray's strengths and vulnerabilities. And this is matched by Deirdre Gribbin's score, with percussionist Alex Petcu providing a virtuoso performance that mesmerises.

But the various strands don't fully knit together and we are not given much emotional foothold or narrative to build on. And ultimately it is hard to reconcile this too slight picture of Gray.

- Sophie Gorman

Irish Independent

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