Thursday 21 February 2019

Strong language, nudity - even plays

Dublin Fringe Festival, September 8-23

'The Fattest Dancer at St Bernadette's' is from the Breadline Collective
'The Fattest Dancer at St Bernadette's' is from the Breadline Collective

Emer O'Kelly

'Eclectic' is the word most suited to the forthcoming Fringe Festival, writes Emer O'Kelly.

The Dublin Fringe Festival begins this Saturday and, as always, will offer an eclectic mix which will probably at times tie itself in knots being outrageous/different/experimental purely for the sake of it, regardless of quality or, for that matter, of entertainment value.

It is also likely to feature some self-indulgent, self-pitying autobiography. It usually does. Programmers don't seem to have the nous to tell some hopeful applicants for inclusion that they would be better off talking to a counsellor than inflicting their woes on an audience. Enthusiasm and encouragement, after all, should not operate to the exclusion of quality control.

But, that said, in the myriad offerings there will also be a stream of genuinely creative and exciting, even polished, work that will appeal to audiences who want a level of professionalism when they hand over hard-earned cash.

The festival director, Ruth McGowan, says in her programme introduction that "in 2018, we're bringing you a festival of antidotes. These artist apothecaries have formulated their solutions, cures and divine art elixirs... all yours for the taking". And it goes on in the same vein. Well, full marks for sustained literary metaphor.

The programme is broken down into sections, starting with parties, club nights and gigs, which will include The Fianna Fellatio Party Launch, a Glitter Hole production (a company which proclaims itself a DIY drag collection). There's also a hip-hop culture exploration Neighbourhood Watch, from the District magazine company, while the Abbey Theatre is on board as co-producer for Peaches Christ Superstar, a one-woman performance of Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, in "sexual frankness" mode and accompanied by a single piano.

The Show in a Bag initiative, in collaboration with Fishamble, has thrown up quite a few gems in its time, and this year will include Sarah-Jane Scott's Appropriate, about a woman who does a runner from her own wedding; Brendan Galileo for Europe with Fionn Foley as an aspiring Eurocrat who tries for the limelight via the Eurovision Song Contest; John Connors' Ireland's Call, a one-man show examining issues of class, religion and identity in northside Dublin. It's been done before, of course, but can always bear repetition as a theme. The last in the group is Split Ends by Lauren Larkin, exploring the theory that there's nothing a new hairdo can't sort. They're all at Bewley's Cafe Theatre.

The section entitled Thirteen Good Plays (possibly aimed at attracting the more staid among the theatre-going public, but who may find themselves going into shock), includes a few well-established names such as Una McKevitt's and PJ Gallagher's Madhouse, based, apparently on the latter's true life, with Ma restocking the industrial-sized pill cabinet. The Fattest Dancer at St Bernadette's comes from the Breadline Collective, and features "Julian La Blanc's School of Dance and Drama annual showcase."

Christiane O'Mahony and For The Birds are responsible for Seahorse, about a 35-year-old over-qualified under-achiever… who is trying to be grown-up and wishes she were a seahorse.

Also worthy of note is Drip Feed, directed by Oonagh Murphy, and written and performed by Karen Cogan, which has already been shortlisted for the Soho Theatre's Verity Bargate award, and is co-produced with Fishamble.

Then there's the Inventors and Mavericks section, which includes Liv O'Donoghue's After, a study of the end of humanity and the world as we know it, and the presumably equally apocalyptic Unwoman Part III from the Australian feminist company The Rabble and performed by Maeve Stone. It's a world premiere.

There's Everything Can Be Dismantled, described as an "interactive fantasy about the politics of housing and a conversation about alternatives".

In Viva Voce, Lauren-Shannon Jones tries to solve the mystery of her own madness. Her exemplars are the "great depressives" Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Diane Arbus. It's described as "darkly playful".

With all that, and a lot more (lots and lots more, including a programme for young audiences), there is certainly plenty to choose from between September 8 and 23.

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