Thursday 22 February 2018

Zeitgest... what's on this week - concerts, film, visual arts, stage

Villagers aka Conor O'Brien
Villagers aka Conor O'Brien
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Tribe
Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert
Peter Wilson, aka Duke Special
Marina Carr
Liverpool's victory in Istanbul in the 2005 Champions League final
Brandon Flowers

Paul Whitington

A review of what's happening in cinema, visual arts, concerts and on stage


1 I was never personally very much engaged by George Miller's trashy but inventive Mad Max franchise, which made Mel Gibson one of Hollywood's biggest stars. But for their many devoted fans, the original trilogy are revered as cult classics, so a lot of people will be very excited about this latest instalment, the first in 30 years.

Mad Max: Fury Road is spectacular to look at. It's also extremely violent, but fans of the original films would be asking for their money back if it wasn't. Tom Hardy takes over the Gibson role, playing Mad Max Rockatansky, a former highway patrolman who wanders the lawless Australian deserts in the aftermath of civilisation's collapse.

And very good he is too, but it's Charlize Theron who steals the show playing Furiosa, the leader of a small band of female warriors on the run from a deeply unpleasant fascist dictator. She and Max find common cause in a film that is bound to entertain fantasy and sci-fi fans provided they don't mind a bracing dose of gore.

2 Every so often, a film comes along that shifts and changes the language of cinema. Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy's drama The Tribe was first shown here during the Jameson Dublin Film Festival and in one sense operates as a silent movie. It's set in a Ukrainian school for the deaf, and tells the story of Serhiy (Grigoriy Fesenko), a seemingly shy and mild-mannered deaf teenage boy who kisses his mother goodbye at a bus stop and heads off to a new boarding school. Almost as soon as he gets there, it becomes apparent that the place is run by a vicious and remarkably sophisticated teenage criminal gang that's into everything from drugs to prostitution.

In a conventional film, Grigoriy would be the brave outsider who stands up to these feral thugs, but he displays a talent for violence and is soon rising through their ranks. The gang run riot in the local community like a plague of rats, and their assaults and attacks happen soundlessly, as all of them are deaf, which gives these scenes an astonishing power, and clarity. The Tribe is a bit like a cross between a Martin Scorsese gangster movie, an austere arthouse picture and Lord of the Flies, but that description doesn't really do it justice.

Currently on limited release.

3 James D Cooper's evocative documentary Lambert & Stamp plunges us into the heady atmosphere of London in the Swinging Sixties and tells the fascinating story of The Who's Svengali-like managers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.

When Lambert and Stamp first encountered them in a dingy club, the band, calling themselves The High Numbers, were a promising but rudderless outfit. Kit Lambert immediately set to work defining their musical style and encouraging guitarist Pete Townshend (above, with Lambert) to begin writing his own songs. He duly obliged with a string of Top 20 hits, and by 1967 The Who were big business.

Cooper's film is at its most entertaining when picking apart the creation of Tommy, the 1969 rock opera that both defined the band and shattered their working relationship with Lambert and Stamp. Whose fault this was depends on who you believe, but this fine documentary gives an entertaining insight into the madness of rock and roll.

Currently showing at the IFI.


By John Meagher

1 The Killers may be on a short hiatus of late but frontman Brandon Flowers has been busy with a second album of solo material. The Desired Effect is a real return to form after the last, moribund offering from his band (see review on page 14), and one wonders if he would be better off going out on his own. After the enormadromes that he got used to playing with The Killers, it's good to see the Las Vegas native playing somewhere more intimate.

Brandon Flowers, Olympia, Dublin, Tuesday.

2 Belfast native Peter Wilson is better known by the Duke Special nom-de-plume and although his brand of piano-oriented songcraft is something of an acquired taste, he has been going from strength to strength over the past 10 years. His latest album, Look Out Machines!, offers a return to the skewed pop that he offered early on in his career, but it would hardly be a Duke Special show without theatrical high jinks and the sort of art-house cabaret inspired by Bertolt Brecht.

Duke Special, Vicar Street, Dublin, tonight.

3 One of Britain's best known conductors, Charles Hazelwood, has helped make classical music accessible to many thanks to his work with the BBC and, in this, collaboration with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, he takes a close look at one of the most challenging symphonies of the 19th century, Brahms' Symphony No 3 in F. Hazelwood is a highly engaging figure with the baton, and without, and this lunchtime show/lecture is excellent value at €10.

Great Symphonies Close Up...with Charles Hazelwood, National Concert Hall, Dublin, Tuesday, 1.05pm.

4 Young London siblings, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham have little interest in contemporary pop. Their obsession is replicating the sound of rock's earliest days and they've done this with quite startling aplomb. While they have yet to attain household name status, their support slots are impressive: Coldplay, Mark Ronson, Razorlight. The trio have also toured regularly with one of their earliest champions, Jools Holland.

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Academy Green Room, Dublin, Friday.

5 Adored by the critics and steadily making inroads into the hearts of the general public, Conor O'Brien (aka Villagers) is fast becoming one of the greatest Irish songwriters of his generation. His third album, Darling Arithmetic, was released last month and found him favouring a stripped back production designed to highlight the strength of his songcraft. Greater international recognition is surely the Dubliner's for the taking in 2015.

Villagers, Olympia, Dublin, Wednesday, Thursday (then touring nationwide).

Visual arts

By Declan Long

Karla Black's 'Prospects', on show at IMMA in Dublin, is a row of 20 artificial trees with pale plaster-cast trunks and billowing foliage made from clear, light-catching cellophane.

Each of these fake, trashy saplings are planted in a neat, but entirely inadequate, bed of unboxed, crumbly soil.

Like a lot of Black's work, the whole flimsy ensemble looks like it might fall apart or fly away at any time.

For this widely acclaimed, Glasgow-based artist, however, such fragility isn't a failing.

Rather, Black is excited by how all manner of brittle, messy or non-precious substances might behave in each other's company - and by the diverse sensory effects they can stimulate.

Black has become well-known in recent years (making the Turner Prize shortlist in 2011) for sculptures that combine recognisable art supplies, such as paint, chalk and paper, with an exuberant plurality of non-art products.

Scented bath bombs, nail varnish, moisturiser, lipstick, eyeshadow: all of these and more have been piled, layered, scattered or suspended in precariously composed arrangements.

The use of such commodities could point, perhaps, to an interest in how the body is cared for, or how its appearance is enhanced.

But, as with the brand new works at IMMA, Black is less concerned with what her chosen materials 'mean' than in what they actually are.

She concentrates on - and celebrates - the sensuous particularity and physical vulnerability of everyday 'stuff'; creating airy, dusty, delicate combinations of familiar materials that escape from the expected stability of sculpture.

Karla Black, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Until July 26, 2015.


By Maggie Armstrong

1 Listen to Pavarotti sing 'La Donna e Mobile'. Excited? Should be. Playwright Marina Carr (above) and director Selina Cartmell (both a very big deal) teamed up to stage a new translation of Rigoletto. Verdi's 1851 opera concerns jealous love and abduction, fittingly seedy fare for Selina and Marina to set their stage in 1980s' Dublin. Their Rigoletto is an underworld of gang criminals and loud fashion. "It's a very shady world. The Duke is the leader of the pack, surrounded by his gofers," says Marina of her first opera. "Some people think you have to put on your black tie and gown to go to the opera. You don't. This is Opera Theatre Company setting out to reimagine the classics and bring opera to an Irish contemporary audience."

Tours nationwide until May 30, stopping in Dundalk, Navan, Dublin, Letterkenny, Kilkenny, Limerick. www.opera.ie.

2 Where do we stand on dance? Wherever it is, we better not just stand when the Dublin Dance Festival takes over the city from next week. Free outdoor shows abound, with hip hop on Smithfield Square (Renegade: Connect) and 80 dancers storming Grand Canal Square (Linear Flow). Damaged Goods travel from Brussels to The Abbey with Built to Last, then Liz Roche Company's long-awaited Bastard Amber premières, taking inspiration from a Yeats poem. Emma O'Kane's Jockey is also tipped as a stand out act at this different and daring festival.

May 19-30. Dublindancefestival.ie.

3 The Rubberbandits have a musical comedy. Not as we know musical comedies. The ghoulish Limerick hip-hop duo, now darlings of the London theatre scene, came home for their Abbey debut of Continental Fistfight and are on tour. There is no one else quite like them. See how they ridicule Irish celebrities. Forget propriety and go and lose it. Should be fun.

Lime Tree, Limerick, May 23; Cork, Everyman, May 31; Kilkenny, The Set, June 20

4 Liverpool FC fans? One Night in Istanbul might be one to take the kids to. Basing it on the movie, Liverpool playwright Nicky Allt assembled a dramatis personae of Scousers, chambermaids, thieves and coppers. I'm no Eamon Dunphy, but it's thought to be a great football story, full of heart.

Gaiety Theatre, June 2-6.

5 These pages are soon to be jostled about by summer carnivals, and sure enough the Cork Midsummer Festival just released its programme of play. The borders of visual arts, dance, circus, theatre, music and food will meld as Australian Circa bring circus (acrobatics, bunny heads, cabaret, elecronica); comedy troupe the Lords of Strut inflict a flash rave on the city; and 12 Cork restaurateurs create a banquet set to street entertainers (€45). Theatre includes Dublin Oldschool written and performed by the actor/wit Emmet Kirwan. Check back here and we'll tell more.

June 12-14 and 19-21 www.corkmidsummer.com.

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