Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2006's Best Shows

The mix of theatre and music is hardly a new one, but in 2006 the sound of it all was at least as important as the words. But more than ever this year, music one was of the key pleasures offered by a trip to the theatre. And this was true from the more experimental shows that turned up for the festivals this year, to the mass-market products. Indeed, sometimes it seemed that the experimental companies has more in common with those who set out simply to entertain, than Dublin's dreary old guard, still besotted "great writing," "great writers" and the interminable Beckett Centenary.

So without further they are, the best shows seen in Dublin 2006, I'd say...

The Neighbourhood Watch This Award
"John Moran and his Neighbour Saori" (John Moran and Saori)
When they get together composer, John Moran and his Neighbour Saori sure must light up their Brooklyn neighbourhood, and for a few short nights this autumn they did the same for The Dublin Fringe Festival. The pair's hallucinogenic mix of sampledelic composition, storytelling and dance routines choreographed to the sound of car horns, cash tills, snatches of mobile phone conversations, Bach and Neil Young, effortlessly lived up to Saori's promise that "We do stuff that isn't really like anything you've seen before."

The Night of the Living Dead Award
This is Elvis (Laurie Mansfield/Bill Kenwright)
This is Elvis, a hyperreal recreation of Elvis' 68 Comeback Special and first 1969 concert in Las Vegas, was a bizarre, brilliant night of the undead that turned the business of Elvis impersonating into a vital, breathing art form. Irredeemably kitsch and undeniably haunting, Simon Bowman's hip-shaking monster formed the centrepiece of a show that was just this side of an orgiastic voodoo ritual.

The Literally Theatrical Fireworks Award
Emilia Galotti (Deutsches Theatre, Berlin)
When it came to grabbing our attention, German director, Michael Thalheimer, had the year's best answer. His version of the classic, Emilia Galotti, opened with the Gaiety stage filled with torrents of bright, white fireworks. Luckily enough, he had plenty of other tricks up his sleeve – including pinching the theme music from Hong Kong director, Wong Kar-wai's film, In the Mood for Love – to create a startling mix of music, stage design and movement that burned into the memory.

The Whist Awhile, Girleen, Good Things Come to Them That Does Be Waiting Award
The Playboy of the Western World (Pan Pan)
They left it right until the end, but Pan Pan's sublime Mandarin take on Synge's story of the man who (almost) killed his Da provided two hours worth of the best fun to be had in a Dublin theatre this year and improved our Beijing street slang no end. Unstintingly sassy and frequently smart-arsed, the production breathed homemade 65% alcohol-soaked breath into the classic. Niu Be (Mandarin for the dog's, we believe).

The So Much Better Than It Sounds It's A Miracle Award
Exquisite Pain (Forced Entertainment)
How come a show based on one little story from French conceptual artist, Sophie Calle – moreover, a story about getting dumped over the phone – told over and over again by two actors sitting at desks, reading, turns out to be one of the performance events of the year? Blame British troupe, Forced Entertainment for conceiving something so strong and so simple that it had the power to break your world into little pieces.

The I Must Go On (and on and on and on) Boobie Prize
The Beckett Centenary (The chancers, everywhere, forever)
They came to praise Foxrock's favourite son, but in the end they pretty much buried him. The year-long event (surely it was much, much longer than that?) did irreparable damage to the writer's reputation, uniting in infamy all manner of wideboys, hucksters and hangers on, and ensuring that if nobody stages another Beckett play / reading / interpretive encounter for another 100 years, it won't seem too long.


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