Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reggie Watts' sampler

“I have a little bit of a complex about doing the same thing every time,” says Reggie Watts about his strange hybrid performance style, which mixes sampling, jazz, hiphop and improv comedy in one very appealing package.

Watts is in Dublin as part Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival’s slightly oddball “East village” program, alongside Nick Paraiso’s House Boy and the burlesque extravaganza, Gorgeous Morons. So his show naturally includes a large helping of the unexpected – by design.

“Where exactly it goes on any night depends on the mood I’m in. And it also depends on what I’m into at the time,” says Reggie, the son of a French mother and an American father, and the owner of a munitions grade afro.

“At the moment I’m into 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar, which I think is a really interesting event, kind of like a spiritual Y2K. A lot of people are very watchful of that date. I like to give an absurdist take on the whole business.”

The Seattle born instrumentalist will take to the stage each night with his trusty Line6 DL4, something that he has described as “a commonplace effects pedal”. And from there on, “95% of it is improvised”. There are one or two planned songs, but for the most part Watts sings a phrase or two into the mic, loops it so that it repeats over and over, and then improvises on top.

“Sometimes when it works best it is just because there is something special in the beat I’ve laid down,” says Reggie “Something in it that works really well and the layers that come on top of it start to work out, and the layers take shape in an unexpected way.”

But there is another important ingredient that is all in the performer’s hands: “Music and comedy have everything in common,” says Watts. “…In comedy, like in music, timing is crucial. Really, that is all comedy is…timing.”

Reggie studied classical piano and violin, and played in bands preaching everything from jazz to rock. These days, however, he works alone with his beloved sampler. “One of the main reasons I thought about working in the way I do, using loops of myself in the music, was so that I wouldn’t have to bring a whole band around with me when I wanted to perform.”

But another reason, perhaps, is Watts interest in improvisation, his desire to let all sort of things influence his performances every bit as much as rehearsals.

“A lot also depends on the venue. Sometimes, if the venue feels more like a lecture hall, I go with a lecture. And if it feels more like a theatre, then what I do will be more theatrical. All of that really depends…”


Monday, September 24, 2007

THE CHATTER: Don't Don't Taze Me, Bro!

This week on Drivetime with Mary Wilson we are talking about University of Florida student, Andrew Meyer's hour in the sun, and indeed, moment under the Taser

++Click here for audio++


The Heart/Spirit of Darkness/The Fringe

As predicted a matter of centimetres from where your eyes now rest, The Spirit of the Fringe Commissioning Award for 2007 has gone to...The Heart of Darkness, produced, performed and learned off by Gavin Kostick. The prize of e4000 will see a new show from Kostick for at the Project in next year's Fringe.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival Race Card (first and final!)

Here are some of the shows you've almost certainly heard of already. But the message has not got through to everyone, like that woman i met in the clarence who seemed sure that Long Day's Journey Into Night was directed by Peter Brook. Yes, Peter Brook is in Dublin this year -- sort of -- but for a different show..

The Heavyweight Contenders...If you’re gonna make a splash, make a big one…

A Long Day’s Journey Into Night
When it comes to committed festival-going, show your metal with a front row seat for Druid’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the bookies’ favourite for the Crown. Tipping the scale at 240 minutes, is the reining Heavyweight Champion of the World, Eugene O’Neill’s unstinting dissection of Irish-American dysfunction, starring James Cromwell, (6’5”), alongside Marie Mullen, Michael Esper, and hometown hero, Mr. Aidan Kelly (see interview). And, of course, wielding the magic sponge of destiny, top coach, Gary Hynes. It’ll be a knockout – one way or the other.

The History Boys
Alan Bennett delivered a stunning jab with his The History Boys, racking up a shelfful of international awards with his quintessentially British tales of education and its miscontents. A gang of Sheffield grammar school kids have their work cut out contending with their teachers’ turf way. Luckily enough, the battle provides some strong parts for a bunch of eager British hopefuls.

The Playboy of the Western World
When it comes to a bit of toe-to-toe fisticuffs, you can’t beat Synge’s tale of attempted patricide and its aftermath. But anyone coming in search of a west of Ireland sheebeen, would be on the wrong track. Roddy Doyle and Nigerian born, Bisi Adigun have collaborated to update the action for “the new Ireland” – which in this case means re-making Christy Mahon as a Nigerian asylum seeker.

The Seagull
Hungarian company Kretakor Theatre have also been doing a little upgrading, this time on Chekhov’s epic of bizarre triangle of love and shotguns. Or perhaps downgrading is the word, as the company have ‘un-pimped’ the play, stripping it of its Nineteenth century trappings and performing it without props or costumes.

This one is for shorty...But it not all big and clever at this year’s festival. Some of it is small and clever.

You might think that puppetry and surgery don’t really make natural bedfellows, but Belgian company, Tof Theatre’s contribution to this year’s festival aims to rid you of any such silly preconceptions. Assist in the operation as Leon and Willy wield the bistour (that scalpel to you and me) one more time.

Private Peaceful

It’s not all fun and game you know. And to prove it, Alexander Campbell performs Simon Reade’s one man show about the last hours of a First World War soldier awaiting the firing squad, adapted from Michael Morprugo’s award-winning children’s book.

Young Critics Panel

And for the slightly older folks, The National Association for Youth Drama (NAYD) is offering an introduction to the noblest profession (yeah, right) with its Young Critics Panel (Project, 14 October, 1pm) where young critics can exchange views, or try out their hatcheting skills.

On The Case
Not strictly part of the children’s festival, this Australian spectacle promises mid-air acrobatics, turning the days of George’s Dock into a ‘vertical stage’ for a performance-cum-game that mixes wire-antics and video projections.

The Outer Limits
...Show up if you want a little challenge…

The Idiots (Project Arts Centre)
Gavin Quinn’s Pan Pan theatre company graduate to the “main” festival with their version of Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots. Not quite sure why (other than for branding reasons) everybody seems to want to make theatre versions of Dogma films these days, but I’d bet on Pan Pan to make the experiment work.

Bobrauschenbergamerica (Project Arts Centre)
Alongside a faulty space bar on their keyboard, Anne Bogart’s SITI also have a radical approach to theatre that happily mixes verbal gymnastics and physical verse in a manner that often works out as highly entertaining. Here they tackle the life of one of America’s best know painters, Robert Rauschenberg.

Small Metal Objects (Mayor Square, IFSC)
Outsider theatre in full effect this year comes from Australia, where Back to Back theatre first performed Small Metal Objects at Melbourne festival. The concept puts the audience into a public space in the IFSC, gives them each a pair of headphones and lets them work out for themselves exactly what the drama is – and where it’s happening.

Fragments (Tivoli Theatre)
Even after all these years (and the pornography of the Beckett Festival) the theatre of Samuel Beckett can be brilliantly indigestible, and never more so than in these late shorter works. This time around Peter Brook is in charge for a program that includes Beckettian dramaticules, Come and Go, Rough for Theatre, Rockaby, Act without Words II and Neither.

Aidan Kelly's mini-marathon

“It’s a bit like a marathon,” says Aidan Kelly about preparing for his festival show this year, Druid’s epic production of A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. “It’s not like you start out running 26 miles on the first day. You get one scene together, then two. And then you start running them together, and next thing you know…right now I’d say we’re match fit.”

Eugene O’Neil’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, is undoubtedly one of the biggies of the American theatre – in artistic stature, but also when judged by its running of around four hours. It ought to be, you might imagine, a pretty intimidating play to perform. While Kelly doesn’t spend quite as much time on stage over the course of the evening as James Cromwell, who plays the patriarch of a dysfunctional Irish American family, as Jamie, the most prodigal of sons, he is taking on the role that has made some notable careers.

“There have been so many great actors who have taken the part, Jason Robards was in the original, Kevin Spacey played Jamie, and Phillip Seamore Hoffman. Some really amazing actors…” Not that Kelly is intimidated. The actor, who is on something of a roll, after a barnstorming performance in Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus, figures any actor’s confidence would get a tremendous boost simply by getting cast in Druid’s production. “When someone like Gary Hynes offers you a part, that all the running start you need…”

Kelly’s experience with other festivals, such as at Edinburgh, where he has been with (among other things) the Abbey’s infamous production of The Barbaric Comedies, is that how ever impressive the bill of international theatre on offer, it’s still pretty unlikely he will be seeing very much of it. “It’s hard to imagine even. When you’re in the theatre all night, the last place you want to be, if you get any time off, is another theatre…”

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REVIEW: Gerry and The Peace Process (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin)

For a fine example of what the Fringe can do, look no further than Volta Theatre's contribution this year. The company's hilarious cheap shot of a musical uses vast resources of wit and imagination to over minimal means, delivering as funny a show about the past, present and future of Republicanism as you are likely to see.

Gerry and The Peace Process takes a radical approach to the business of writing a musical, combining the easy influence of the jukebox musical (re-workings of song from everything from Grease to Motzart's Don Giovanni supply the melodies) with barefaced pilfering (that endless resource for re-imagining, The Wizard of Oz gets mugged by Scooby Doo for one of the show's multiple endings). But the result, somehow, is both original and refreshing.

There is a whiff of undergraduate 'revue' to the proceedings, but that seems more a budgetary, rather than an aesthetic issue. Almost all the performances have a distinct dazzle, an intelligence that carries even the show's broadest moments, as Gerry set off on the long road to peace.

There is a parity of esteem when it comes to pillorying, with the surreal uptightness of David Trimbal (Jim Roche) and his dancing Orangemen, nicely contrasted with the equally psychically disturbed Adams (Liam Hourican, winningly giving the Adams we know a new, boyish playfulness) and McGuinness (a cuddly, grey granny of a performance from Sean Duggan) -- those double lives are clearly inflicting a psychic toll.

Roche is back again as Aonghus O'Snódaigh, a veritable Noel Coward of fey, Anglo pretensions, while Emily Kelly offers a ditzy Mary-Lou McDonnell, a neophyte Republican aroused by Gerry speaking "in Gaelic".

The show undeniably tows the acceptable line on Republicanism in the Pale, but despite such conservatism, there are enough good gags and surprises here to make sure the overall effect is wildly entertaining.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gavin Kostick's Memory

Just in case any of you missed it, Gavin Kostick dropped by the comments (also below) to correct my assumption about his performance of The Heart of Darkness. As this was but one of two shows that Gavin had up at the Fringe this year, and was to consist of Gavin performing the entire text of Conrad's novella, I had taken for granted that the playwright would be reading the text.

No, siree, there was to be no such whimping out for our man: Kostick LEARNED BY HEART the entire text, and then performed it over the course of five-and-a-bit hours. Beside a stinging disappointment that I missed such a show, my strongest feeling is a sense of admiration for the Kurtzian single-mindedness of the approach. No wonder that Sara Keating (writing in The Irish Times) awarded the show five big stars. If that ain't "The Spirit of the Fringe" then i dont know what is. Rrrressspect!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

REVIEW: The Babelfish Tartuffe (Ss Michael and John, Dublin)

As a fine example of high concept theatre, the Babelfish Tartuffe practically sells itself. A troop of young French and Spanish actors perform one of Moliere's classic 17th century farces, the script of which has been produced by pasting the French language text of the play into a web-based machine translation tool, the Babelfish of the title.

By this method, director, Jaimie Carswell and his Mangiare Theatre Company aim at creating a contemporary vision of the Tower of Babel, a hectic, confused place where language is constantly falling down around our ears, and constantly being reconstructed – by cowboy builders.

Tartuffe, like the language in the play, is a hypocritical fraud, a false friend. Somehow or other he has worked his way into the affections of the head of a wealthy family. But while he promises a connection with higher values, this impostor is busy feathering his nest. Now he even has his eye on the boss' beautiful daughter.

The problem is, it could be hard to learn all this if you didn't arrive at the theatre with that knowledge. For, true to its word, large parts of the dialogue are completely unintelligible. The actors add in the little peaks and troughs, the emotions that might fit, but what they say is often nothing more than a kind of babel. The performances, however, are not strong enough to carry a show built – by its own reckoning – on gobbledygook.

Yes, this is a pretty radical way to examine a crisis in meaning, but it's not that much fun to watch. As an experience it is rather like watching a classic piece of theatre, from another culture, in a language you barely know. The knowledge that there are no native speakers of this new tongue does not come as much consolation.


Monday, September 17, 2007

THE CHATTER: Chinese Cyber Strikes

This week on The Chatter on Drivetime with Mary Wilson, we were talking about the reports of hectic activity on from the People's Liberation Army's resident hackers.

++Click here for audio++

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fringe racecard 2007 (part 2)

So far we have had everything from a woman who can play American The Beautiful by sticking a kazoo where the sun don't shine, to a gang of Russians skinnydipping by moonlight in George's Dock, and all manner of song, dance and meta-theatrical action. But now it's time for a little more. The Curtain presents the second instalment of our guide to the Fringe.

Incarnat (Samuel Beckett Theatre)
Susan Sontag's book Regarding the Pain of Others is the unlikely inspiration for Incarnat, a dance theatre show by Brazilian company Lia Rodrigues. The source should be enough to suggest that puppy dogs and pretty flowers do not form a big part of the aesthetic here. Instead, the piece looks at the experience of suffering, and more importantly, the experience of watching someone else suffering, as the eight dancers take it in turns to conjure up their visions of psychic and bodily pain. Now, that might not be your ideal description of a night out, if you're looking for a headlong dive into the hard edge of contemporary performance, you've come to the right place.

La Clique (The Spiegeltent)
Over the years, the Spiegeltent has seen its cabaret stylings and circus skills, but La Clique comes pretty close to topping the lot. This collection of international performers includes David O'Mer, a "bathtub acrobatic" (beware any act that offers the front few rows the protection of a great expanse of waterproof plastic); "Captain" Frodo, a charming Bjorn Borg lookalike and contortionist; and local hero, Camille O'Sullivan – who despite the illustrious (is that really the word?) company, steals the show with some extra fine chantoozing. C'est craic, La Clique!

All Dolled Up (Project Upstairs)
If you've been paying attention, you will have noticed Panti slowly transforming into something a great deal more durable than just another drag queen over recent shows. In her last, In These Shoes, she created a sort of pomo presentation on the blondes that inspired her. But it was that show's gentle, evocative diversions into surprising West of Ireland autobiography that really clicked. Now, Panti is back with a show that promises to delve ever deeper into early years. Without letting up on the gags, hopefully.

Frozen Music (St. Mary's Abbey)
For anyone more comfortable with Samuel Beckett and classical strings, than drag queens, then a ticket to Frozen Music might be the best prescription. The show feature old Sam's Company, along with work from poets Eavan Boland and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, all performed by Geraldine Plunkett to music from cellist Geaspar Warfield.

Dog Show: Fido (Samuel Beckett Theatre)
Is this a little canine empire that we see emerging here? Actor and director, Garrett Keogh returns with the latest instalment in his Dog Show trilogy. This time around, the action focuses on the exploits of a dog called…Fido. Despite the commonplace nomenclature, he is a most unusual hound, a disreputable cocaine-fiend, given to sticking his muzzle into every bit of seediness that contemporary Dublin has to offer.

The Heart of Darkness (meet at the Fringe box office)

Operating way, way upstream, out of reach, deep in the jungle, is Gavin Kostick and one of his two Fringe contributions, The Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad's novella on the wages of colonialism – hope you are paying attention to Gavin, American – has already been turned into one mammoth work, Apocalypse Now. This latest production will see Kostick delivering Conrad's text (and we're guessing that means reading) in its entirety. Over the course of five hours and 30 minutes. Now, That's What I Call Fringe!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

REVIEW:Ketzal (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin)

Russian company Derevo kicked the Fringe Festival off on Saturday night in (literally) George's Dock, their shivering, naked bodies performing a short but thoroughly enigmatic spectacle in the chilly and rather murky waters.

For their main Fringe show Derevo have moved to the slightly more hospitable quarters of the Samuel Beckett theatre, but seem determined, all the same, to put their bodies through as much punishment of possible, and to maintain a distinct inscrutability.

As with the water show, the company of five (two women and three men) remain mute for most of Katzel (the title translates as "birds") as they act out a series of bizarre Neanderthal rites. Or perhaps play a series of carnival games with ornate props. Or perhaps, they are just larking about in their athletically lithe and acrobatic manner.

Derevo's theatrical style is one that remains sceptical about literary values, preferring instead to work with complex theatrical images and whatever complexities can be expressed via bare skin, tendons, bones and muscles. There's touch of Grotowski to the look of it all, but perhaps even more of Matthew Barney's protean humanoids dragging themselves at length over the set.

The company, shaven-headed and naked, bar a loin cloth, lead us into an unfamiliar, and often uncomfortable world in which unearthly creatures dance, cavort, fornicate, feed and generally get on down to an ever-present soundtrack which blends techno with Edith Piaf, whistling and some fairly random loud noises. Images of procreation appear regularly, along with flamboyant births and copulations. Men and women struggle, swirl like dervishes in billowing skirts, feeds from each other's breasts, spit mouthfuls of multicoloured feathers and pirouette in the half-light for the pure fun of it all.

It is the sort of thing that is supposed, you imagine, to get in under the audiences defences as they meditate (often at slightly greater length than they might wish) on Katzel's extended series of wordless theatrical images. Some of these images are extraordinarily appealing visually, and, like the exquisite finale, lush and clever, a triumph of simple means. But here for some reason, dilution perhaps, the sequence adds up to a curious, rather than stirring experience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Chatter: World's Leading Celebrity Vlogger Posts Again.

The little segment on Drivetime is now going to be every Monday, at about 4.40pm, on Drivetime with Mary Wilson, on RTE Radio 1.

This week, on the eve of that high holiday for conspiracy theorist (September 11th) we see what the tin hat brigade are making of OSB's latest video blog.

The Conspiracy Club


REVIEW:La Clique (The Spiegeltent, Dublin)

One of the most irksome of "cabaret" problems is solved in La Clique, a lollapalooza of burlesque, circus acts and chanson, which opened this year's Dublin Fringe Festival on Saturday night.

With your average 'new cabaret' night, one or two dips in the evening seem obligatory, as the weaker, less structured acts pad out the bill. La Clique, by contrast, offers a succession of acts each of an equally impressive level of craft and entertainment value.

Gathering performers from the International (though English speaking) performance scene, La Clique has toured everywhere from New York to Edinburgh, offering its menu of excellence – if such an uptight term could possibly apply to a woman who plays the kazoo by sticking it where the sun don't shine.

The evening starts explosively with local chantooz, Camille O'Sullivan. It is easy to be a bit blaze about someone who performs so regularly on the local scene, but as her contribution here displays, O'Sullivan is not just another neo cabaret star. In this setting, her whispering, miaow, roaring, performance works brilliantly, grooming the audience into anticipating something special right from the start.

And whether your particular something special runs to Captain Frodo, therubber man who can – with a little twisting and bending backwards -- fit himself through the head of a tennis racket, or Miss Behave, a sexed up clown in a red PVC dress with a penchant for devouring long, sharp objects, La Clique has some in stock.

The show's most important trick, however, has more to do with the way everything fits together so snugly. Part of this at least is achieved by performers who all have enough charm to register as something more than just another acrobat, just another sword swallower, just another singer. The skills are never in doubt, but the ability to conjure up a sense of intimacy while, for example, flamenco dancing on roller skates around the tent, is what makes La Clique click.

Friday, September 07, 2007

THE CHATTER: Jobs shoots himself in the foot with iPhone (those things really have a load of features)

On this week's RTE Radio 1's Drivetime with Mary Wilson, we were talking mostly about Steve Job's rather flat-footed products launch and The Babelfish Tartuffe

iPod Touch and the iPhone price cut

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fringe Racecard 2007 (part 1)

This year's Dublin International Fringe Festival offers 118 shows in a mere sixteen days and something's gotta give. Whether your tastes run to scantily clad female swordswallowers, or scantily clad male contortionists, or even elsewhere altogether, the Curtain has the essential guide to the Fringe, with the Top Five must see shows from the Fringe's first week.

(Full program at

The Babelfish Tartuffe (SS Michael and John)
With a Fringe program, optimism and unbridled positivity is probably the best approach. I mean, who knows what The Babelfish Tartuffe will be like, but it' s already my favourite show. The shtick here is that Jamie Carswell and the Mangiare Theatre company have fed the French text of Moliere's classic comedy, Tartuffe, into the legendarily faulty internet translation site, Babelfish, and had the software output their script in English. Now, they are going to perform the resulting surreal computer re-writing of the seventeenth century tale of naivety, hypocrisy and an untrustworthy guru.

Ketzal / Incarnat (Samuel Beckett Theatre)
The award for most-hyped, er, that is, anticipated Fringe visitors this year… is shared between two companies. Russian outfit, Derevo's Ketzal, which mixes circus, performance art, mime, music and dance to create an abstract, extreme journey through human evolution, comes with a portfolio of boiling hot international reviews. While Fringe Festival director, Wolfgang Hoffman dubs Brazilian dance theatre company Lia Rodrigues' Incarnat "the most disturbingly moving reflection on human pain and suffering that I have ever seen". Beat that!

The Rep Experiment (Smock Alley)

Now is this a good idea, or the beginnings of a break-away festival. Working with a single cast, three directors will produce three different plays, and performed them in repertory for fifteen days. First off, Darragh McKeon directs a new version of Platonov by Chekhov, then David Horan has a tilt at Stephen Berkov's take on Kafka's Metamorphosis, while Tom Creed's production of German playwright, David Gieselmann's Mr. Kolpert closes out the rep season. The cycle kicks off September 8, but check carefully the dates of the show you want to see. That, or just take you chances.

Gerry and the Peace Process (Player Theatre)
The team that brought last year's funny, touching and weird, An Evening With Prionsias O'Ferfaille, are aiming even higher this year with nothing short of a musical comedy about the peace process with Big Ian, Gerry and Martin as protagonists. I, Keano meets Primetime, anyone?

All Over Town (Project Cube)
From the writer and star of the last year's runaway hit, Danny and Chantelle (Still Here) comes another dive into mayhem, this time directed by Calipo Theatre company's Darren Thornton. This time Phillip McMahon centres the action of his mad-for-it hero away from the Dublin clubs that our his natural habitat, and onto the backpacker trail in South East Asia, for a little 'gap year' action.

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