The Queen Still Falls To You

Aifric Ex 3Artists: Hadley+Maxwell

Venue: Project Arts Centre Temple Bar

This exhibition was showing from the 26th of September until the 11th October in the Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival. It consisted of four assemblage installations all focussing around the theme of public art and statues in IrelaAifric Ex 2nd in the early 20th Century. The primary subject is a particular statue of Queen Victoria by Irish sculpture John Hughes that was erected in 1908 in Dublin. Aifric Ex 2Despite a long reign outside Leinster House, the statue was immensely unpopular to the Irish public and as a result was decommissioned in 1948, when it was put into storage at Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Eventually it found a second life in Australia where it remains today displayed in front of the refurbished Queen Victoria Building in Sydney and where the two artists responsible for the exhibition first encountered it.

Aifric Ex 1The artists, Hadley+Maxwell used Cinefoil to create casts of Aifric Ex 1elements of various statues, including Queen Victoria and then reassembled them in four separate assemblages or collages. The distorted, abstract manner in which the pieces are arranged reflects the secondary motif in a very chilling way. The underlying theme that pans the exhibition is the death of public art and the burial of those statues that have been discarded. The space where these pieces are displayed greatly aids this as an aesthetic, with an eerie soundscape playing in the background and specialised lighting that creates unnerving, yet powerful silhouettes. The overall effect is very impactful – striking, puzzling and at times deeply unsettling, and in many ways creates an environment that very much resembles a sort of graveyard for public art.

Review by Aifric Kyne

Welcome to the Ethics Committee

Welcome to the Ethics Committee

Welcome to the Ethics Committee

Words/Director: Katherine Farmar

Presented by: Deviant Logic

Smock Alley Theatre, 6-11 October 8pm, €15/€12

You walk in to find a sparsely furnished space. Two horrid plastic chairs, such as those found in schools or public works offices, and a table worn by use and age sit centre stage. A dim, cold light shines upon this set-up. It is bleak, functional and unappealing. It is the perfect backdrop for this strange drama which encompasses both the mysterious and the bureaucratic.

We are thrown in at the deep end with this production. An unknown woman reads to us from a book, telling us that our reality can be warped if one knows the method to do so. The next minute she is interrogating a confused and frightened girl who has just witnessed a bizarre, disturbing and seemingly supernatural event.

This interview sequence casts the audience into confusion. Code names are mentioned, monsters hinted at, nightmares shown to be realities.  Fortunately the writing is clever enough not to overwhelm us with mystery and provides enough detail for us to cling to and use as a spring board to pursue more knowledge.  Most importantly we are introduced to the central beast of play, the SCP, an organisation with the purpose of stopping the public from encountering those things that go bump in the night.

The frightened girl from the interview acts as a vessel with which to sail the confusing currents of the play.  Thanks to certain powers the girl has she is taken on as the New Recruit of the SCP and through this role she discovers both the merits of and the atrocities committed by the SCP.  The organisation claims to protect the world from the dangers of the supernatural, yet seems all too willing to sacrifice those same people in order to achieve this goal. It is in this context that we meet the Ethics Committee, a body within the organisation tasked with curbing its more unethical approaches to containing supernatural terrors.

The play is based on the SCP Foundation Wiki, an online shared writing project which details the workers, creatures, artefacts and events belonging to the SCP lore.  This depth of created history is clear when watching the play. Snippets of stories are released via conversations between characters and over the course of the production we learn just how deeply woven into the overall tapestry they are.  Little in this play seems entirely disconnected or without greater importance.

There are some magnificent performances in this play, where our understanding of the supernatural elements is brought about mainly through words rather than action.  The pomposity and arrogance of the character known as The Overseer is brilliantly portrayed by Jack Beglin, who also manages to bring a sense of pathos and engages our sympathy, though somewhat later in the story. Libby Russell has a slightly more difficult task as the much beleaguered Chairperson of the Ethics Committee. She manages to convey a world weariness and hatred of her work, while still allowing us to see her acknowledgement of its importance.

One or two points of characterisation could have been developed slightly more.  The motivations of the shady Site Director warranted more exploration before the end of her story arc, while it never feels clear what that character’s interest in the New Recruit is.

The Boys’ School stage in Smock Alley perfectly suits the play.  The backdrop of bare brick and the abundance of nooks and crannies lend well to this play full of dubious characters and shadowy monsters.  Characters lurk in our periphery vision and add to the sense of doubt and paranoia.

The writer is wise enough to realise that relentlessly grim sequences do not make for overly enjoyable viewing and so punctuates the script with moments of bleak comedy.  Mostly these are seen when Declan Gillen is on stage, whose utter dismay at the various jobs he is made do, including a hilarious cake eating task, elicited the most laughs.

The play is very reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s utilitarian based Cabin in the Woods, where ethics and the greater good are in stark conflict.  One could be very easily drawn into the play’s world, desperate to get more knowledge as things become ever more obscure. The play in fact felt too short for a world of such scope. It seems more like something that should be made into a mini-series.

If science fiction and fantasy are your thing then this engaging play is well worth the watch.

Review by Una Power

To See Or Not To See – “Hamlet” opens the Dublin Theatre Festival

Last Thursday evening saw the opening night of the annual Dublin Theatre Festival which will, for more than a fortnight, present world-class theatre from both Ireland and overseas in venues all over Dublin. The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre was just one of the array of theatres to host a performance on the first night of the festival with Thomas Ostermeier’s Berlin Schaubuhne production of Shakespeare’s most famous play, Hamlet. The festival certainly exploded into motion with this premier performance, as Ostermeier’s auf Deutsch take on the classic tragedy both grabbed and engaged its audience with an incredible set design, a soundtrack reminiscent of a Thom Yorke DJ-set at three a.m. and entertaining breaks of the fourth wall. Incredible acting (six actors playing twenty characters) combined with the powerful atmosphere created by the use of live camera and an ominous score made this production the perfect opener for the festival as it explored and exposed all areas of theatre itself. Running from the 25th until the 27th of September, Hamlet is just one of over twenty-five productions being presented during the Dublin Theatre Festival in theatres such as the aforementioned Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, the Gate Theatre, the Abbey and many more. The festival promises to be a fantastic gala as it offers not only the opportunity to experience theatre productions from all over the world but also an array of events such as talks, exhibitions and showcases guaranteed to satisfy all who take part.
Hamlet runs from 25th to 27th of September at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Tickets cost €15 to €40.
The Dublin Theatre Festival runs from 25th of September to 12th October in selected theatres. Tickets cost €15 to €40 per performance.

Mobin Pringle

Portishead – Electric Picnic Preview

EPIt seems as though the organisers of Electric Picnic have gone for a hip hop theme this year, at least in terms of  headliners. (Presumably) Opening the festival, ahead of the party rap of Outkast and the hip hop-meets-country-meets-blues-meets-whiteboy-funk that is Beck is the British trip hop outfit Portishead. Portishead are certainly the most head scratching choice of headliner. They haven’t come to electric picnic with new material to promote and they haven’t reformed after a long absence. They don’t have the back catalogue of hits, or indeed much of a back catalogue at all (just three albums in a 23 year career) that the other headliners have, and they arguably aren’t as well known either.  On top of that, their chilled out, slightly depressing, slightly paranoid brand of music seems to clash with the (relatively) happy go lucky attitude of the other headliners.

Eponymously named after a town near Bristol, Portishead emerged in the early 90s, as part of a burgeoning underground scene that was primarily based around acid house. Spawned from a collective known as the Wild Bunch (which contained other trip hop luminaries Tricky and Massive Attack, who recently headlined Marley Park’s longitude festival), Portishead consists of producers Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow and vocalist Beth Gibbons. Trip hop, as a genre, is notoriously difficult to define. Emerging out of then popular acid house scene, and being heralded as update of psychedelia, trip hop is best described as a fusion of several disparate genres, namely electronica, ambient, acid house and post punk. Musically its gloomy and haunting and its lyrics are often stream of conscious and introspective. More gothic than gangster, it was at odds with the rap that dominated the mainstream at the time.

On their debut album, 1994s Dummy, Portishead took the above influence influences (drum machines, scratching and sampling feature heavily on the record), and they added a strong sense of blues and jazz. These overtones, combined with Beth Gibbons smokey, cinematic voice, gave the record a film noir feel, as if it was the soundtrack to an impossibly cool James Bond film. The record seemingly took a number of years to craft, and listening to slick arrangements, its obvious why. Utley and Barrow are known for their meticulous production style, and as a result not a note, beat, sample or scratch sounds out of place. As with a lot of trip hop albums, its very easy to get lost in, despite the confusing, dark atmosphere the pervades. The album won a Mercury Prize, and is often credited with giving trip hop its first real exposure to the mainstream.

Portishead have two other studio albums to their name, but the other jewel in their catalogue is their 1997 live album, Roseland NYC, recorded with a philharmonic orchestra, which perhaps best showcases their experimental nature. Despite assurances they haven’t released any new material since 2008, though they have been touring steadily since then.
Portishead won’t be able to phone their performance at Stradballey, purely because they are such an odd choice for headliner. Like post punk, trip hop isn’t a genre that one readily expects to hear in a large festival setting. However if the band is on form, as they uniformly are, then it could be one of most unique sets of the festival. They have the potential to create one of those rare moments of beauty, where time seems to stop as everybody is transfixed by the sounds coming from the stage, afraid to make any noise or to move for fear of missing something. In some ways, a band like that is needed as a headliner. Portishead are sort of like the fucked up cousin of the other two headliners, and they’ll certainly provide a different experience to the bombast of Outkast and the irreverence of Beck.  If Outkast and Beck and considered to be alternative, then Portishead are about as far left of the dial as you can get. Hopefully they’ll capture the spirit Electric Picnic was built on.

Adam Duke

Outkast – Electric Picnic Preview

EP

Earlier this year when it was announced that Outkast would be reforming to perform a series of summer shows in honour of the 20th anniversary of their debut Southernplayalisticadillacamuzik, the music community at large completely lost their shit. And then when they were announced as headliners for Electric Picnic, I think it’s safe to say that many of us at Belfield FM lost our shit again (quite frustrating really as it taken us forever to find it after the first announcement). Perhaps the most original, entertaining, and creative Hip Hop groups of the last 20 years, the duo of Big Boi and Andre 3000 taking to the main stage on an as yet undetermined day (although realistically it’ll definitely be the Sunday) with what is sure to be an energy packed set of past classics? I think we were more overjoyed than the day we were allowed to swear on air again.

Judging from their setlists from shows they’ve already played this summer, we’re sure to see cuts from all of their 6 varied and consistently brilliant albums. From the high energy ‘B.O.B’, to the spaced out psychedelia of ‘Aquemini’, the Southern-fried hip-hop of ‘ATLiens’ to their earliest hit, the laid back ‘Player’s Ball’, Outkast have a wealth of tracks at their disposal to draw in the crowds at Stradbally. And yes, ‘Roses’ and ‘Hey Ya’ are going to draw in the masses as 2 of the strongest pop tracks of the last decade look set to bring the entire festival to a joyous sing along climax, but if you don’t know ‘Rosa Parks’ from ‘Ms Jackson’, remember that this is a band with more than one album, and there’s still a month for you to explore one of the strongest back catalogues in Hip-Hop history (and where better than this playlist I made during my stint as host of The Alternative Lunch on this very station, which you can find right here.

For fans it is a shame that Outkast have been so quiet since the relatively underwhelming film/album combo ‘Idlewild’ in 2006. While Big Boi has been producing consistently excellent hip-hop as a solo artist and Andre 3000 has stayed relevant with a string of guest appearances on Gorillaz and Frank Ocean tracks (as well as playing Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic ‘All Is By My Side’), what makes the reunion so exciting is that the duo work much stronger together than apart, Big Boi’s tough gangster persona perfectly complementing the hyperactive sex-obsessed odd ball Andre 3000. Even after such a long hiatus, reports from festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza suggest that this is half hearted cynical attempt to cash in (no Eagles reunion be this), and that the duo are delighted to be back rapping together and wooing crowds to the ways of their Southern Fried Hip-Hop. If anything, EP being at the end of the summer means attendees will likely get one of the strongest performances out of the Atlanta band as they’ve had all summer to perfect their set.

Are there any surprises we can expect? Well other than the as usual bonkers outfits worn by Andre (my personal favourite is a turban, ice hockey jersey and short shorts combo), I have a hunch that with Kelis also on the bill for the 3 day festival, the queen of milkshakes herself may join the band onstage to perform her guest vocal on perhaps the silliest (but also awesome) track from The Love Below ‘Dracula’s Wedding’. Of course this is mere baseless speculation and supposition (unlike my opinion that despite what the chorus of ‘Roses’ my tell us, the toilets of EP will leave no-one arguing the fact that our shit does indeed stank), but one thing we can say for certain is Outkast are likely to be one of the best sets of Electric Picnic 2014.

Paddy O’Donohoe

Tickets for Electric Picnic (29th-31st August) are available now from Ticketmaster priced at €229.50

He’s a Loser Baby, So Why Should You See Him? – Electric Picnic Preview

EP
Bek David Campbell, or just ‘Beck’ to you and me, is one of the most highly regarded and highly rated artists to come out of the 90’s. At a time when Nirvana was showing the world the meaning of ‘meh’, Beck came along and twisted this grungy style into a more quirky meaning of ‘meh’. He also happens to be one of my favourite artist of all time, and I stress the word “artist”. So naturally, when I heard that he would be playing Electric Picnic in the summer, I needed to lay down for a few minutes and weep tears of joy.

The best thing about Beck’s style of music is just that. He doesn’t sound like anyone else ever did before and ever will. He has his roots in both country blues and folk style ‘Americana’, while also injecting whatever style of music is popular at the time. He got his big breakthrough in 1993 with the release of the Mellow Gold album, which would feature the smash hit single, Loser. Loser managed to capitalize on the grungy feeling that existed in America at the time with its chorus line “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” becoming something of a slogan for the movement. But Beck never really liked to settle in with one ‘music scene’ and tried to change up his music as time went on. He would drop the song Loser off his set-lists, like Radiohead did with Creep, and went against the norm by releasing songs such as MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack. Many at the time believed this to be noting but a marketing ploy, and many denounced Beck as a poser. He set out to prove them wrong.

His biggest album is arguably the 1996 album, Odelay. This album had a bit of everything. It had the left over of the sounds of Mellow Gold, mixed with some reggae, hip-hop infused folk. In short, it sounds like noting else. One of the best things about Beck is that none of his albums really sound the same, with a couple of exceptions, but you always know that it’s him. Something about his style just rings through each album. The big hit of the album, Where it’s at, remains one of my favourite songs, as does the hauntingly beautiful closing song, Ramshackle.

Beck would go on to work with famed Radiohead producer, Nigel Godrich, on his next two albums, Mutations & Midnight Vultures, the latter of which being the album that splits most fans. I for one think its one of the most fun albums to listen to, and proves, like some other of his songs, that you can just write a bunch of nonsense, and have it be an absolute cracker of a song, with the right beat.

Next, Beck would go on to write what is, undoubtedly, the greatest ‘Break up’ album ever written in Sea Change. This album will rip the very heart out of you. Every note, every word, has such pain behind it, yet it also leaves you with a hint of hope. It was so unexpected of Beck, yet it is often considered his greatest work. He would return to his more upbeat albums, with some excellent songs emerging in this period, such as my favourite Beck song, E-Pro, in which he samples the amazing beat to the Beastie Boys So What Cha Want. His newest album, Morning Phase, feels like a sequel to Sea Change, and captures the feeling and tone of the pervious album perfectly, with some stunningly beautiful tracks coming off it.

At Electric Picnic, it can be expected that the set list will be made up of mostly Sea Change and Morning Phase songs, which will probably make it the most sober and tear jerking show of the entire weekend. This may annoy some of his fans, who just want to jump around to New Pollution, but I’m sure that he will be busting out some of his older tracks, and maybe putting a new spin on some of them, which he tends to do. No matter what he sings, I’m sure that Beck will be the highlight of the weekend for me, and many others.

Rob Mangan

Tickets for Electric Picnic (29th-31st August) are available now from Ticketmaster priced at €229.50