Live Collision 2015

LiveCollision15I am always very appreciative of festivals who bring international artists to Dublin, especially smaller, more niche performers who generally don’t tour that often. This year’s Live Collision programme is a great mix of Irish and international artists. Visiting artists are also doing workshops or collaborating with Dublin-based performers, which I think is a great way to keep a festival vibrant and meaningful to local artists and audiences. This blog post is late – Live Collision started on Wednesday, so it’s half over at this stage, but there is still lots to enjoy.

There is an Artist Salon workshop on Friday afternoon with UK artists Curious. You have to bring with you some sort of ‘information’ about your body that is invisible to the naked eye. The workshop will involve writing and movement to create work both solo and collaboratively. Tickets are €15/20 and it’s on in Fringe Lab.

There are also lunch time talks taking place in Project on Friday and Saturday. These are public discussions, with questions from the audience. Friday’s theme is We are in Public, with Nic Green and Massive Owl and it’s about artists who create participatory work. Nic Green is part of this year’s festival and also did Trilogy in the Fringe in 2010, which I participated in. Massive Owl are doing an Artist Exchange with three Dublin-based performers as part of Live Collision. Saturday’s panel, We Are Only Human with Francis Fay, Amanda Coogan, Kris Nelson & Vaari Claffey will explore current trends in live art.

Irish artist Amanda Coogan is performing Smoking in Bolero in Meeting House Square on Friday night at 7pm and it’s one of the many free events happening across the festival. Another one is Nic Green‘s Abhann Liffe on Saturday evening. The meeting point for that performance is outside Project and it will take place at low-tide, which will be around 5.15pm.

There is also a performance in the Science Gallery as part of their new exhibition Home/Sick. It’s a live, interactive installation called 97 Years and will happen on Friday and Saturday at 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. Tickets are €8 and available from the Science Gallery website. It’s nice to see the festival spread across the city.

And of course, there’s the main events of the festival – the double bill performances in Project Cube. On Friday night these are Workshy and 27 and on Saturday you can see Stud and Dickie Beau Unplugged. Tickets are €15/13 which means you’re basically getting two shows for the price of one!

And if none of that tickles your fancy, there’s also a strand called We Are Dancing which includes 27 Club drinks in Project Bar on Friday night and Yes Yes Yes at Mother on Saturday.

So go – enjoy some Live Art! You might find it odd or irritating or inspiring but it’s worth giving it a go – it’s not scary.

Voting

When the polling stations across Ireland open on May 22nd, I will be on a plane to Barcelona to celebrate my parents wedding anniversary. I didn’t plan to be out of the country for the Marriage Equality vote and it seems a little bit perverse to be celebrating traditional marriage while the country votes on whether or not to extend that privilege to all Irish citizens, but my parents are forty years married this year and I couldn’t really miss the celebrations.

The flights were booked weeks before the date of the referendum was announced. I am sad and disappointed to not be able to vote. The government has been talking about and promising this referendum for a very long time, it’s annoying to be out of the country when it finally happens. Voting is important to me. In 2002, in my final year of college, I travelled home to vote on the very confusing “abortion referendum” when Bertie Ahern’s government tried to over-turn the ruling on the X-case. It was confusing because a yes vote meant you wanted the case over-turned and the laws around abortion to become more restrictive, or you could vote no and keep things as they were. By a small majority, the people voted not to over-turn that ruling and it still took the government over 10 years to legislate on it. That vote was on a Thursday and I went home to vote on Thursday night and then back to college on Friday morning because I was in final year and we were finishing projects that week.

MarRefIf I was here to vote on May 22nd, I would be voting yes in the Marriage Referendum because I’m a big fan of equality. I’m not that bothered about marriage but I recognise that my ambivalence is a pretty privileged stance to have. I can turn my nose up at marriage and say I’m not sure it’s for me because I get to take it for granted. I can get married if I want to or not. Anyone who wants to get married should be allowed to do so. I’ve heard lots of people be very enthusiastic about marriage, that committing yourself to another person in that way can make you feel like part of a team, a true partnership. Why would you want to deny that to anyone?

I really want this referendum to pass because a yes vote would say so much about this country. I don’t want to live in a backward, mean-spirited, homophobic country that believes that it’s ok to treat people differently because of their sexuality. To me, that’s what a no vote says – it says you think LGBT people should be treated as second class citizens. I want to live in a loving, inclusive society where people are treated equally. Passing this referendum won’t instantly make that happen, but it would be a step in the right direction. It could be great turning point for Ireland, which, let’s face it – has had a rough few years. This could be the start of something new.

To me, the people against marriage equality are against change. They are backward looking and nostalgic for an Ireland that doesn’t exist any more. But to me, Ireland is not a country that can talk about the “good old days”. We are forever discovering new revelations about how bad things were in this country, particularly for anyone on the margins of society. It’s a big step for Ireland to finally step out of the shadows of Rome and Catholicism and make it’s own decisions based on what it best for it’s people. I believe that equality makes life better for all people. I don’t want to have more rights than other people – that doesn’t feel right.

So if you are here on May 22nd, and you are eligible to vote – please make your voice heard! Check now to make sure you’re on the register and if you’re not, you still have time to get a vote before May 22nd. All the details are on the Yes Equality website. Maybe you think I’m a bit of a hypocrite tell you to use your vote when I’m not using mine. I don’t care what you call me, as long as you vote! If the referendum doesn’t pass, I will feel very guilty for going on holiday.

And if I haven’t convinced you to Vote Yes, maybe Bosco can!

(I’m not sure how I’d vote in the Referendum on the Presidential Age of Eligibility. I can’t decide if age and experience is more or less useful than youth and energy in a President. You can still have a youthful outlook when you’re over 35 but is there any substitute for experience?)

Project 50 Commissioning Fund

Project50Next year Project Arts Centre turns 50, and last Tuesday they launched the Project 50 Commissioning Fund – a fund-raising initiative to commission new work to mark that anniversary. In his speech, Artistic Director Cian O’Brien said that Project was built on with the belief that artists could manage their own affairs and to give a home to work that was outside the establishment. Project has not strayed from these core values. It still gives artists the confidence to manage their own affairs, often by supplying a little bit of help and support. At the most basic level, they have free wi-fi and a coffee machine in their reception area, and tables were you can sit and work or have a meeting! That alone is valuable to an independent theatre maker!

Pauline McLynn opened with fund with the first €50 donation, and a speech that made illusions to the possible children conceived within the walls of Project over the years, and ended by fan-girling over Henry the dog. There were children and dogs at this event which just goes to show what a welcoming and  inclusive space Project is!

Project wants to allow artists to take risks and make new work. The commissioning fund is specifically about supporting new work. It’s not about paying admin staff or keeping the lights on, it’s about keeping the spirit and intention of Project alive. This is something new and something big and I think it will be very exciting.

There are loads of ways to donate. There is a big donate button on the website, but there’s also a donation box on the desk in box office for your €10 or €2 or 50 cent. Do it now!

Friday Five: 10 April 2015

1. Podcasts. I recently started a new non-theatre, non-arts job. For the last couple of years I’ve been mostly working from home and now I have a job that requires me to get dressed and leave the house five days a week. So far I’m finding it’s a nice change, though the commute is taking a bit of getting used to. Instead of setting up at the kitchen table, my trip to work now involves an hour-long bus journey. I’ve been using these hours to listen to podcasts, including This American Life, Start-up, RTE’s Drama on One and Roisin Meets… As a result, I am really enjoying my journeys to and from work.

2. On my way to work on Thursday morning I listened to Joanne McNally and PJ Gallagher talking to Roisin Ingle about their new show Separated at Birth. It was a great conversation about the show and adoption in general. It was informative and a bit sad in places, but mostly very funny. The show sounds like it will be more of the same and will be an absolute cracker. If you enjoyed Singlehood last year, you definitely want to check this out. They are in Vicar Street on May 8th and touring around the country over the summer.

3. The International Literacy Festival Dublin program was launched on Thursday evening. This used to be the Dublin Writers Festival and I’m not a fan of the new name. I don’t know why they changed it. Dublin Writers Fesitval had a wonderful exactly-what-it-does-on-the-tin simplicity to it. It was a festival of writers, whether they were song-writers or poets, writing fiction or non-fiction, for adults or children. It celebrated writers in a very inclusive way. The International Literature Festival Dublin sounds exclusive and elitist. It sounds like a festival for people who get great pleasure from seeking out the obscure and the high-brow. People who say things like “I prefer their early stuff” and let award long-lists dedicate their reading. It also sounds like it was produced by a random festival name generator. Thankfully the programme is not as exclusive as it’s new name and features lots of interesting people. I’ve already got tickets to Jon Ronson and I want to see Johann Hari, partly because he featured briefly in my Collaborations play, but mostly because his book about the war on drugs, Chasing the Scream sounds fascinating. I’d like to see Irvine Welsh and the Alice in Wonderland 150 anniversary event.
They are also looking for bloggers, if that’s something you’d be interested in doing.

4. I haven’t seen a lot of theatre recently and I miss it. I like this article by British theatre-marker Chris Thorpe, it has lots of interesting ideas about the purpose and effects of theatre, but it’s this description that really sums up what I love about theatre. “making theatre is just a way of meeting people. The basic act of saying: ‘Hello, here we all are in this space together, and isn’t it weird we do this in a world where it’s so much easier not to?’”

5. Live Collision Festival. My favourite live art festival is back and I’m not out of the country this time! Details of the ticketed events are now available here and it sounds like there will be other, smaller events happening as well. Bristol-based company Massive Owl are are inviting three Dublin-based artists/companies to join them as Artists In Residence at this year’s Live Collision International Festival.

B.J. Novak at Project Arts Centre

– Do you want to go see BJ Novak in the Project?
– Is he doing stand-up?
– No, I think it’s a book reading?
– Reading from the kids book?
– No, I think it’s a book of essays, like Mindy Kaling’s.
– No, I think it’s short stories.
– Sure we’ll go and find out.

We didn’t really know what we were going to when we booked tickets to BJ Novak at the Project Arts Centre a couple of Sundays ago. As it turned out, he was readings from his book of short stories One More Thing.

One More Thing is a collection of over 60 stories of various lengths. Some are eleven pages long, some might be only eleven lines. As we learnt on the night, the version published in the UK has 2 fewer pieces than when it was published in the US. The stories that were removed both feature real people and were excluded because the laws relating to real people in fiction are different in the UK and the US. One of these was “The Something by John Grisham”, about what happens when John Grisham finds out that his latest novel has been published as The Something because that was what he scribbled on the front page and never got round to changing it. The other, which Novak managed to smuggle into the country and read to us in Project, is called “The Comedy Central Roast of Nelson Mandela”. It was very very funny. He also read a couple of stories about the trials of dating – “All You Have to Do” and “Missed Connection: Grocery spill at 21st and 6th 2:30 pm on Wednesday” and a wonderful imagining of the after-life in “No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg”, as well as “Julie and the Warlord” which was done as a radio play for This American Life. I haven’t heard that version but I doubt it could be as much fun as the author reading it aloud and doing all the voices.

It was an interesting experience hearing stories read aloud with other people and experiencing the anticipation, the pay-offs and the laughs as a group. Most writer events that I’ve been to include a reading, but it’s only ever a small part of it. The focus is really on the interview and the Q&A. Here there was no interviewer and it all about the stories. There was even a request section. There were a few questions at the end, and a brief discussion about where to go for live music in Dublin on a Sunday night. The event ended, as all literary events do, with a book-signing. I didn’t buy a book on the night because I want to get my hands on a American version. I really want to read “The Something by John Grisham”.

And according to Twitter, BJ Novak ended up in the Workmans. Nights out in Dublin always end up at the Workmans.

BJ

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015

JDIFFIf I’m at home on a Saturday afternoon, I will usually be listening to Movies and Musicals on Lyric FM. Not only do they play beautiful film scores and jolly songs from Mary Poppins and the like, they also don’t feel the need to give me a running commentary about every game of sports that is currently happening anywhere in the world. And I really appreciate that. A few weeks ago, my disdain for sport was rewarded when I won a season pass for the Jameson International Film Festival on the show – a truly excellent prize. Two tickets for as many festival films that I could see in 9 days!

I was delighted! I imagined going into the box office and coming out with a stack of tickets to rival the Fringe Festival judges or the Next Stage participants. Sadly, the film festival was all about e-ticketing this year which meant I booked all my movies online and was sent a pdf file of tickets. Instead of flipping through the stack of tickets, I scrolled through the document on my phone to find the right bar code. Using a bar code on your phone to get into the cinema feels like past and future colliding.

On the first weekend, each day’s films fell into themes. On Friday I saw recession stories. I Can Quit Whenever I Want is an Italian comedy about a group of academics, who due to lack of funding at their universities are now working in low-paying jobs as dishwashers or petrol attendants. They are brought together when one of their friends loses his research funding and decides to start making and selling drugs instead. Using their expertise in chemistry and anthropology, they become very successful businessmen until the local drug-dealers get involved, and it all comes crashing down. It was clever and very funny about a pretty depressing topic. My second recession movie of the day – 99 Homes – was much less upbeat. It was set in America and focused on the people losing their homes due to the financial crash and the businesses that set out to make money from that situation. With hundreds in the courts fighting repossession orders in this country, it feels very contemporary and the situations people find themselves in is heart-breaking. The performances are great and it’s the perfect film if you want to feel lucky to have a roof over your head, but a bit on the depressing side.

On Saturday I saw two very different fairytales. I spent Saturday afternoon with Studio Ghimbli’s wonderful Tale of the Princess Kaguya. This beautiful visual piece of art was also funny and moving. It’s stunningly beautiful, particularly the cherry blossoms and the Princesses run through the snow. It was also great fun with lots of silly, headstrong characters – the magical princess and her adopted parents, her hopeful suitors and her ladies in waiting. The Princess was a more independent, complicated character than Cinderella, who I saw in the evening, though that film was charming in it’s own way. Cate Blancett as the glamorous Wicked Step-Mother and Helena Botham Carter as the Fairy-Godmother were both fantastic and all the costumes were incredible.

It was one of the more glitzy affairs of the festival; held in the Savoy cinema on O’Connell Street, with the red carpet outside and the director Kenneth Branagh in attendance. He introduced the movie and did a Q & A session with Gráinne Humpries afterwards. He was chatty and very interesting to listen to. His passion for the project was very clear. He wrote a mouse script for the high-pitched, speeded-up squeaks of the mice. Apparently cheese features heavily.

Sunday’s movies were about work. In the afternoon, I saw She’s Lost Control about a woman who works as a sex surrogate and Listen Up Philip about an arrogant novelist who is so selfish and rude that he alienates everyone around him, apart from an equally unlikeable, older novelist. She’s Lost Control was slow and dark and hard to watch at times. The second movie was a nice palate cleanser because it was funny and nothing too terrible happened to anyone in it. It felt like it was about rich people’s problems and that were of their own making. None of the characters were particularly sympathetic.

The following weekend I saw Clouds of Sils Maria, Lost River and The New Girlfriend. There were no clear links this time. Clouds of Sils Maria is about an actress and her personal assistant. It dealt with ageing and fame and gossip and work/life balance, combined with stunning alpine scenery. I really enjoyed the relationship between the two women (Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart) and Chloë Grace Moretz was suitably bratty as the young rising star. Despite being a bit too long and with an odd ending, I enjoyed it a lot. Lost River was very strange. This was introduced by Saoirse Ronan, who is also in the movie, and I feel like she could have given us a little bit of an idea about what to expect. For at least the first half hour, I didn’t figure out that it wasn’t set in the here and now. I’m still not sure when it was set – an alternative present? A distant dystopian future? The near future? I don’t know. I had a lot of questions after this movie but it was full of fantastic images, Christina Hendricks is a dream to watch and I’m still thinking about it a week later, which can’t be a bad thing. The New Girlfriend was a French film about a grieving husband and how the death of his wife brings him closer to her best friend, and teaches him something about about himself. It was very funny, even though it started with a death, and very visual with a few strange dream-sequences or possible dream-sequences – it was an odd kind of movie. The characters were very French. I really liked it.

I’m sorry that I didn’t see more European cinema because they do have a different take on the world that the American movies that I mostly saw. I probably should have seen at least one documentary. I had a great time with my season pass and I will definitely be going back for more at next year’s festival!

I did notice very quickly that very few of the films I saw passed the Bechel test. (To pass the Bechdel, a film must a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation about something other than men.) This isn’t the festival’s fault – I choose the films! Mostly based on the photo and description in the programme and my own availability. Tale of the Princess Kaguya passes, as does Cinderella, if you count the Ugly Step-Sisters bossing her about as “a conversation about something other than a man”. She’s Lost Control passes easily and so does Clouds of Sils Maria. The New Girlfriend sort of does. Lost River scrapes a pass for a conversation between Cat and Billy at work. In the others, the women barely features and only in relation to the men in their lives. I must try harder to see more female centric films!

Self-confessed film fanatic Marya E Gates is doing just that in her A Year With Women – “in 2015, every movie I watch (at home or in theaters) will either be written by, directed by, co-written by or co-directed by women.” She talks about She’s Lost Control on her YouTube channel (her cat features heavily in this video). I follow her on twitter (@oldfilmsflicker) and love her enthusiasm for movies.