January Treats

Sometimes the last few weeks of December can feel like hard work. There’s all those jobs that need to be done by the end of the year; the days that are too short and too dark; there’s so many nights out and so many hangovers and so much rain. Then the holidays come and it’s a relief to just relax in front of the tv or the fire, eating and drinking and sleeping too much; ignoring the fact that soon it will be January when the days will be just as short and dark and the weather just as miserable, but with no Christmas break to look forward to. Instead there’ll just be counting the days until payday and failing to live up to New Year’s resolutions made in happier, more hopeful times.

So it’s a good idea to do something nice for yourself and plan a couple of treats for January. I know I will need something to help me get through that long month. It might be connected to a resolution but it must be something fun. Something far away from that faithful trinity of resolutions – diet, exercise and managing your money. For me, this usually means booking tickets. Last year it was Walworth Farce, which I’d booked in November and definitely brighten up my January! This year, I have tickets for Nollaig na mBan at the Irish Writers Centre on January 6th and the Theatre of Change at the Abbey at the end of January.

Nollaig_na_mBanI booked my ticket for Nollaig na mBan really early this year because last January, I only got in by the skin of my teeth. (Thankfully sometimes throwing yourself at the mercy of the waiting list works out!) It was a really fun night in the Irish Writers Centre; Una Mulally quoted Constance Markievicz and Tara Flynn managed to be very funny about Ireland’s lack of reproduction rights. Other speakers talked about mental health, being a “lovely girl” and apologising too much. The panel discussion included lots of recommendations of great books by women which I’d forgotten by the time I’d got home because I got carried away by the wine and the Secret Santa-style book-swap at the end of evening. It was a really fun night and I enjoyed it immensely. Sadly it’s already sold out for this January but the waiting list worked out for me last year so it’s maybe worth a try.

The other ticket I’ve booked is for the Theatre of Change, the three day symposium at the Abbey. This was the thing I was most excited about when the new programme was announced in October. I’ve been to the last two and found them fascinating and insightful. (I even did a top five of my favourites panels and presentations from the Theatre of War, with YouTube links.) For this year’s Theatre of Change, I’m hoping for forward-looking, optimistic discussions but I don’t really know what to expect. One of the things I’ve liked about the last couple of years is that the content was surprising; often it was the speakers I didn’t know that I found the most fascinating, and the topics that I didn’t even know I was interested in were where I learnt the most. I know that spending three days in the Abbey listening to a bunch of artists and academics talking may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but to a giant theatre-nerd like myself it makes me very happy. Tickets are still on sale if you feel the same way. The €50 Early Bird tickets are available until December 31st.

Other January treats
First Fortnight – the mental health arts festival begins on January 1st and there are events happening all over Dublin until January 16th. I’m hoping to see some of the plays that I missed during the Fringe, and maybe some of the visual arts exhibitions and discussions. I’m also looking forward to Enthroned – “a modern fairytale charting a woman’s journey to confirm her right to existence” which takes place in St. Patrick’s Hospital.

What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now
This exhibition is on at IMMA until the 7th February. Featuring modern and contemporary masterworks from the world’s leading collections by Abramović, Brancusi, Dalí, Duchamp Ernst, Giacometti, Oppenheim, Picasso, Warhol, Yoko Ono, and many more.

Dublin Old School – there are still some tickets available for this show in Project Arts Centre, 12th – 16th of January. I loved it last year – it’s really energetic and manages to be both funny and sad. It was one of my theatre highlights of 2014.

Dublin Film Festival isn’t happening until February but you could buy yourself a gift voucher now and make sure that you definitely go and see something during the festival.

Or if you fancy a bit of self-improvement, you could sign up for a class. This January, the Science Gallery are running short courses on how to make an app, web development and getting to grips with the Raspberry Pi, a tiny but powerful computer. The Irish Writer’s Centre has loads of courses coming up in the New Year, as does the very reasonably priced People’s College.

Whatever you do, do something nice in January.

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Friday Five: The Abbey’s Theatre of War

The Abbey have started putting the Theatre of War sessions online. Here are my top five talks/panels/sessions from the three days. It’s was difficult to choose only five because the symposium was full of interesting things. I’ve cheated a little bit because Day 3 hasn’t gone online yet. If it was, I would have had to include Marina Carr’s talk Art, Beauty, War about the women in Greek plays. The talks are about an hour long, the panels are closer to an hour and a half.

1. David Cotterrell, Subjective Documentary. David was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust as a war artist and sent out to capture the war in Afghanistan. His talk covers information about how the public perception of the war is managed, and how difficult (if not impossible) it is to prepare for the horrors of war. And this was in a war hospital/camp, rather than a conflict zone. It is a terrifying insight into those unseen areas and very interesting to hear it from a non-military person.

2. Patrick Cockburn talked about The Rise of the Islamic State and the situation in the Middle East. I found it fascinating to hear someone speaking so knowledgeably about a subject that I only have small, scattered chunks of information about, but very little understanding. It seems like Islamic State have appeared out of nowhere, but Cockburn described how it was really not a complete surprise. It was bubbling for a long time.

3. Artistic Response to Conflict and War. There were so many interesting people on this panel, it’s definitely worth a watch. John Scott talks about his work with survivors of torture, people who have come to Dublin. Hope Azeda talked about making theatre Rwanda and was so incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring! Dijana Milosevic speaks about DAC theatre in Belgrade and Naomi Wallace and Ismail Karim Khalidi read from her play One Short Sleepe.

4. Barriers: Responses and Reactions to Walls, Barriers and Boundaries was a panel discussion that talked about walls and barriers in Belfast and Palestine. (There’s also a great talk on how Palestine is fragmented by Ray Dolphin, if you are interested – The Fragmentation of Palestine)

5. War Correspondents was a performance from Helen Chadwick Song Theatre and it was a lovely way to end the second day. Helen interviewed war correspondents and put those interviews to song. Again, it’s a great insight into the lives and work of those people but it’s also a simple and beautiful performance piece. The songs will stick in your head! It’s not a full performance, more a taste of what the show is like.