Archive for August, 2011

Edinburgh Fringe – My Half Dozen Events

25/08/2011 2 comments

It’s traumatic trying to select Edinburgh Fringe events and standing in the queue for the box office only makes matters worse as you’re bombarded with performers pushing their wares. But chatting in the queue can be helpful; it was great to hear so many people talk about Swimming with my Mother by Coisceim Dance Theatre ; but I’d already seen this inspiring piece of dance theatre in Limerick.

My Fringe did not get off to a great start with Ed Reardon: A Writer’s Burdenthe tale of woe from the fiftysomething failed writer. People around me who were fans of the Radio 4 comedy, Ed Reardon’s Week, seemed delighted with the live performance. But for me the miserable, self-obsessed, literary musings were monotonous and irritating; a case of what works on radio not making the transition to live performance.  

Things improved considerably with Bluebeard by Milk Presents theatre company. It is a playful retelling of the fairytale about a husband who kills off his wives, told in a cabaret style. The performance is playful, and quirky and uses music, overhead projections, dance and technology in a whirlwind of movement and energy. On the way out a woman said to me, ‘but it said nothing new’, to which I replied ‘butn it said it with great freshness’.

Alphonse – a one man show with a script by Canadian writer Wajdi Mouawad – was my top event. It is the story of a boy trying to hang on to his powerful imagination as he grows into an adult. The actor Alon Nashman gives an impressive performance in switching over and back between stories and characters while keeping the tension and coherence of the piece.

The Fringe show by the Belgian company Ontroerend Goed was disconcerting and uncomfortable. The audience is the focus of the performance – a man on stage directs a video camera into the stall and the audience looks at itself on-screen.  We did as we were told in response to directions from on stage, only to be reminded from history of how things can turn nasty if we surrender our right to choose.

Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage is a wonderful piece of physical theatre as it romps, crashes, and howls its way through a performance of an adaptation of the Beowulf story. Even if you know nothing of Beowulf, your attention will be held by the energy, pace and variety of the show that includes Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf being torn to shreds.

My last event was not really part of Edinburgh Fringe but a visit to Charlotte Square, the location of the Edinburgh Book Festival where I wandered among the stalls and sat in one of The Guardian colourful deck chairs. So the feasting on theatre and literature is over for another year. And Andrew Maxwell in the running for the overall Comedy Award.

In the Hag of Beara’s Footsteps

17/08/2011 Comments off

I was back on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork  recently after an absence of over a decade. I had forgotten the shock of seeing the tall remnants of the nineteenth-century copper mine at Allihies astride the rocks and the Atlantic Ocean everywhere I looked.

If my words were inadequate to describe the experience of the physical landscape of Beara, then one writer had no such problems with verbal inadequacy. I had not got round to reading Leanne O’Sullivan’s collection Cailleach – The Hag of Beara, so now was my opportunity to take the collection to the poet’s own place. The subject of the collection is the Hag of Beara, the mythic figure embedded in the Beara landscape: ‘I walk through paw-prints / the frost has dug,  / among the moist grasses, / my silver hair flowing / like a cat’s deep stretch.’

Michael Longley has described these poems as ‘linguistically abundant’, ‘sensuous and religious’, ‘celebratory and erotic’ in these ‘cool cynical times’.The power of the writing comes, in part, from the breathtaking verbs and adjectives that depict the physical landscape of Beara: ‘rain-waxed fields’; ‘the night moistening the darkness’; ‘the pine trees sap the damp air’; the ‘chanting of stone’; ‘ebony in the fleshing sea’.

Ocean and stone are the dominant physical images on Beara and also in this collection where both images mirror the inner personal landscape: ‘The ocean became the beating thing within me;’ ‘layer upon layer, the stone clasps around me, and my eyes fall to where the sea and mountains meet.’

‘Rapture’ is the title of one of the poems in the collection and rapture is a sensation that courses through the writing as the poet – accompanied by the ghost of the Hag of Beara – roams the Beara rocks and seas ‘as if we were not separate’. Go to Beara and clutch Leanne O’Sullivan’s volume in your hand.


09/08/2011 Comments off

Back in January I committed with great enthusiasm to the post a week challenge. But it became a tyrant. Then, about a month ago, without really planning it, I stopped blogging. I took a blogger holiday. It seems to have worked for this morning the urge was back – inspired by the magic of the plum-tree in my back garden.

It was a morning of black news; it seems that there is a black hole facing the global economy, and riots are spreading like wildfire across UK cities. But the plums gave me a lift.  Just as it seemed that I had picked all the ripened fruit off the tree – or that the blackbirds had feasted on it – along comes another bunch where the pieces of fruit just fall off to the touch. The crop has ripened in such a rush that I have had to find new uses like apple and plum crumble.

So this blogger is back – for the time being at least – inspired by a burst of seasonal plums.

Categories: On Writing Tags: , ,
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