This has been another sterling year at the Dublin Theatre Festival. Team GCN caught so many fantastic and challenging works, our only regret is that we didn’t see more. We ended our journey on a high note with a piece that upended the usual fears of dreaded audience participation, a new opera by Enda Walsh and Conor McPherson’s moody and magnificent tale of vampires in London.
The Fever is a show that heavily involves the oft dreaded audience participation, but don’t panic, it does so for a reason and with simple, affecting results. It’s a meditation on the ideas of group dynamics, openness and our collective willingness to engage with one another played in real time in practical ways. It’s clearly simultaneously alluding to much bigger more daunting themes for a globalized 2018 society; isolation, loneliness and individualism to name a few.
The theatre company 600 Highwaymen created this piece as a response to the United States’ polarised social and political climate with empathy as the key contemplation. Lighting and sound keeps the viewer in a theatrical mood even if the engagement level from the audience is more physical and literal than a regular ‘show’.
The device of audience as metaphor will either thrill you or leave you cold but it’s an interesting provocation and an intriguing exercise in togetherness.
An ingenious dare to any critics considering giving it a bad review, Conor McPherson’s St Nicholas is a one man show about a theatre critic so jaded he deliberately tears plays to shreds, including ones he hasn’t seen. That’s a great provocation in and of itself, but events take a curiously dark and satisfying twist when he runs afoul of a group of vampires. Yes, vampires.
Brendan Coyle confidently commands the stage in a solo performance, holding court from his chair, at times walking amongst the audience, breaking the fourth wall by directing his attention to those watching. The wallpapered-over windows letting in ever changing light as the night draws on, and the soundscape of a living city outside add to the feeling we have wandered into this man’s room, and my does he have a story to tell.
There’s a very simple way of describing an enjoyable show, and that is ‘a good story, well told’. And that’s exactly what this is, although you could probably substitute ‘great’ for ‘good’. In a festival of excellent offerings, Nicholas was this viewer’s favourite. A perfect, perfectly moody way to spend the run up to Halloween, this couldn’t come more highly recommended.
If you’re partial to an occasional croque-monsieur, then you’re a potential fan of Irish opera productions. So let’s begin in kindness with the good elements of director Enda Walsh’s vaunted Bluebeard’s Castle by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.
The music is incredible. If you went and closed your eyes and just listened, you wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s chilling and hair-raising with moments of extreme tension. The vibrations and tones evoke fear, horror and pain. The music really tells us the story. It’s majestic and masterful.
But closing your eyes during the performance, is that something an audience member should consider? Mezzo-Soprano Paula Murrihy and Bass Joshua Bloom are undeniably vocally virtuosic. You would have to be to perform this opera. But not quite as impressive was their interpretation of their characters. They seemed to be disconnected from the world they were set in and you shouldn’t have to say – it’s beautiful if you don’t look.
© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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