Review: Eggsistentialism, Belltable Arts Hub 9 September

eggsistentialism-e1468285941215Eggsistentialism, 9 September 2016 Venue: Belltable Arts Hub, Limerick. Written and performed by: Joanne Ryan. Directed by: Veronica Coburn

“To baby or not to baby?” That is the question posed in this brutally honest and exceptionally amusing autobiographical theatre piece.

While suffering from a terrible hangover on her 35th birthday, actress Joanne Ryan begins to ponder one of those big life decisions and her search for an answer leads her to fortune tellers and fertility clinics alike. She mines her experience of family, cross-examines friends, observes parenthood in action and does extensive research with the dedication of a PhD student. The result is equal parts theatre, stand up comedy and multimedia presentation.

The writing is sharp, imbued with personality and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Although having a child is an immensely personal decision, motherhood and its place in Ireland and the world get an airing too. At one stage, the audience gets a speedy account of some key moments in Irish legal, social and popular cultural history in the 20th century. Her life (and egg count) might be under the microscope but introducing political context encourages the audience to think and interrogate along with her. Are women defined according to whether they have children or not? Can you have a fulfilling life and legacy without offspring? Do children make your life hell through a canny combination of sleep deprivation and extra housework, not to mention disfiguring your nether regions? There is a balance between the serious and irreverent.

ahppnbooArt imitating life is to the fore here so the acting was very natural. Ryan is a natural comedienne with a line in self-deprecating delivery. I was in tears from laughter a lot. The actress detailing her results on online parenting quizzes and reading excerpts from dodgy 1980s parenting books are particular highlights. But her jocular stage presence is offset with scenes of real poignancy too. She very occasionally slips into lecture mode, bad egg puns and playing for laughs but those are rare and forgivable. She did well to compete with the continual scene stealing of her mother, Gloria, whose recorded voice and opinions play a great supporting role. Rob, her boyfriend, and other voices pepper the piece too.

The production design was outstanding. Hats off to Pauric Hackett (production manager, set & lighting design), Sinead Diskin (sound design) and Neil O’Driscoll (animation). The animations, using 3D projection, augmented the minimalistic set and made things visually interesting, from online news articles to timelines; the cartoons ensure the play isn’t a complete Vagina Monologue. The voice recordings and music are essential to the piece and again, provide variety to the show. Many aspects of the production are impressive. It was conceived first in Hatch LK (a Limerick theatre incubation project) before being developed further with UK outfit, Theatre Uncut, Fishamble’s New Play Clinic and went from page to stage under director, Veronica Coburn.

As a woman in my early thirties, you could say I’m bang on target audience but judging by the positive reaction of the audience comprised of both men and women of all ages, I wasn’t the only one for whom it resonated. Next stop for the play is the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival (12-17 September) and Smock Alley Theatre and I would heartily recommend going to see it.

It’s difficult to stand up alone and bare your real-life hopes and fears to an audience, especially on such a private and simultaneously public topic. The play is confessional, engaging, thought-provoking and damn funny. Joanne Ryan has given birth to a real bundle of joy in Eggsistentialism.

More information on the play here.BT logo

PS: It was lovely to see a nearly full house at the Belltable again! It’s been a turbulent few years for the venue and now it’s back on track with its autumn/winter programme. For more information, click here.

When Breath Turns To Air… art exhibition 23-28 May

-1This art exhibition about death and dying is opening next Monday (23 May) in Limerick and it will expire (ahem, see what I did there) the following Saturday so be sure to check it out while you can.

When Breath Turns To Air… is presented by a collective called Kicking the Bucket—which facilitated a series of seminars/workshops in which participants creatively explored and discussed issues relating to illness, death and dying.

The show—which takes place in CB1 Gallery and ChristChurch, 51a O Connell Street (next to USIT and the White House Bar)—comprises personal expressions and work from the participants relating to illness, dying and death, which includes videos, paintings, drawings, death/life masks, memento mori, and coffins.

It will include contributions from Sinead Dinneen, Pauline Goggin, Maire Walsh, Tracy Fahy, Jennifer Moran Stritch, Holly Cowman, Margaret Hough, Pat Boland, Ali Baker Kerrigan, Donna Curtin and Katie Verling.

The blurb reads: “Neither grim nor macabre the exhibition reflects the title of the group – Kicking the Bucket, and is beautiful, provocative, fun, engaging and thought provoking. The aim of the exhibition is to prompt discussions about the inevitability of death and to encourage conversations with friends, families and the wider community.”

Katie Verling and Sinead Dineen devised Kicking the Bucket. Katie is an artistic director, and curator and Sinead is a visual artist, teacher and performer. They share a lively interest in end-of-life issues, an understanding of serious illness and cancer treatment. Sinead is currently in treatment for ovarian cancer while Katie received treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Kicking the Bucket is proudly funded by Milford Care Centre’s Compassionate Communities initiative.

When Breath Turns To Air… is opening Monday 23 May 23 at 7pm and runs Tuesday 24 May to Saturday 28 May, 11am-5pm daily.

Belltable Arts Hub Reopens!

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The building decked out for its re-launch.

I was never more pleased to be at launch than last Thursday (7 April) for the official reopening of the Belltable Arts Hub!

It’s been quite a turbulent few years for the venue at 69 O’Connell Street with resignations, refurbishments, noise disturbances, liquidation and the uncertainty that followed all of that. The last time I wrote about the Belltable I did a very long post recounting the whole saga BUT now the second age of the Belltable has finally arrived.

The reopening was a jubilant affair, complete with a street party and flash mobs. Speakers on the night included outgoing board chairman, Brendan Lane and Louise Donlon, Manager of the Lime Tree, who with her team has made a big contribution to keeping the Belltable alive. In a very fitting way Bríd Dukes, the founding artistic director, cut the ribbon—almost exactly 35 years after the centre first opened in 1981. At the time, regional arts centres were non-existent and as one of the first, the Belltable put Limerick on the cultural map.

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The new logo

The Belltable is now under the auspices of the Lime Tree Theatre at Mary Immaculate College, which has a five-year lease with Limerick City & County Council to run it. Another welcome return is the name, which can be used after “a lengthy litigation process”. Yikes! There was always a question over whether the brand had been damaged but I think that with all the positive memories associated with it, it was worth fighting for.

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Incoming Chairman of the Board, Colm O’Brien, at the new look bar

It has a new Programme Director in Marketa Dowling. As a former general manager of Fishamble: The New Play Company, she will bring vast experience to the role. Additions to the board include Riverdance composer, Bill Whelan and Colm O’Brien—CEO of Carambola Kidz and founder of Limerick’s Theatre at the Savoy. All these appointments will greatly enhance the rejuvenated venue.

The Credit Union building next door has been refurbished too to become offices and rehearsal space for use by local organisations.

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Some of the revamped rooms in the building next door to the Belltable, which is now part of the complex.

Although there have been events on at the Belltable in the past few years. The Lime Tree’s Arts Encounter programming has kept it ticking over splendidly but it will be a step forward to have someone dedicated to developing the venue itself as well as its events schedule. It is also welcome news that the Belltable will be an active participant in the local arts infrastructure again, especially in the context of Limerick’s bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2020.

After the mistakes of the past, I have a feeling that the Belltable Arts Hub has a secure future. I think I speak for many when I say I’m looking forward to attending lots of great events there in the coming years!

Féile Luimní to celebrate 70 years in 2016

One of Limerick’s cultural institutions, Féile Luimní, will celebrate 70 years of existence next year.

Having made a massive contribution to the social and artistic life of Limerick city and county, the organisation will mark the milestone with a series of competitions, a concert and by awarding special 70th anniversary Bursaries of Excellence, it was announced at the official launch this Tuesday.

IMG_1045I remember competing in Speech & Drama in primary school and it was a brilliant experience (our class group won a cup). Also, our very own Limerick Arts Officer, Sheila Deegan, has some Féile bronze medals for Irish dancing. It’s a real highlight for lots of primary school kids as well as musicians and trained singers.

The competition will be held in the first three months of the year—beginning in January with the Speech & Drama (Senior section, 20-24 January & Junior section, 29 January-3 February). The instrumental section will run 4-7 February. Applications are now closed for these competitions. The vocal competition will run 4-6 March (closing date for entries: 9 January) and March 2016 will also see the annual Roinn na Gaeilge Festival—which places a big emphasis on making our native language as accessible as possible.

The venue for all events is The Redemptorist Centre of Music.

The committee is “appealing for schools and teachers to encourage students to attend and, where already entered, to participate, so as expose them to the joy of the sense of achievement and the self confidence that public performance brings”.

The Prize Winners Concert will take place on 9 April in the wonderfully atmospheric setting of the ancient, St Mary’s Cathedral. This will feature winners from Féile Luimní 2016, and will be a real night of celebration. The top prize winners in many categories of performance, along with the winners of the 70th Anniversary Awards of Excellence will perform on the night.

The 70th Anniversary Awards of Excellence feature a €1,000 vocal bursary, which is awarded to the competitor who excels across the four genres of: Opera, Oratorio, German Lieder and Art Songs. There is also an Instrumental Recital Award of Excellence of €750 for over 18s. There are also 70th Anniversary Awards of Excellence for Speech and Drama; the Joe O’Connor Perpetual Cup and a bursary of €750 will go to the Most Outstanding Senior Performer and bursaries of €200 will also be awarded to the two Most outstanding Junior Performers (male and female).

Anyone that would like to assist in helping to organise any of the events or who can contribute in any way to Féile Luimní is asked to contact the committee.

Secretary Mary Scanlan can be reached on 087-2208616 or alternatively, email: feileluimni@gmail.com.

For more information, see www.feileluimni.com.

Twitter: @feileluimni Facebook: www.facebook.com/feile.luimni

Light Moves Festival of Screendance this wknd

light_moves_bookinIreland’s only festival dedicated to dance on film and video art with movement as a central theme—The Light Moves Festival of Screendance—takes place in Limerick this weekend (19-22 Nov) and will screen 55 works by 92 national and international artists.

Highlights of this year’s programme include the European premiere of 24 Frames Per Second, a multi-arts commission by Carriageworks, Australia’s leading contemporary arts centre; Performance artist Nigel Rolfe; Renowned UK choreographer Siobhan Davies in a public interview; a special screening of Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, a screendance symposium & lab, and children’s workshops.

Now in its second year, Light Moves “is a response to the vibrant and expanding area of dance film/screendance in Ireland”.

light_moves_drawing_restraint_9Curated by Jürgen Simpson and Mary Wycherley, the festival combines feature films, invited works, open submissions and explorations of screendance with some of the most respected figures in this field.

24 Frames Per Second sees 10 discrete artworks presented at Dance Limerick, LSAD (Limerick School of Art and Design) and an outdoor installation on Lower Cecil Street.  This partnership with Light Moves, which is a European premiere, embraces an expanded notion of dance, with the selected artists practising embodied movement in a variety of forms.

Among the feature films presented this year, a festival highlight will be the special screening of Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, the most complex instalment in an ongoing series, begun in 1987, which seeks to explore “resistance as a pre-requisite for development and a vehicle for creativity”.

A new addition to this year’s programme is the invitation to leading figures in the dance/screendance and performance world to share their experiences through a guest talk. Seminal performance artist, Nigel Rolfe, will give a talk entitled The Caught In Between and Nigel’s works Track and Into the Mire will be screened as part of the Invited Works programme. Renowned British choreographer Siobhan Davies will be in public conversation with the Light Moves curators.

light_moves_carriageworks_gapsIn addition to works invited to the festival, almost 40 open submissions with movement as a central theme will be presented.  Over 140 submissions were received from 30 countries in response to an international open call, with those to be shown selected by the festival curators.

An important element of the festival programme will once again be the Light Moves Screendance Symposium, which takes place over two half-days during the festival. The theme of the symposium is ‘Peeling Away the Layers’ and there will a keynote address and various speakers.

Speaking at the launch of the programme for Light Moves 2015, festival curator Mary Wycherley said:“We present a festival of opportunities which offers new and thought-provoking ways of engaging with performance and movement on screen. The works presented explore and expand the notion of choreography, enabling the body to take centre stage whilst advocating screendance as a way of both making film and thinking about film and dance.”

The event is produced by Dance Limerick, in partnership with DMARC (Digital Media and Arts Research Centre) at University of Limerick. Light Moves was established in 2014 as a legacy project under Limerick City of Culture.

Full details and booking information from www.lightmoves.ie