Culture Round-Up Sept 15

It’s been a busy September and I haven’t gotten around to blogging very much so I’m going to do a bit of a round-up…

First up, Elemental Arts & Culture Festival (11-13 Sept) seemed to be a success. There was a definite buzz around the city centre and lots of family friendly stuff, which was lovely. I got to a few things as well.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 23.12.34I really loved the documentary, Alive Inside. I’d really recommend it if you get a chance to see it online or on DVD. It follows a social worker called Dan Cohen, who runs a non-profit organisation called Music and Memory. They go into healthcare settings, mostly nursing homes, to show how to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss. The film shows how music can benefit those suffering from dementia, severe mental illness and conditions like MS. They supply headphones and iPods loaded with music, preferably a person’s favourite music. At a basic level, it can give them a pleasurable break from routine but it can also help them remember things, connect with the outside world and ultimately, improve their quality of life. It highlights issues with healthcare systems globally and the way we treat our aging population. But it deals with music as an element of culture, how we experience it and the interplay between music and feelings. It is truly amazing the way people reacted to music i.e. Alzheimer’s patients who didn’t normally communicate are suddenly alert and even singing and dancing in some cases. It begs the question: Could a ‘prescription’ of music be as effective (or more effective) as drugs? It’s a combination of uplifting and heart-breaking but well worth a look.

On the Saturday, I got along to the Fab Lab to see Love Letters from Limerick—an exhibition of traditional sign-writing and the art of hand painted lettering. Local sign artist, Tom Collins, is involved and visiting sign-artists, Sean and Kayleigh Starr, took part too. The pieces on display are very cool—a lot of distinctive signs and decorative items like embossed mirrors. There’s also a new sign that has been created for the project and erected on the side of a building on William Street reading ‘Everybody else is doing it so why can’t we?’—presumably in honour of The Cranberries’ album of the same name. The exhibition is running until this Friday, October 2.

I also called into the Hunt Museum to see Father Browne’s First World War—an exhibition of photographs by the Cork-born army chaplain. He ministered to troops at the Somme, Messines Ridge, Paschendaele, Ypres, Amiens and Arras. Some of his photos were stunning. I loved the immediacy of the trench and battlefield shots. By the way, the superb, Ranks: A Limerick Industry, is the Hunt’s current exhibition. Blurb is: “The Ranks flour mills were at the heart of Limerick for generations. This exhibition celebrates and explores the role of Ranks in Limerick’s history through stories from the local community.” If you’re in town and at a loose end before 25 October, I’d urge you to go and see it. I saw it before and it’s quite touching. It’s a huge part of Limerick’s industrial past but the personal accounts are nice.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 21.24.25Also during Elemental, I had a look at Third Bridge by Andrew Kearney and Deirdre Power in Ormston House. The exhibition was “based on the collective action taken in 1983 by then first year students at Limerick School of Art and Design to construct a ‘third bridge’ over the Shannon, built from 180 polystyrene bricks, strung together, bracelet-like, by two 185 meter-long nylon ropes”. The effort “exemplified what Suzanna Lacy would later refer to as ‘new genre’ public art”. Mostly consisting of photos documenting the project, I thought it was very well put together and illustrated an interesting period in the city’s history. I would’ve loved for more photos to be in colour but it’s likely they were shot on black and white film. If they weren’t, I feel an even split between colour and monochrome would have been better but it was still a great show.  

I saw the play, Charolais, that night in 69 O’Connell Street. Told from the perspective of lovelorn farmhand, Siobhán, and a rather snooty French cow, it was very clever. Written and performed by Noni Stapleton, the black comedy is a tale of homicidal jealousy between a woman and a prize cow (literally). The solo performance was excellent—particularly when she was playing the part of the animal—and the writing smutty, raw and hilarious in parts. It premiered in Dublin Fringe 2014 as part of Show in a Bag—an artist development initiative of Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble: The New Play Company and the Irish Theatre Institute. I’ve seen some brilliant plays arising out of Show in a Bag including Bandit, Fight Night, The Wheelchair on my Face, Counter Culture and Connected.

The following Friday (18 Sept) was Culture Night and again, there was a fabulous buzz around the city centre with all the events going on. I called into LCGA, Limerick Craft Hub, the Hunt Museum, the Fab Lab and the Milk Market but the highlight was an Open House initiative at 4 Patrick Street. The building, formerly a shop before it was boarded up as part of the ill-fated Opera Centre Project, was also the birthplace of famous Limerick soprano, Catherine Hayes. You could only step in to see a limited shop floor space but then a young local soprano read a little bit about Hayes’ global career and sang excerpts from arias from operas Hayes performed in. It lasted 10-15 minutes max but it was a perfect slice of culture. I love the concept of Culture Night (and late opening of galleries/musuems could happen a little more often BTW). The hope is that it encourages people to seek things out on some of the other 364 days of the year.

To top September off, I was invited along to see Waiting in Line by local theatre company, Honest Arts, at the Jonathan Swift Theatre in UL last week. A sharp commentary of Ireland’s social welfare culture written by Pius McGrath and Tara Doolan, I thought it was observant and funny with strong performances. McGrath was particularly impressive. The set design was amazing; no surprise that it was nominated for an Irish Times Theatre Award. The settings were projected onto the background (with realistic animations) using 3D mapping technology. This innovative technique is possibly the future of set design and suited the fast pace of the piece very well. Honest Arts garnered positive reviews for production, The Mid-Knight Cowboy, at the Edinburgh Fringe and Waiting in Line showed at the Toronto Fringe Festival. This vibrant, young company is a definite ‘one to watch’.

Waiting in Line: Tonight & Tomorrow night (Sept 22 & 23)

Production Shot 2 Waiting in LineThe play, Waiting in Line, by Honest Arts will get a second outing on the Limerick stage at the Jonathan Swift Theatre in the University of Limerick tonight and tomorrow night (22 & 23 Sept.) at 8pm.

The fast paced social commentary on the ‘social welfare culture’ that has been created in Ireland over the past 25 years won ‘The Cutting Edge Fringe Award’ at the Toronto Fringe Festival 2015. Set designer, Mario Beck, was nominated for Best Set Design at The Irish Times Theatre Awards.

Honest Arts “combines Artistry and the latest in 3D mapping technology in this fast paced, thought provoking, physical theatre piece”. Directed by Tara Doolan, it will be performed by Pius McGrath, Eva O’Connor and Johanna O’Brien.

Reviews have been positive too with My Entertainment Review giving it a B+/four stars saying that “this company knows how to find counterpoint and comedic relief, particularly McGrath, who is just phenomenal at creating beautifully nuanced and distinct characters”.

Please note: This show is suitable for audiences over 15 yrs.

Honest Arts toured to EdFringe in 2013 with The Mid-Knight Cowboy which received rave reviews and was also performed on Broadway in New York. The Scotsman said: “…..McGrath is a talented performer, shifting through the generations with little more than subtle adjustments of speech and body language”.

Tickets for Waiting in Line are available on the door at the UL theatre, which is located in the Main Building on the campus—across from UCH.

For more information, email honestartsproductioncompany@gmail.com or see www.facebook.com/HonestArtsCo or Twitter: @Honest_Arts

Top pick for next week: Waiting in Line

Waiting in Line- Clare Langford- Image by Sam KeenanWhat is sure to be a really exciting show next week is Waiting in Line, which is part of the ‘Made in Limerick’ strand of Limerick City of Culture.

The intriguing premise by Honest Arts combines “artistry and the latest in 3D mapping technology in this fast paced, thought provoking, physical theatre piece”.

It is a commentary on the ‘social welfare culture’ that has been created in Ireland over the past 25 years.

The production is running from May 22-24 (previews May 21) and taking place Dance Limerick, St. John’s Square. It will be performed by Clare Langford and Pius McGrath and directed by Tara Doolan. Please note this show is suitable for audiences 15+

WAITING IN LINE - Pius McGrath - Image by Sam KeenanHonest Arts toured to EdFringe in 2013 with The Mid-Knight Cowboy which received rave reviews and was also performed on Broadway NYC.

The Scotsman newspaper said that “McGrath is a talented performer, shifting through the generations with little more than subtle adjustments of speech and body”.

Bookings by phone: 061- 467813 or online at: waitinginline.eventbrite.ie.

For more information, see www.facebook.com/HonestArtsCo and @Honest_Arts