Atrium by Manoli Moriaty And Echo Echo Ensemble 

Whenever you are used to seeing the world from a certain angle you realise that you have a unique perspective on everything that no-one else can quite grasp. 

When this particular reviewer arrived at this particular performance the choice was offered whether to go to the top and work my way down along with the performance, or stay at the bottom and watch everything develop above me and evolve from there. 

.The later was eventually decided upon, made in part because in this rather futuristic venue it might be difficult to see over stairways as the performance progressed. Also vertigo has a nasty habit of striking at the most inappropriate moment.

The performance in question was that of Echo Echo Dance theatre company in collaboration with Manoli Moriaty, a sound artist originally from Athens but who is now based in the UK. The performance was part of the ISSTA (Irish Sound Science and Technology Association) 2018 conference, during which the notion of urban society being a contested space would be explored.
So it was that the performance began at ground level, bodies twisting and turning in slow movement, exploring the environment around them. As these strange creatures in this futuristic jungle become more aware of their surroundings. All the while a soundtrack of hypnotic, almost nauseating music is heard. These strange creatures, like currents of electricity began to explore their steel surroundings, occasionally returning to each other for comfort and warmth.

Soon these strange creatures burst into chitter chatter; as if someone had turned on a switch and they were suddenly realising the power of speech. As you watch this strange urban jungle, where evolution and electricity coexist the onlooker can feel like somewhat of a voyeur; like a David Attenborough programme, watching these newly created electrical beings coming to life and exploring a new world. The interaction between the audience and the performer at times made it seem as if the onlooker was a natural part of the environment and perhaps made that onlooker question; what is their part in this strange world. Nonetheless less the onlooker is left in the end feeling as if they are just that; an onlooker, observing this world of electrical evolution.

Echo Echo Dance theatre company’s dance and movement festival continues until the weekend. 

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Rossini’s Hidden Extras by Northern Ireland Opera delights audience

The ornate surroundings of the Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough on the Antrim coast was the setting for some afternoon opera on Saturday.

Rossini’s Hidden Extras otherwise known as La Cambiale Di Matrimonio) was performed by Northern Ireland Opera as part of the Festival of Voice which took place in various venues throughout the Glenarm area. Hidden Extras is a one-act operatic farce written by Rossini when he was eighteen. It first came to the attention of audiences in 1810 when it was performed during the carnival season in Venice.

Although the events revolve around the well-rehearsed theme of love, the plot was updated to situate events around the world of business and commerce.

Tobias Mill receives a mail order for a bride from a business colleague named Slook. Seizing the opportunity to make some personal gain from the transaction he proposes that Slook marry his daughter Fanny. Unbeknownst to Tobias Mill, Fanny has already promised herself to the love of her life Eduardo. What ensues is a plot of comical disaster and chaos surrounding the conflicting interests of each of the characters.

Tobias Mill, performed ably by Brian McAlea is a straight down the line businessman, who conducts all the affairs of his life; even that of love and the future happiness of his daughter, as a business arrangement. Slook, performed with wit as dry as a bone by Malachy Frame, essentially the buyer, see’s no problems with returning the product he has purchased back to where he got it from in order to get his money back.

Stuck in the middle of this transaction, namely Fanny herself, is a young modern woman who can’t quite believe what is happening to her. Jessica Hackett brings a wit and wisdom and the attitude of the modern woman to the part making it one of the undoubted highlights of the production. At one stage Fanny, in a moment of frustration “flips the bird” to gasps of astonishment and nervous laughter among the audience. At first it seems questionable why this is needed, but upon reflection is entirely in keeping with the character and is part of the refreshing approach brought to the part.

In supporting roles Dawn Burns and Nathan Morrison who allowed the narrative to flow around them and stayed involved throughout even when not called upon. It can be often difficult when you are on stage but not participating as such not to look out of place, however, they managed to play a part throughout the piece, even acting within their characters when not required to have any singing parts.

On the whole, this was an entertaining production and brought a new and refreshing take on a piece which was first performed over two hundred years ago.

Hidden Extras by Northern Ireland Opera in conjunction with Tinderbox theatre company will be shown in a number of venues soon, check local listings for details.

 Carmen delights at Millennium Forum

Foyle Opera Company delighted audiences at the Millennium Forum this weekend with two performances of their latest production, Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

In order to understand this piece the audience must first understand the world not only in which the opera is set but also the social norms of 1875 when it was written. Set in Seville in the nineteenth century, Carmen is a tale of love, war, jealousy and passion. At the time Bizet was writing Carmen much of Europe was battling to maintain it’s colonies and Spain was no different.  On top of this, many of the audience’s who attended operas such as Carmen were reasonably comfortably off and were not comfortable seeing the poverty which Bizet depicts in his opera, not to mention the sight of women smoking in public.

It is this setting in which we meet Micaëla in the main square in Seville searching for Don José, a soldier in the army. She is told that he will be arriving soon, not long after the bell of the cigarette factory tolls and the men of the city gather to greet the emerging factory girls, including the seductive gypsy woman Carmen. In time a love triangle (but in reality more of a love “square” develops as Don José, Michaëla, Carmen and Escamillo vie for each others affections, with tragic consequences.

This production from Foyle Opera Company, a mixture of seasoned professionals and keen amateurs was refreshing. While at times it could lapse into a little rough around the edges amateur performance, at other times it sparkled. Given the community based nature of Foyle Opera Company, where both professional and amateur are involved, it would be unfair to single out any one performance other than to say that the roles were well cast and those with greater experience made the biggest impression while some of those with less experience showed great promise.

A confused Tale of a Confused Land

What happens when many voices shout in the darkness at the same time; each with it’s own message, it’s own unique set of wants and needs? That’s the question posed by My Country: a work in progress, the national theatre’s interpretation of events surrounding last year’s EU referendum. Based on a nationwide project that the National Theatre undertook in conjunction with the Playhouse among others the performance puts the voice of the voter centre stage.

In the style of a television debate people representing various regions of the United Kingdom line up along side each other. Each “character” quotes directly from personal testimony of people involved in the referendum, both famous, infamous and annonomous; both the privaledged and the poor.

Each character from each area quotes directly from the testimony of those members of the public they encountered. It couldn’t help but be noticed that the “character” from this part of the world struggled to have their voice heard during the play and it remains unclear whether this was a deliberately rehearsed element of the performance or merely the observation of this particular reviewer.

While aspects of My Country: a work in progress are to be admired and while it is certainly thought provoking it remains unclear whether or not the performance is judging the whole process of the vote one way or another or is simply providing a documentary of the events in question

Hauntingly fantastic: Ghostbusters… retro delights at Playhouse.

Ghostbusters like you have never experienced it before! Based on the 1930’s radio play that is said to have inspired Harold Ramis to have written the original Ghostbusters screenplay, Wireless Mystery Theatre take the audience back to the 1930’s where they meticulously recreate the original motion picture as a radio play similar to Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds, (a performance so convincing at the time that audiences across the United States were convinced they were really facing an imenant alien invasion).

This entertaining performance’s strength lies in it’s authenticity as the audience is tranformed back to the 1930’s.Complete with comercials for lifebhoy soap the pace is non-stop and meticulously re-imagines the original radio play which the successfull film was based on with a humour and imagination to captivate the audience.

The only word of caution I would use is the “Winston”character, while it’s always entertaining to laugh at a character like this, is it something that would work well with an audience further from home.

On the whole Ghostbusters… Retro is a humerus, imaginative and entertaining show. I look forward to seeing further work from Wireless Mystery Theatre and would insist that anyone who has the opportunity to see this show should not pass it up.

Ghostbusters… retro is currently on tour, see local press for details.