Is there a Dramaturg in the house?

August 15, 2017

Is there a Dramaturg in the house?

The atmospheric desolation of Smithwick's Brewery, provided another suitable backdrop for the world premiere of ANTARCTICA. A mutimedia performance, it promised ' an enthralling dialogue between past and future.' What constituted the past was clear by the title. Who wouldn't find it fascinating to witness the explorer's stoicism in the face of unbelievable odds? But, in the montage of images and sounds chosen, the stories and their relationship to the future, escaped me.

Direction and design was by John Comiskey, and consisted of epic grainy video projections of restless arctic seas and icebergs on the two end walls of the space, and smaller, Pathe Pictorial style sequences of live documentary footage projected on the wall behind the two performers. Linda Buckley composed and performed the live electronic score that rarely raised its head above the ambient parapet. It was down to David Power on uilleann pipes and other instruments, to bring some well needed focus and drama to the presentation. I use this term advisedly, because this is how it felt to me. All the elements were in place from poignant and starkly beautiful images, a haunting soundscape and jolting instrumentation, but it still felt like a presentation of a work in progress. Perhaps a narrative arc was never intended, but a little bit of dramaturgy wouldn't have gone amiss. For instance, were we watching Scott or Shackleton and company and in what context? Whose ship was grounded in the ice? What was the significance of the plane? etc etc. Perhaps none of this matters? ( and I apologise if I am sounding somewhat of an anorak ) but many years ago, I placed the snowy arctic wastes on stage for a play by Ted Tally called Terra Nova. I rest my case.

Meanwhile, there was no shortage of drama at other key events of the day. In the Long Gallery at Kilkenny Castle, the brilliant French harpsichordist Philippe Grisvard, barnstormed his way through works by Handel, Scarlatti and six other contemporary composers. What impressed most, was Grisvard's astonishing dexterity and the thrilling momentum of the works selected. A short pause occured after the first 45 minutes, and whilst the harpsichord was re-tuned, he spoke charmingly to a clearly appreciative audience. 

The Way Things Go : An Homage - at the Butler Gallery, could have been an alternative title for Antarctica. This influencial film made by Peter Fischli and Peter Weiss in 1987 lasts a mere 30 minutes. In a large warehouse and in a single take, they filmed an assembly of tyres, planks, tables, rubbish bags, metal pipes, water and explosives that show an unstoppable chain of reactions that is jaw dropping to watch. The accompanying other works in homage to this audacious film are both quirky and amusing.

Hi Fashion at the National Craft Gallery is just that. An unexpected and stimulating collision of Irish and Japanese fashion design in tandem with some teriffic period fashion show videos. Look out for the 8 minute sequence from the 1971 show by Kansai Yamamoto. It is a riot of colour and androgynous posturing, and I was told his designs had a big influence on David Bowie. But obviously not just him. In the opening sequence, a model in an extravagant red wig who keeps tossing her head, is a dead ringer for Bjork.