Performance review: Cork Midsummer Festival

By Des O’Driscoll

England - Crawford Art Gallery

The subtitle for this work states it is a “play written for a gallery”, and you’d be forgiven in the early section for thinking it’s a commentary on art-wankerism. Cliches such as “clean lines” are spewed by the two characters — guides in an art gallery played by Regina Crowley and Frank Prendergast of Gaitkrash — and we’re told the best time to buy an

artist’s work is just before they die.

As the onion layers are slowly peeled back through the dialogue, however, we realise it’s about so much more. The commodification of art and the human body, the nature of relationships, and global

inequality are all touched on in this intriguing two-hander.

A promenade performance moves between the downstairs gallery and the lecture theatre in the Crawford. The production, directed by Ger Fitzgibbon, demonstrates the

veracity of playwright Tim Crouch’s statement that theatre doesn’t need “sets, costumes, and props, but exists inside an audience’s head”.

Lex Talionis (A Tale of Vengence & Feathers) Cork Arts Theatre

After a week of plays dealing with rape, death and dystopia, the light tone and occasional hilarity of Liam Heylin’s work provides welcome relief. It’s not that Lex Talionis doesn’t deal with weighty subjects. But the look at the lives of four

corvids on the mean streets of Cork fizzes with energy and rolls along with so many laugh-out-loud moments that you’ll forgive a few self- consciously bad bird puns. Flighty characters, indeed.

“Stick with your own kind” is the invocation of the opening scene, but this rule is broken by a friendship between a rook and a magpie. Cue avian conflicts and a struggle between snobbery and decency which suggest that crows are even more like us than we realised.

The four cast members from the Wandering Star company look very comfortable in the feathers of the characters they inhabit, and Waterford-born Heylin (full disclosure: He works for this paper) has a great ear for earthy Cork dialogue. This was a debut run, but hopefully the play will come around again in the near future.

Backstage Cork Opera House

Fun is also to the fore in this production which subverts the stereotype of opera as haughty and stuffy.

The audience walks around the backstage area of the Opera House as Majella Cullagh and her fellow cast sing of the stresses and strains of being involved in performance. “My make-up is shite,” is one of the beautifully-sung lyrics we hear — surely a first for world opera.

Tom Lane’s production was accessible enough to appeal to opera novices (ahem), and had more-than-enough quality to impress the afficionados (I asked them).

It also had the bonus of gorgeous backing music from an ensemble led by percussionist Alex Petcu, and at 35 minutes was the ideal length for a lunchtime interlude.

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