Reviews: Drama at Inish, Space Dimension Controller & Mtendere Mandowa

Three reviews this week: Two albums and one theatre.

Reviews: Drama at Inish, Space Dimension Controller & Mtendere Mandowa

Album

Space Dimension Controller

Love Beyond The Intersect

By Shane Johnson

Belfast’s Jack Hamill, aka Space Dimension Controller, is a busy man. His latest album, Love Beyond The Intersect, is his second of 2019 and comes complete with a detailed backstory that crash lands its hero, Mr 8040, on a distant planet and forces him to reappraise his entire life over the course of eleven meticulously constructed tracks.

So, yes, it’s a concept album — wait, come back — but it’s also a lush, warm and immersive soundtrack to the Forbidden Planet sequel that never was, managing the always-impressive feat of sounding both retro and futuristic at the same time.

The grooves are deftly programmed electronic house, the ambient interludes are appropriately deep and spacey and the melodies are sublime throughout.

High points include the internal-monologue-as-duet, ‘Alone in an Unknown Sector’, and the Kraftwerkian synth lines of ‘Voices Lost to Empty Space’, but it really is a collection that rewards end to end listening.

Album

Mtendere Mandowa

Anicca

By Shane Johnson

Mtendere Mandowa is an under-the-radar producer that pops up with a new record every once in a while, stays for a round of critical props and then ducks back into his LA studio to brew anew. Anicca is his third album as Teebs for Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label and builds on the shifting beats and blurred top lines of his earlier work with a well chosen crew of like-minded collaborators.

The palate cleansing opener, ‘Atoms Song’, strikes a gorgeous,languid tone that persists throughout the album’s instrumentals. These tracks alone make for a fine listen but Teebs adds further shape and drama with a strong team of featured vocalists.

The first of these songs, ‘Black Dove’, sets an urgent Sudan Archives vocal to a stark bass workout. At the other end of the album’s range, rapper Pink Siifu chips in a couple of tight verses on ‘Daughter Callin’, over a more traditional, shuffling hip hop groove. In between, Teebs blends these disparate styles and voices into a warm, soulful whole.

Drama at Inish

Abbey Theatre, Dublin

HHIII

By Alan O’Riordan

Drama at Inish intrigues chiefly for its near schizophrenic ambiguity. Its writer, Douglas-born Lennox Robinson, seems to assert that theatre is a powerful thing, capable of stirring passion, challenging the status quo, forcing us to ask the most fundamental questions.

Not for nothing was it called Is Life Worth Living? in its first US productions. And yet, Robinson seems to repudiate all this in the closing scene, as the circus comes to town, and the players leave.

The town in question is Inish, a quiet Cork seaside resort. And the players are the De La Mare Repertory Company, bringing to the locals a heretofore unknown taste of Chekhov, Ibsen and the like. No sooner has a seagull flown past the bay window of Sarah Bacon’s drawing room set than the townspeople are entering into suicide pacts, declaiming their forbidden loves, and spilling out their innermost secrets.

Plainly, there is plenty here to interrogate, both light and dark.But director Cal McCrystal is not interested. Any subtle shades are lost in the full glare of his slapstick. Rather than delve into the writing for humour, McCrystal imposes it from without, with sight gags, accentuated character quirks (this one drinks, that one’s clumsy, and so on), and panto shoutiness. Two worlds collide, certainly, but they fail to cohere. The tone is more Killinaskully than well-made play; and as with that RTÉ series, hilarity fails to ensue.

Yet all is not lost, even if all seriousness of intent is. Nick Dunning has fun with his role as the pompous leading man, Hector de la Mare. Alas for Marion O’Dwyer as his co-star, Constance Constantia, what should be a winning turn is ruined by a tiresome running gag about her drinking. Breffni Holahan escapes with credit for a poised portrayal of Christine Lambert.

Overall, it’s a missed opportunity.

Until January 24

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