Our regular contributors select their highlights of the year.
Gregory Porter’s show on a warm summer night in Trinity is the standout — his excellent band really got to stretch their legs in the live setting. Also, at the NCH, the young Russian tyro, Daniil Trifonov, gave a tumultuous display of Chopin and Chopin-inspired works. Another pianist, Michael Wollny, was a standout at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.
The publication in translation of Laurent Binet’s The Seventh Function of Language this summer sent me back to read it in the original French. It’s one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in some time. The book imagines a Cold War espionage plot around the supposed murder of Roland Barthes, who died when hit by a laundry van, in Paris, in 1980. The use of real-life figures (Foucault, Derrida, Umberto Eco, Julia Kristeva, Louis Althusser, the list goes on) and events is audacious, the satire irresistible, and the postmodern playfulness, channeling the work of Barthes and the rest of the cast of intellos, stimulating. At heart, though, it’s an odd-couple, buddy story, with a hard-bitten cop forced to enlist a young academic to help him decode this esoteric world.
Despite Hollywood’s increasing homogeneity and timidity, film in 2017 was full of invention. Emer Reynolds’ The Farthest was awesome in the old sense of the world, Dunkirk was like an intense installation piece, Get Out was the satire the US deserves, La La Land was pure joy, Moonlight a starkly original and beautiful thing. The likes of Lady Macbeth, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, and Raw were dark, disturbing and compelling.
The National Gallery’s Vermeer show was revelatory, putting him in context the better to see his modern sensibility. Also, ‘Landmarks and Lifeforms’, a joint show by Danny Osborne and Frieda Meaney (pictured) at West Cork Arts Centre (and coming to the Highlanes, in Drogheda, in February) was a show bristling with awareness for the ecologically disastrous times we live in.
I spent a large amount of spring either at Dublin by Lamplight, or telling people to go to it. It was great to revisit Michael West’s classic, and to see Louis Lovett reprise the lead role.
Any other highlights?
In Live at Arthur’s, Bagots Hutton, and Dwarf Jar, we have several little places in Dublin where good jazz can be heard regularly.
Also, Selina Cartmell kicked off her time at the Gate with all the panache you could have expected.
The cutbacks to the country’s orchestras are a scandal. We are talking tiny sums of money here — we always are when it comes to the arts in Ireland. Things that are taken for granted, as part of the fabric of civilised life elsewhere in Europe, and still, here, imperilled by an inveterate philistinism and lack of resources.
Separately, the much-anticipated visit of Kamasi Washington to the NCH was a crushing disappointment: loud, noisy, and not very interesting.
The decision to divide up the grand space that is Screen 1 at the Savoy is sad news, depriving the capital of a treasured and useful facility.
Looking forward to next year
I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what Michael West and Theatre Lovett do with their take on Frankenstein. Also, the launch of the Irish National Opera is a significant and welcome development.
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