Theatre - Pride and Prejudice
The Gate Theatre, Dublin

You can huff and puff about the usual gimmicks the Gate Theatre tart their productions up with. Like a frumpy girl who’s found a frock that flatters, they re-thread the same old formula rather than messing with what’s worked in the past.

Directed by Alan Stanford, and featuring a couple of Brennans, this farcical take on the text is attuned to the demands of their congregation. There’s nary a role unhammed so the comedy is mined to its full potential (Barbara Brennan’s turn can be seen from outer space). While this means we lose the humanity and drive of the characters, Rachel Gleeson’s Mary and Hulme-Beaman’s Lydia are bang on the money for that frivolous, feel-good factor.

With five daughters out in society and the eldest not yet married, Mrs Bennett (Eleanor Methven) is driven frantic by her full quota of spinsters. The arrival of Mr Bingley (Stephen Swift) and the militia affords her the chance to offload some daughters before her husband dies and their home reverts to the next male heir. And as each of the Bennett girls attempts to align her future with a suitable suitor, the sparring between Elizabeth (Lorna Quinn) and Mr Darcy (Sam O Mahony) takes centre stage.

Pity, then, there’s no chemistry. While we can forgive the production its disinterest in the social satire and, for the central romance to have no fire, means there is nothing to centre the show.

The actors orate, not converse, and lack a curiosity in each other. Quinn has calculated her performance to the beat of each moment, waiting for her cue and going in blazing. There is no heart and soul.

Contrasted with the pairing of Stephen Swift and Aoibhin Garrihy as the production’s secondary romance — they at least let the audience in on the feeling between them — Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s romance lacks emotional progression.

Maeve Fitzgerald as Charlotte Lucas underscores not only what the spine of the production should have been — the precarious position of women at that time — but also shows that when the fine line between high farce and human emotion is tread correctly it can be devastating.

Until Jan 18.

Live music - The Chameleons
Whelan’s, Dublin

By Ed Power

In the early 1980s, The Chameleons were known as the ‘stadium band that didn’t play stadiums’.

This was a reflection of both the Manchester outfit’s soaring sound and their stunning lack of commercial success. Signed by Columbia Records in the belief that they had the potential to be the new U2, there was consternation at the label as it transpired that they had little interest in conquering the world.

“We weren’t a stadium band, we were punks,” singer Mark Burgess commented recently. “It was never our ambition to sell millions of albums.”

It’s taken a while but, 25 years after the original line-up split, Burgess has brought a new incarnation of The Chameleons to Ireland. In theory, the show is to promote a comeback EP, the bafflingly titled M+D=1(8). However, from the chiming opening of 1986’s ‘Swamp Thing’ — a Vulcan mind melding of Joy Division and Coldplay — it is clear the evening is to be a celebration of past glories rather than a statement of future ambitions.

Rumpled and care-worn, 55-year-old Burgess doesn’t look like a rock star. He more closely resembles a pub singer called to fill in at the last minute. His music, however, is soaring and boundless.

Featuring chiming guitars of the sort that have since become synonymous with U2, ‘Up The Down Escalator’ is a chilly piece of early ’80s indie noir while ‘Second Skin’ and ‘Don’t Fall’ are stoic anthems that juxtapose Burgess’ vocal snarl with glistening riffs that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a mid-period Simple Minds record.

Catchy and freighted with emotion, it seems extraordinary that these songs weren’t better received at the height of post-punk. Smiling shyly as the sell-out audience breaks into applause, Burgess is clearly appreciative of the warm welcome.

It’s just a shame The Chameleons didn’t receive a more enthusiastic response first time around.

Star Rating: 4/5


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