Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kilkenny Arts Festival 2011

Set Theatre Belle of KAF Ball
Balcony Scene
Banana Bag & Bodice Co NY 
The journey time to Kilkenny from Waterford is practically halved since I last made the trip with bypasses and road improvements.  There was no air of pre match tension when I travelled to the Cats stronghold on the eve of semifinal day for the annual Kilkenny Arts Festival.  I was  too late unfortunately to hear William Butt in St John's Priory. For afternoon entertainment, that left Tabernacle, a modern dance piece on the theme of changing attitudes to the Catholic Church. I have to confess, liturgical dancing either in church or out leaves me cold so it was on  to option 3 and I went along to hear Pat McCabe and Dermot Healy reading from recent work in the Set Theatre.  This new venue seating at a guess circa 250 is part of the labryntine Langton's Empire and I was mightily impressed with it . As a private enterprise, I assume it does not require vast sums of state money to keep it open and  I like any venue where one has easy access to the bar. The only problem was that the velvet cushioned seats (with lovely red piping) were so comfortable that I am afraid that I slumbered for the first part of McCabe's piece. When I did pay attention McCabe I can say did read in a suitably dramatic manner.  Healy's style was more perfunctory as was the Q&A mediated by Colm Toibín  with both authors dealing somewhat flippantly with some of the questions and Toibín might have had a more substantial role in the process of drawing the authors more effectively on the business of writing. There was no mention of the recent spat in the IT letters page involving Healy between Eugene McCabe and Eileeen Battersby following her lukewarm review of his recent book.
Healy & McCabe
It was a cold and rainy evening  , a suitable prelude it seems to  economist Morgan Kelly's  latest pronouncements  in the Cathedral. Kilkenny is still popular it seems with hen parties judging by the density of  a certain kind of pink fluffy head gear on High Street and the Fabulous Fanzini Brothers were adding to the madcap factor with their street theatre routine.  I returned to the comfy Set Theatre for Beowulf  which seemed to excite the Twitter community the night before. The show was billed as a songplay which  I presume  is a literal translation of German Singspiel. It was certainly value for money with a seven piece band plus six vocalists who played heroes mortals and monsters in an irreverant musical melange of punk and cabaret  with our esteemed poet's translation very evident as a prop .   It was great  fun and one didn't know quite what to expect next from this youthful company, Banana Bag & Bodice, from New York who were en route to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The amplification in some of the punk style numbers made it impossible to make out a lyric but I suppose that is in keeping with the nature of the style.
 I loved this venue with its retro lampshades, red velevt carpets and glass balconies. The  layout  over two levels  made it quite suitable for a small intimate audience  or a larger one.

I am impressed by the efforts this festival makes in promoting,  and advertising their events . The brochures were distributed  to near and far well  in advance. We even found a batch on the cross channel ferry .While some festivals have a token twitter or facebook presence, KAF have more than most explored the possibilities of using innovative social media and I enjoyed  following the festival on twitter and  reading some of the excellent blog reviews. I am working up to catching up with Morgan Kelly's lecture, the link to which is helpfully made available via these media.

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