Comedy A-listers arrive in Donegal
There's a couple of Irish comedy heavyweights (strictly in terms of their reputations, nothing to do with their waistlines) appearing in Donegal this week. Jason Byrne is at An Grianan this Saturday (February 5th) and Des Bishop brings his new show ‘My Dad Was Nearly James Bond' to The Balor on Wednesday, 9th.
Jason is one of those comedians who really seems to polarize opinion - people either absolutely love him or really hate him. And almost always, those who don't like him have only ever seen him on one of his various TV shows which is a shame because it's his stand-up work on which he should really be judged. On stage he's hilarious and relentless and one of the few comedians that actually gave me a pain in my jawbone from laughing.
Whereas Jason, when in the mood, ad libs to an amazing extent, Des Bishop's shows give the impression that they're more carefully honed crafted pieces of work. Des doesn't just want to make you laugh - although he's plenty able to do that - he also wants to make you think. Whether it's minimum wage Ireland, the Irish language or, the topic of his latest show his Dad's diagnosis with cancer, there's a lesson intertwined with the levity - something only a handful of comedians can pull off without sounding preachy.
Tickets for Jason Byrne at An Grianan this Saturday are priced at €18 and available from An Grianan on 0749120777. Des Bishop at The Balor next Wednesday, February 9th will set you back w20 and you can get tickets from The Balor on 0749131840.
What's On This Week
This week kicks off with the choice of two excellent plays tonight - Jasango Theatre Co.'s hit comedy Bombshells at The Balor and Love & Madness Theatre Co.'s Accidental Death Of An Anarchist at An Grianan.
There's more drama on Friday with Far Off Fields at The Alley, Strabane and Hurricane beginning a two night run at The Millennium Forum in Derry. There's also music at An Grianan with The Irish Youth Music Awards - Donegal Live Selection.
Football fans in general and Liverpool fans in particular won't want to miss Beating Berlusconi - based on the incredible true story of a Liverpool fan's Champions League final experience - at The Balor on Saturday (February 5th) while Jason Byrne laughs it up at An Grianan.
Far Off Fields moves from Strabane to The Balor on Sunday and Dynamic Waves dance group present their Tribute To Michael Jackson at An Grianan.
Carpet Theatre's outrageous shopping comedy The Blanch is at An Grianan on Tuesday (February 8th) and The Chinese State circus visit The Millennium for a three night run (Tuesday - Thursday). Comedian Des Bishop visits the Balor on Wednesday and Ballet Theatre UK bring Cinderella to The Alley, Strabane on Wednesday and then to An Grianan, Letterkenny next Thursday.
Cinders - You shall
go to The Ballet
The UK's newest classical ballet company, Ballet Theatre UK come to the Northwest this week stopping at both An Grianan, Letterkenny and The Alley, Strabane with Cinderella.
Ballet Theatre UK feature a talented troupe of 16 young dancers who have trained and danced with some of the top British ballet companies. For the show, artistic director Christopher Moore has created a new ballet of original choreography setting the scene in the fashion houses of Paris. Cinderella works for her father making couture dresses for society. Her sisters are selfish "fashionistas", leaving Cinderella in rags.
The idea is to make ballet enjoyable by all with theatrical overtones rather than just pure ballet so there's still the expected dose of fairy godmothers, handsome princes and glass slippers that one would expect.
Another reason to like this production - Ballet Theatre UK are touring without Arts Council or Lottery funding, relying on ticket sales alone to fund the tour - which can't be easy with 16 dancers and five additional crew. It's a gutsy move and one that more and more production companies may have to bite the bullet and take as arts funding threatens to dry up so help make it pay off for them by going to see the show.
Cinderella is at The Alley, Strabane next Wednesday, February 9th. There's a number of different price points for the show at An Grianan on Thursday 10th - €18, €14 concession, €10 for under 16s and there's also a family of four ticket available for €50. Give An Grianan a call on 0749120777 for further details.
Shop til you drop
If, like me, there's few things more likly to make you go postal than shopping on a Saturday afternoon you'll probably enjoy The Blanch. Produced by Carpet Theatre, it's a melting pot of madcap characters interspersed with some good live music adding up to an outrageous comedy about a bunch of lunatic buffoons in a shopping centre.
The result is a grotesque look at the contemporary suburban shopping experience which is as much satirical social commentary as well as good old knee slapping comedy. There's strong language throughout so not one for the faint-hearted or, ideally, for children.
The Blanch is on next Tuesday at 8pm at An Grianan, Letterkenny as part of a 12 venue Arts Council funded national tour. Tickets are a quite reasonable €12 (€10 concession).
The Hiring Fair
Far Off Fields (Friday 4th at The Alley, Strabane and Sunday 6th at The Balor, Ballybofey) is both a love story and a social documentation of the phenomenon of The Hiring Fair. Aside from the attractions of the day there was also the business of 'hiring' where, driven by poverty, needy families hired their children out to farmers for the season.
Written by Jonathan Burgess the play tells the story of two teenagers - Jack and Niamh - who both end up in the service of a less than caring farmer who, not only imposes pretty dire living conditions on the duo, but also develops an unseemly interest in young Niamh.
It now has a sort of Magdalene Laundries feel to it but this hiring into service/slavery of teenagers was, apparently, a common enough practice of the era. For many poor people it was a last resort and necessary evil borne of extreme poverty. It's not all ‘Angelas Ashes' 400 years of misery though - there's a touching romantic element to it too so it won't put you on too much of a downer.
The Hiring Fair can be seen at The Alley, Strabane tomorrow, Friday 4th and again at The Balor, Ballybofey on Sunday 6th. Admission is free but do ring ahead and book to ensure your seat.