The Silhouettes, ‘The Journey of Love’, The Olympia Theatre, Saturday 3rd August, 2013

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Monday 5th August, 2013. To read the original, please click here

The Silhouettes’ ‘Journey of Love’

Primarily known in the US as runners-up in the sixth season of America’s Got Talent, Denver’sThe Silhouettes comprises of 42 dancers, aged between 4 – 18, all performing in – you’ve guessed it – silhouette. Entitled “The Journey of Love”The Silhouettes’ Olympia show tells the story of two children, Annie and Johnny, and their respective journeys through life and their own, unique bond.

Making versatile use of visuals, dialogue and a song – driven soundtrack push the narrative along, which is also complemented by screen visuals of locations as diverse as Paris, Arizona, Ireland and the Middle East. Flexible and resourceful as only the best dancers and performers are, the cast members transform themselves in silhouette to rocking chairs, trees, desks and animals, all of which perfectly integrate with the narrative.

The story of Johnny, in particular, is one of a young man growing up on the road: wandering across America and, eventually, the wider world, his whole life in a backpack. In an age where 93% of Leaving Cert. students have Facebook accounts, it’s a refreshing call for young people to embrace the outdoors and, in its better moments, almost resembles a children’s version of Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild”.

Heart- shaped dance: A picture- perfect example of The Silhouettes’ boundless creativity.

Annie, the female character in the story, leaves Johnny on the road and goes to Hollywood to pursue a career as a dancer. After a 15 minute interval, an obligatory R&B / hip-hop performance ensues, flagging Annie’s move to Hollywood. It’s with Annie’s character that the production takes the most risks, whether it’s the story of Annie’s drink being spiked at a Hollywood party or her being groomed by a Broadway director while trying to make her name on the New York stage, all which stretch the interest of the production to an older, mid-to-late teens audience.

It is, however, an ill-judged flirtation with American patriotism that taints the production. Mid-way through Act Two, a Christina Aguilera-ised version of “God Bless America” is performed against a visual of the Stars and Stripes. This irony-free performance elicits cynical laughter from the older members of the audience. Certainly, the “God Bless America” segment sets up Johnny’s enlisting in the army, but it unnecessarily overshadows the story.

Injured in combat and subsequently shipped back home, Johnny is treated in a veteran’s hospital back home in America. The staff at the hospital contacts Annie to inform her that Johnny is confined to a wheelchair. When Annie visit’s a wheelchair-bound and stunned Johnny, he emerges from the wheelchair, walking again, which makes one wonder why there isn’t a Televangelist on stage declaring “God Bless, Hallelujah! It’s a miracle!’

All that said, The Silhouettes’ “The Journey of Love” is, for sheer originality and pure innovation, worth the price of admission alone: a unique live performance that must be seen live. While it doesn’t do enough to reach out to an older audience, such as, for example, the Shrek series did, it serves its children’s audience more than well.

Star rating: 3 / 5
Venue: The Olympia Theatre
Written by: Lynne Waggoner-Patton
Directed by: Lynne Waggoner-Patton
Cast: The Silhouettes

The Silhouettes “The Journey Of Love” runs in The Olympia Theatre from 2nd – 18th August at 7.30pm. Tickets on sale now from €19.50. For more information and to book tickets go to www.olympia.ie

Dublin in Silhouette

Poetry Review: The Mining Road by Leanne O’Sullivan

The Mining Road: Cork poet Leanne O’Sullivan’s latest collection is available now from Bloodaxe.

Originally featured in the print edition and online editions of The Irish Post on Saturday June 8th, 2013. To read the original, please click here.

Bloodaxe, 64 pp, £8.95. ISBN: 978-1852249687

CORK poet Leanne O’Sullivan’s fourth collection aligns her as closely to the Irish lyric poetry tradition as is possible.

The work of Seamus Heaney, particularly the Heaney of Seeing Things (Faber, 1991), appears again and again in poems that, quite literally, dig deep into memory, into the past, into the earth; taking what it is they need to fulfill a poetic vision. As Heaney writes in ‘Lightenings viii’, ‘…and the man climbed back / Out of the marvelous as he had known it’.

Indeed, O’Sullivan wastes no time in plunging us into the underworld of The Mining Road and opening poem, Townland, is a brilliantly subtle poem, which, like the best poems, works its magic on the reader over repeated readings.

The poem’s sound pattern creates a tension between consonants and vowels; between cutting, guttural sounds (‘A hankering in the skull, uttered and worked’) and the long, assonant ‘O’ sounds (‘Old stone walls’, ‘Old homes’), which embeds in the reader the tension between overground and underground; between past and present.

Soon, however, we are also brought into the world of the domestic: You Were Born at Mealtime, again, strengthens the idea of one’s mind constantly being in transition between two different places, finishing with the telling couplet ‘a silence quickens me, / throws open the door again’; the door, perhaps, being Seamus Heaney’s Door into the Dark.

The theme of discovery threads through O’Sullivan’s collection quite consistently. The Boundary Journey, a two part poem- the first mentioning the Atlantic ocean, the second alluding to the Irish Sea- again, finds O’Sullivan wedged between two different places, two different zones (‘Not to the boundary waters / that part our two counties’).

Perhaps the most successful poem in the collection is A Parcel, a brilliant mediation on emigration, which, like The Boundary Journey, is split into parts, again emphasizing the difference between one thing and another. True, the third and final part of the poem could easily have been cut, the poem standing strong enough on its first two parts, which describe domesticity with great vividness. It’s the feel of the parcel which is best achieved, ‘It smelled of heat and a stretch- marked pull / where the brown paper had word out / against the cardboard, its sides broadening’, writes O’Sullivan.

Subtle, slow- burning and sensuous poems that reward with successive readings, The Mining Road is a step in the right direction for O’Sullivan and, indeed, for Irish poetry.

Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013 Series Three: Featured Writer: Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh

Dublin poet Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh

Dublin poet Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh

The final in my series of interviews with those poets reading as part of Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013.

One of this week’s featured poets is Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh, who reads on Tuesday 11th June at 6:30pm at the Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Sq., D1.

Philip Cummins: What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh: I rang a haon, Scoil Lorcáin, bhuaigh mé an triú áit i feis na scoile nuair a d’aithris mé an dán ‘Buail ar an Doras’ ós ard. Bhronn Bean Uí Conchúir mo dhuais orm. Dhá Toffos.


PC: Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock n’roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

CEMU: Robert Graves. There was always a poetic influence in our house and I enjoyed poetry from my schoolwork but it wasn’t until -seeing me reading Graves’ ‘I, Claudius’ as a teenager -my mother mentioned that he was a favourite poet of hers, that I actively sought out non-curricular poetry. She had mentioned his poem ‘The Naked and the Nude’ as a good example and I went to some trouble to find it (pre-Google). I was delighted by the cleverness of it.


PC: Which poets do you think best characterize the qualities that are found in your own poetry?

CEMU: It is surely for others to say. I have not deliberately copied a particular style and I doubt an impartial observer would detect one.


PC: What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

CEMU: Bhuaigh mé roinnt comortaisí i mBÁC agus mé ar scoil i gColáiste Eoin. Bhí formhór m’iarrachtaí cumtha i nGaeilge agus bunaithe ar ábhair a bhí bainteach le stadéir Laidne agus le stair na Róimhe. Fuaras tacaíocht ag pointí tábhachtacha ó mo mháthair agus ó mo mhúinteoir Laidne, a spreag mé leanacht orm ag scríobh. Spreagann said beirt fós mé.


PC: Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why?

CEMU: Robert Graves, Complete Poems, Volumes 1-3,

Nuala Ni Dhomnaill’s  An Dealg Droighin

Peter Denman’s Epigrammata.

These three volumes would ensure that all poetic needs are nourished. I would slip Gabriel Rosenstock’s haikus in as well to make a sneaky fourth volume.

Caoimhin Eoin Mac Unfraidh reads as part of the third in a series of three readings as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions readings series on Tuesday 11th June at 6.30pm at the Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1.

Also reading with Caoimhin are:

Liam Duffy

Kerrie O’Brien

Katie Sheehan

Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Tuesday 11th June @ 6.30pm
Admission: Free
T: (01) 8721302
E: info@poetryireland.ie
www.poetryireland.ie

Poetry Ireland Introductions 2013 Series Three: Featured Writer: Katie Sheehan

Chicago, Illinois poet Katie Sheehan

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I’ll be posting interviews with those writers reading as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions series 2013. One of this week’s featured writers is Chicago- born, Dublin- based poet Katie Sheehan, who reads on Thursday 11th June.


What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

My first clear memory is of my older brother Tim reciting Robert Service’s ‘The Sceptic’ at a family party.  The flippant regret of the poem and the room full of rapt listeners stayed with me all these years.

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

I stumbled into Wendy Cope’s work when I was in college.  Serious Concerns was everything I wanted to be able to express — humour, heartache, intelligence, tenderness.  I tried to emulate her work for years and wrote a lot of embarrassing poems in the process.

Which poets do you think best characterize the qualities that are found in your own poetry?

When I write, I try to keep my heroes in mind.  The grounding detail of Rilke’s New Poems, Jack Gilbert’s sensuousness, Marvin Bell’s breadth, and the commanding voice of Louise Gluck’s work.

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

Writing really changed for me after I finished my MFA.  I was still very much grieving for my father and I had also just moved to Vancouver.  With all that going on, and no one looking over my shoulder, what other people might think just stopped mattering, and the poems became a lot more sure of themselves.  The publishing didn’t pick up for years after that, but that’s really the time where the whole project shifted.

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why??

Jack Gilbert’s The Great Fires, because he has his priorities straight.  Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris, because I feel very at home in the beautiful, heartbroken garden she writes.  And Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems, because her work is packed with images and turns of phrase that turn me inside out over and over again.

Katie Sheehan reads as part of the third in a series of three readings as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions readings series on Thursday 11th June at 6.30pm at the Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1.

Also reading with Katie are:

Liam Duffy

Caoimhín Eoin Mac Unfraidh

Kerrie O’Brien

Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 6.30pm
Admission: Free
T: (01) 8721302
E: info@poetryireland.ie
www.poetryireland.ie