BLOG Alicia Byrne Keane

NWR Issue 104

Wonderfulgood: A Look at Variety in the Dublin Performance Scene

It is hard to explain the experience that is the Wonderfulgood Collective. A group of artists, musicians, spoken word performers, and writers, they are in many ways symptomatic of a growing movement within Dublin’s performing arts scene. The burgeoning success of the Collective correlates neatly with the rise of a particular type of event. These nights, enjoying increased popularity in Ireland’s capital, consist of a decidedly interdisciplinary range of performing acts, combining poetry, songwriting, comedy, and drama. Regular events such as The Monday Echo, Dublin’s Underground Beat, Velocoustic, Mixed Messages, and The Brown Bread Mixtape are only a few names in an ever-growing list, a circuit in which veteran performers and newcomers to the scene are welcomed alike.

The Wonderfulgood Collective’s Swet Drems, a compilation album of haunting electronic music from some of the collective’s up-and-coming musicians, was launched in a celebratory gig event on 27 June in the Sugar Club. The night promised a packed bill. The Sugar Club, being a relatively spacious venue, consisted on the night of both a main indoor stage, complete with tiered seating, and an impromptu outdoor performance area. Comedy, electronic music, and spoken word poetry mingled to showcase just some of the diverse elements of an emerging Irish performing arts scene.

Spoken word artists included James Moran, Paul Curran, Sean Nolan, Ailish Kerr, Niamh Beirne, Lewis Kenny, and Dane Scott. The witty and astute commentary ranged from topics such as community on Dublin life, through surrealist satires of Simpsons episodes, to the often farcical quality of interactions in the internet age. While the variety of content and delivery was considerable, the artists shared a similar approach in their treatment of thought-provoking issues –whether banal or dramatic – using the accessible, engaging language of everyday conversation. Just add wordplay, concise but vivid imagery, and a flare for surprising and unusual rhymes.

The musical aspect of the night was equally rich. A considerable portion of those featured on the compilation album performed their electronic music live, such as Clu, Enda, Zayfontaine, Flann, Hot Cops, Ickis Mirolo, and Simon Bird. The set was captivating, combining ethereal soundscapes with spare and artistic visual effects. There were additional live performances from Samuel Vas-Y and I Have A Tribe, both of whom could be described as borrowing more from acoustic and songwriting elements, all the while maintaining a modern and esoteric twist. The set was finished off by an energetic performance by Dublin’s Afro Beat Ensemble, combining extravagant brass with upbeat funk elements.

The collective works in collaboration with a host of other acts, guaranteeing a different show every time, a wide scope of talent and the potential for varied media. Involved in a multitude of different art forms, the website aims to ‘combine as many creative mediums as possible, encouraging collaboration, and group projects.’ Charmingly stating their motivation as that of ‘approaching quarter-life crises,’ the collective was formed so as ‘to not let the talents of a group of friends go to waste.’ The webpage cites up to thirty-three featured artists and contributors.

Having attended three Wonderfulgood events, I can confirm that each was utterly distinct. For the Trinity Arts Festival, an annual, week-long event hosted by Trinity College Dublin, the collective descended on an abandoned Georgian House on Henrietta Street, for a night with a strong focus on the visual arts: luminescent installations and some very original works of sculpture accompanied their trademark musical and poetic acts. For Mythfest, a drama festival drawing on Irish folktales, the collective hosted a spoken word night, collaborating with Dublin performers in a show organized loosely around the themes of mysticism and Irish heritage.

The pluralized nature of these events offers a level of freedom that is close to the festival format. The Wonderfulgood Collective has tapped into this need for interdisciplinary variety, in which there is a lot going on and the spectator always has a choice.

Alicia Byrne Keane is an Irish student of English Literature and French, currently resident in Oxford.


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