Agnes Bernell lived an interesting life to say the least. Her family fled Germany in 1936 and during the war she worked as a radio announcer and famously convinced a German U-boat captain to surrender with a broadcast aimed directly at him! She performed in over 20 films and was a regular on stage as both actress and singer. Later in life she settled in Ireland and became the Creative Director of the Project, perfroming there many times. She died in 1999 at the age of 75.
She was also the neighbour of a young David Bolger, who later became the artistic director of CoisCeim. He credits her with starting his fascination of the stage, as she took him to various shows as a young boy. This show is a way of saying thanks and also a celebration of her life and work. The performance features a number of her songs and some spoken recordings from the actress and singer.
There are six dancers on stage, three men and three women. The songs are often standards, such as Mack the Knife and Johnny, but there are also a few gems I wasn’t familiar with, including ‘Julia’ (D Cainer); the tale of a woman desperate to do away with herself.
‘Julia was fed up of crying, she was more frightened of living than of dying
so she decided to take up flying, without a plane’
The dancers perform her various suicide attempts and interpret the song in humourous fashion! There are fight sequences, a man dancing in high heels and a variety of other oddities all interpreting the songs in some form. In one of the final numbers of the night, three swings descend from the heavens and the female dancers perform on them, while the male dancers slide and dive to avoid the attacks from above.
The dancers move on a black lacquered floor, and with spot lights above and to the sides, it creates a mirror image below. There is also a mirror to the back of the stage, that is used in several of the pieces. All the dancers are bare foot, and the sound of their feet slapping against the floor can often be heard.
This really is my style of dance, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and there is a huge amount of humour in everything they do. I had a smile on my face throughout, and the whole piece is hugely entertaining. If you’re a fan of Agnes or if you’re open to the world of the smokey bar singer, this is a wonderful piece of music and dance to celebrate a life well lived.
Duration: 50 Minutes with no interval.
Find out more about CoisCéim Dance Theatre here.
15 March 2014-22 March 2014 8.00pm – Tickets €20/17/15
Matinee – 22 March 2014 (3.00pm)
Real Deal – 18 March – 2 tickets for €20!