From talking horses to star-crossed lovers, here are some of the great things to look forward to on our stages in 2014.
Shakespeare's the thing
What if Romeo and Juliet had lived? And what if two of the country's leading actors got to play the iconic lovers in middle age? The answers will be provided from January 23, as director Selina Cartmell brings Ben Power's reimagining of Shakespeare's play, A Tender Thing, to the Project Arts Centre in Dublin, starring Owen Roe and Olwen Fouéré. The words are all Shakespeare's, but they have been cut and pasted to create an entirely new, two-hander play, one that was acclaimed on its debut at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Young company Fast Intent, meanwhile, brings an innovative edge to Macbeth by seeking to return it to its original context. They're remodelling Smock Alley as a traditional Elizabethan playhouse for a production informed by the original staging, from this Monday.
And leading director Wayne Jordan tackles Twelfth Night at the Abbey in April. I've yet to see a Shakespearean production work there, but this is an exciting pairing of play and director.
My kingdom for a horse
Perhaps the most exciting show yet to come to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin is War Horse, the adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel about a cavalry horse in World War I, which plays for a month from the end of March. Morpurgo thought the task impossible, but the life-size horse puppets by the company Handspring helped propel the play to multiple awards and runaway success on the West End and Broadway. With 2014 marking the centenary of the outbreak of the war, another big war play comes to the Everyman in May, the adaptation of Sebastian Faulk's Birdsong.
Bright young things
The opposite of a war play is probably one by Noël Coward. The Vortex was his first critical and commercial hit, shocking and delighting the London audience of 1924 with its sex, drugs and money storyline. Annabelle Comyn, who has proved to be an astute stager of Shaw at the Abbey, directs The Vortex for the Gate in February/March. Meanwhile, Louis Lovett brings a new play for bright young things (in this case the over-sixes), Mr Foley the Radio Operator, by Frances Kay, on tour from February -- guaranteed to delight them and their parents.
Like father, like daughter
The O'Kellys take the concept of "family theatre" rather more literally. At the New Theatre in February, Donal O'Kelly revives his Edinburgh award-winning one-man play, Fionnuala, and while that's on stage, he'll be rehearsing his daughter, Katie, in her play Counter Culture, which is next up at the same venue.
Shortly afterwards, in March/April, O'Kelly will be taking his new play, Little Thing, Big Thing on the road with Fishamble. And Fishamble will be premiering the third solo play by Pat Kinevane, Underneath, at Limerick later in the year. Kinevane's Silent was astonishing; Underneath should be a real highlight.
A younger company that shares O'Kelly's and Kinevane's over-commitment to addressing social exclusion in their art is Theatreclub. In May, they bring their ferocious energy to Moyross in Limerick, where they'll working with the community to create and stage a play for the Lime Tree Theatre, under the auspices of the City of Culture. That "brand" may be troubled, but this is precisely the kind of work a city of culture should be about. Kudos to Karl Wallace's team for programming it.
The master's voice
Before the year's out, we should have a new play, Brigit, from Tom Murphy, our greatest living playwright. The evolution of his plays is "tortuous", he said late last year: Brigit started life as an extended short story for his children for Christmas, decades ago. But the story took on a life of its own: the children got Dinkys instead, and RTE got a television play.
A year ago, he took it out again, and decided to rework it for the stage. Druid will produce it; in the meantime, they're on tour through January and February with Boucicault's riotous comedy The Colleen Bawn.