Curtains up for theatre festival
A feast of theatre awaits Dublin audiences and visitors. The next couple of weeks see a cascade of openings for the 60th anniversary Dublin Theatre Festival. There are lots of goodies to choose from, 31 productions in all, playing over 18 days. If you could bi-locate, you'd be grand. But choices have to be made, so here's my selection of highlights.
King of the Castle
Eugene McCabe's epic play gets a revival by Druid directed by Garry Hynes. The great Seán McGinley plays Scober MacAdam, the big man in the Co Leitrim big house, whose masculinity and social standing are threatened by his childlessness. His young wife Tressa, the talented Seána Kerslake, is full of frustration; in a patriarchal society, a woman's worth is bound up with her womb. Premièred at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1964, the play won the Irish Life Award, in a hot year when it had to fight off competition from Brian Friel's Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Máiréad Ní Ghráda's An Triail. Hynes' coruscating vision and directorial finesse always provide notable productions of classics. Gaiety Theatre; Oct 11 - 15
The Second Violinist
Composer Donnacha Dennehy and writer-director Enda Walsh have concocted this cocktail of opera, drama, mime, video projection and sound. It premièred at the Galway International Arts Festival in July and pushes out the boundaries of expectation in opera. Design elements are terrific. Actor Aaron Monaghan plays the second violinist, joined by singers Máire Flavin, Sharon Carty and Benedict Nelson. A 16-strong chorus and the Crash Ensemble orchestra ensure musical depth and breadth. Produced by Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera. O'Reilly Theatre; Oct 2 - 8
By British playwright Nina Raine, Tribes is the second show in new Gate artistic director Selina Cartmell's inaugural programme. First produced in 2010 in the Royal Court in London, this Irish première relocates the action from Hampstead to South County Dublin. It is a comic family drama about a deaf young man from a hearing family who meets a hearing woman from a deaf family. This continues the established Gate tradition of doing contemporary international hits with box-office cred, but is a somewhat edgier choice of play. Familiar Gate acting talents feature, including the greatly gifted Fiona Bell and Nick Dunning, directed by emerging talent Oonagh Murphy. The Gate; Sept 28 - Nov 11
On Blueberry Hill
Writer Sebastian Barry has swung between novels and plays for a successful career that encompasses hit plays and a string of prize-winning novels, including last year's Costa Prize-winning Days Without End. Barry's output has swung in favour of the novel in recent years, so this is a welcome return of his pen to the stage. He has collaborated before with Jim Culleton, Ireland's best director of new plays, for Fishamble: the New Play Company. This two-hander, played by veteran talent Niall Buggy and the less veteran but also talented David Ganly, continues the Irish dramatic tradition of two blokes on a stage, battling it out. Pavilion Theatre; Sept 27 - Oct 8
Written by Faber Prize-winning novelist Belinda McKeon in collaboration with The Corn Exchange's director Annie Ryan, this première is inspired by Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House, which was seen as a proto-feminist work in an era when the role of women was changing. Set in 2025, McKeon's new play projects from the past into the future, where a power couple manoeuvre their way around the art-world elite. In a shake-up of arrangements at Corn Exchange, the usual house-director Annie Ryan (pictured above with Venetia Bowe) here plays an acting role. Notable young talent and company associate director Eoghan Carrick occupies the director's chair. Project Arts Centre; Sept 27 - Oct 8
The Good House of Happiness
Pan Pan Theatre has been one of the most significant independent Irish theatre companies in the last couple of decades, their influence apparent in many of the younger companies. This show, a take on Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, is directed by Pan Pan's Gavin Quinn and Aedín Cosgrove. It is co-written by Quinn and writer Eugene O'Brien. The cast includes Chinese and Mongolian performers. O'Brien has form in a variety of writing genres; previous work includes Eden at the Abbey Theatre which won the Rooney Prize and the innovative Pure Mule on RTÉ television. Smock Alley Theatre; Oct 11 - 15.
Co-writer/director duo Iseult Golden and David Horan bring issues of contemporary life into the theatre. Brian and Donna, recently separated, must attend a parent-teacher meeting. Their son is nine, he's struggling at school, and the teacher says he should see a psychologist. But Brian and Donna were no great shakes at school themselves and the parent-teacher meeting goes very, very wrong. Great topic for a play, relevant to all young parents. Cast includes rising talent Stephen Jones. Civic Theatre; New Theatre, Sept 26 - Oct 14.
The Bitter Game
Visiting from the US, writer/performer Keith A Wallace, along with director Deborah Stein, co-create this interactive theatrical response to the shooting of African-Americans by police officers and the resulting questions about unrecognised institutional racism. The show has received major critical acclaim in the US as a vital glimpse into the issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. Axis Ballymun; Oct 5 - 7