Tuesday 14 August 2018

Dramatic flights of fancy to lift us all - the most hotly anticipated productions of 2018

Emer O'Kelly looks ahead to some of the most hotly anticipated productions of 2018

Michael Keegan-Dolan's Swan Lake/Loch na hEala is going into the Abbey on revival, and is likely to be a brilliant success
Michael Keegan-Dolan's Swan Lake/Loch na hEala is going into the Abbey on revival, and is likely to be a brilliant success

Emer O'Kelly

Predicting the future in any sphere, much less in the art of theatre, is a difficult matter. Experience teaches that gems shine in some unexpected places, while the places where the headlights are aimed can frequently reveal some disappointing mud.

As things stand, after a variable 2017, one spectacular offering seems to be in the offing, and once again it seems to shine from Galway, where the Galway International Arts Festival will co-produce with Ann Clark's Landmark company to offer a star-studded author and equally star-studded cast. That will be Enda Walsh's adaptation of Max Porter's novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers. It will feature Cillian Murphy, with whom Walsh and Clark have established a fruitful collaboration. It has Complicite as the co-producer, and will have a limited production run, going from Galway in the summer into the Dublin Theatre Festival in the autumn, and is billed as the only production worldwide, next year for the big attention-grabber. Walsh will also direct.

Also emanating from Galway will be a nationwide tour of Garry Hynes's production for Druid of Beckett's Waiting for Godot which was greeted with approval last year, mainly due, it would seem from comments, to having made the master's work "understandable" for the first time ever.

Being among the millions worldwide who haven't had a problem coming to terms with its bleak message of non-hope, I found it dismayingly aggressive and lacking in subtlety. But a national tour of a Beckett work is always to be welcomed.

Landmark will also begin the year with an impressive bang when they premiere a new Mark O'Rowe work at Project in Dublin.

A new O'Rowe work always causes a stir (the last was at the Abbey in 2014), and The Approach will open in January, and will feature the powerfully impressive trio of Derbhle Crotty, Aisling O'Sullivan and Cathy Belton.

Project has, as usual, an interesting programme for the year, and will follow the O'Rowe premiere with a new Stacey Gregg work from Prime Cut. The Belfast playwright's Scorch, which won an award at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, will be re-staged in February, and its theme of gender irresolution and investigation is likely to prove as stimulating as it is topical.

And Sligo's Blue Raincoat will revive last year's production of Shackleton at the same venue later in the season. It features the company's signature style of movement theatre, and while not entirely successful, (too delicate for its brutally heroic theme) it is well worth a look.

The two most exciting productions at the Abbey for the year ahead look like being imports. This follows the current artistic directorship's policy of concentrating on "lending out" their stages rather than instigating productions.

But in this case, the productions are likely to prove worthy of national theatre space. One is a revival of Michael Keegan-Dolan's dance work Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, which had an all-too-short run at the Dublin Theatre Festival.

The second will be "imported" from Cork, an original Beckett work Here All Night, from the puzzlingly largely overlooked Gare St Lazare Players. The husband-and-wife duo of Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty-Lovett began their Beckett interpretative careers in Paris, where they were justifiably lauded and celebrated, but since re-locating to their native Cork, Irish audiences have tended to ignore their impressive record. Here All Night will be a collaborative piece, accompanied by an installation by Brian O'Doherty, staged in April and will be followed by a national tour.

Gare St Lazare will also produce Part One of Beckett's How It Is in Cork at the Everyman, again directed by Judy Hegarty-Lovett.

Fishamble, celebrating its 30th birthday next year, is never far from the forefront, and after its 196 performances this year of seven productions in 55 venues, it will premiere a new political docu-drama in 2018 from Colin Murphy, following his Bailed Out and Guaranteed!. This one is Haughey/Gregory, and will concentrate on the infamous "deal" brokered by Charles Haughey to gain power with the co-operation of Tony Gregory in the early 1980s.

Fishamble will also premiere a new work from Deirdre Kinahan, fresh from her Waking the Feminists campaign for more female playwrights. It's a contemporary piece, Rathmines Road, that concentrates on the current issue of abuse and female disempowerment.

Fishamble also has a project aimed at the future with a competition for a "Play for Ireland" to be staged in 2019. Six venues around the country are co-operating, the competition is open to all, and five winning plays will receive a production in each venue, having been mentored along the way.

And finally, Selina Cartmell will continue her purposefully serene first year at the Gate with a new production of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, the play that in 1956 changed the face of English theatre forever at the Royal Court.

It will be directed by Annabelle Comyn. And the Gate programme will, by way of huge contrast, also feature Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece, featuring Camille O'Sullivan and Feargal Murray.

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