Heavenly highlights in theatre and dance for 2020
A new decade is about to be unleashed as we head into what may or may not be the roaring Twenties. With international changes afoot, especially with the UK exiting the EU, we can expect disruption to well-worn touring and co-producing arrangements but also to well-worn paths of creative national identities. As the world is becoming increasingly globalised on the one hand, and increasingly nationalistic on the other, this will be a decade of change and disruption. Dancers and theatre-makers are nothing if not adaptive - the coming decade will see fascinating cultural changes emerging downstream of our current turbulent politics. 2020 is just the start.
Walls Talk by Breandán de Gallaí
Project Arts Centre, Dublin (February 25-29)
Inspired by the question 'if these walls could talk', this show is created and danced by De Gallaí, a former principal with Riverdance. The dancing is interspersed with Gina Boreham's rendition of songs from the golden era of jazz. The whole show is underpinned by considerations of memory, including the physical memory that imprints itself on the body. There are also sections of text, including material from John Millington Synge and Brian Friel. Themes include species-wide consciousness, quantum theory and genetic memory. Philosophy meets the moving body in this thinking person's dance confection.
Our New Girl by Nancy Harris
Gate, Dublin (February 27 - March 21)
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Irish writer Nancy Harris made a splash with her debut No Romance on the Peacock stage in 2011, which won the Stewart Parker Award. Since then, she has had a number of high-profile premieres at the Gate and with Druid. This Irish premiere is about a Sligo nanny hired by an affluent London family to help deal with a troubled eight-year-old child. First produced by the Bush Theatre in London in 2012, it garnered excellent reviews. Harris is rapidly becoming a significant contemporary playwright; her concerns with modern family life are accumulating in impact to create a strong writerly identity.
Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
(version by Tom Murphy)
Black Box Theatre, Galway (February 22 - March 7)
Druid's director Garry Hynes helms this revival of the Chekhov favourite in the late Tom Murphy's earthy Galway-inflected version. In a first for an Irish theatre company, the production will be live-streamed from the Black Box Theatre to cinemas both nationally and internationally. It will then tour to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin in April. Druid is continuing to show admirable vision and innovation in its producing strategies. This will be the first Murphy play produced since his death last year; a timely celebration of his talent.
Sruth Na Teanga
Galway Airport Terminal Building, Carnmore (March 2-29)
Branar, Téatar do Pháistí, do terrifically inventive shows aimed at kids and families. Commissioned by Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, this is an immersive theatre piece that charts the evolution of the Irish language as the audience of 30 journey through five separate worlds. Expect plenty of Branar's signature puppetry, music, video mapping and general exuberance. Aimed at ages 8+
Brendan Cole: Show Man
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin (March 7 & 8)
New Zealander Cole has become a household name as a result of his appearances on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing and various reality TV shows. This tour of the UK and Ireland will have all the razzmatazz of contemporary ballroom and Latin American dance. It will feature the usual line-up of high-energy Charlston, Salsa, tangoes and waltzes. First-class international dancers, with snazzy costume and good production values, make this a must see for Strictly devotees and all fans of high-stepping hoofers.
In The Name of the Son: the Gerry Conlon Story
Lyric, Belfast (March 17-29)
Presented by Green Shoot Productions, this new play written by Gerry's lifelong friend Richard O'Rawe and Belfast playwright Martin Lynch follows Conlon's life after his release from prison in 1989. Audiences will be familiar with the Jim Sheridan movie In the Name of the Father, which told the story behind the miscarriage of justice surrounding the Guildford Four, when a group of innocent people were wrongly convicted of planting an IRA bomb; this play will provide a welcome extension of this important story.
The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman
Gate, Dublin (March 26 - May 9)
The majority of American classics we get served up here are by the holy trinity of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. Presenting Hellman's hit play from 1939 is a canny move, very much in keeping with these gender-balancing times. The play, one of several hits by Hellman, is a spirited, Alabama-set drama of conflict about a family business. Starry London director Blanche McIntyre directs.
Faith Healer by Brian Friel
Abbey, Dublin (March 30 - May 16)
Veteran director Joe Dowling was a major presence in Ireland up to the 1990s, filling roles including artistic director of the Abbey Theatre. He took over as artistic director of the Guthrie in Minneapolis in 1995, a position he held for 20 years. He has done a number of influential productions of this Friel classic, including playing the lead part of Frank Hardy himself. The part has been played in Dublin by stars including Ralph Fiennes, Owen Roe and Donal McCann. A welcome outing for this much-admired classic play.
Druid: The Galway Tour
Various venues (April-July)
This innovative theatrical programme, designed for Galway 2020, sees the Druid company produce a series of classic Irish one-act plays, to be rehearsed and performed in various towns and villages throughout the county. Venues include Clifden, Tuam, Kinvara, and the Aran Island of Inis Meáin. It will be a rare opportunity to see short plays by Lady Gregory, including The Rising of The Moon and The Gaol Gate. Other rarely seen short plays that feature will be A Pound on Demand by Sean O'Casey and The King of Spain's Daughter by Teresa Deevy.
Maeve Binchy's Circle of Friends
Gaiety Theatre, Dublin (April 6 - May 2)
This semi-autobiographical 1950s-set novel is one of Binchy's biggest successes, telling the story of awkward Benny, shy Eve and glamorous Nan from rural Knockglen, as they embark on university life in Dublin at UCD. The novel was filmed with Minnie Driver in the lead in 1995. Now adapted for the stage by playwright Elaine Murphy, produced by intrepid Breda Cashe, this should provide Binchy fans - and they are legion - with a welcome injection of her trademark compassion and humour.
AnΩnymo, Dublin Dance Festival
Abbey, Dublin (May 19 & 20)
Dublin Dance Festival 2020 kicks off with this Greek visitor. Choreographer Tzeni Argyriou explores the earliest rituals of initiation and participation, and looks at how dances have developed through the centuries. The show traces how dance functions at weddings and at funerals; at times of war and at times of peace. Seven dancers perform, taking as a starting point the traditional patterns and movement of Greek folk dance, creating a dance that does not belong to anybody but belongs to everybody.
A Love Supreme at Dublin Dance Festival
Abbey, Dublin (May 29 & 30)
Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker collaborates here with Spanish choreographer Salva Sanchis to create a work based on John Coltrane's 1964 classic jazz album. The album marked Coltrane's musical and spiritual recovery after overcoming addiction. This dance is created for a quartet of young males, each embodying one of the four instruments: the saxophone, the piano, the double bass and the drums. The improvisational quality of the music is reflected in the improvisational energy of the choreography. This will have wide appeal for dance fans and jazz lovers alike.
Breakfast on Pluto
Landmark and Galway International Arts Festival (July, dates to be announced)
This musical theatre adaption is a co-production between Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival. It is based on Patrick McCabe's Booker-nominated novel, adapted by Bob Kelly with music composed by Duke Special and directed by the talented Des Kennedy. The novel was made into a hit film by Neil Jordan in 2005. Set in the 1970s, the colour and emotional intensity of the story should translate well on to the stage; this is likely to be a highlight of the Galway festival.
A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney
Abbey, Dublin (July 6 - August 1)
This was the debut play by the young British dramatist, written in 1958 when she was just 19. It was produced by Joan Littlewoods Theatre Workshop in Stratford East, and was part of the 'kitchen sink' movement in British theatre. Delaney had an Irish background, but her work has never been staged in this country. This Irish premiere is to be directed by Róisín McBrinn, fresh from her superb recent work in the Gate on The Snapper.
The Boy by Marina Carr
Abbey, Dublin (September 17 - November 7)
Marina Carr is one of our leading contemporary playwrights with a body of work stretching back to the 1990s, including major plays like By the Bog of Cats. This new work is described as a cycle of plays "presented as an epic theatrical event to be experienced over one day". This ambitious work will be a major part of the Abbey's Dublin Theatre Festival contribution; directed by Abbey associate director Caitríona McLaughlin, who has collaborated successfully with Carr in the past.