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Intriguing monologues add a chapter to our national story

The Abbey's YouTube outing could have fallen flat, but it has provided an essential service, writes Katy Hayes

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Delicacy and texture: Kathy Rose O’Brien in Grace, one of 50 monologues for the Abbey Theatre

Delicacy and texture: Kathy Rose O’Brien in Grace, one of 50 monologues for the Abbey Theatre

Delicacy and texture: Kathy Rose O’Brien in Grace, one of 50 monologues for the Abbey Theatre

Following government health directives, the Abbey Theatre - along with all the other theatres - closed its doors on March 12. The decision to cobble together this mass assembly of theatrical energies for Dear Ireland, a presentation of 50 theatrical monologues on YouTube, was a risk for directors Graham McLaren and Neil Murray.

This was a stab in the dark that could have fallen flat, but it has been a hugely valuable and enjoyable exercise. The project fulfils three functions: it operates as an opportunity for theatre artists to create a group commentary on the Covid-19 situation; it gives starved theatre audiences a chance to see work done by some familiar talents; and it presents the members of the industry with a point of focus at a time when there is little else going on.

Part 3 continues the with the pick-and-mix of direct and oblique comment on the social fallout from the virus. Jimmy Murphy's The Meadow finds its emotional core in drawing a connection between a self-isolating woman played by Clare Dunne and her forebears who lived through the Famine - one of a number of pieces that echo the Famine experience. Both performance and writing are distinguished by clarity and intelligence.