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Jumping the species barrier: theatre's post-Covid potential

There is a lot of shape-shifting going on as plays find a different artistic form, writes Katy Hayes

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Brave transformation: Dublin Oldschool by Emmet Kirwan, left, transitioned from stage to film

Brave transformation: Dublin Oldschool by Emmet Kirwan, left, transitioned from stage to film

Brave transformation: Dublin Oldschool by Emmet Kirwan, left, transitioned from stage to film

A lot of theatre artists have had their hopes and plans for this year dashed on the rocks of the Covid-19 pandemic. This means there is a clogged production pipeline, with many 2020 shows pushed into the 2021 calendar. Sad for the artists involved, but also a big blow for the shows that are at an early writing or conception stage, and haven't a hope of seeing the light of day until 2022 or 2023.

So it's worth considering how writers and creators might repurpose work into a different, less pandemic-vulnerable, artform. There are many significant recent examples of works that originated as plays and found their eventual expression, or an extra expression, in an alternative artistic shape.

Kevin Barry's 2019 novel Night Boat to Tangier was originally written as a two-hander stage play. Though best known as a novelist, Barry has had some success on the stage, including with Autumn Royal in 2017 featuring Siobhán McSweeney of Derry Girls fame. The original Everyman production was followed by a national tour. Barry's latest novel retains the Beckettian ghost of its original play-script form, with the action taking place over a short period, as two men wait on a beach in Spain for a third character. The story is fleshed out with flashbacks to earlier events in the Cork criminal underworld. The novel's theatrical origin was used as a stick to beat it with by a number of critics, though it survived the jabs and was longlisted for the Booker Prize.