Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Friday 21 September 2018

Kings, regicides, vampires and feminists

Preview: Dublin Theatre Festival, September 27-October 14

Ruth Negga stars in Hamlet at the Gate
Ruth Negga stars in Hamlet at the Gate
Aoibhinn McGinnity and Aidan Kelly in The Misfits at Smock Alley
Aaron Monaghan as Richard III in the Druid production, coming to the Abbey

Home productions dazzle in this year's Theatre Festival, says Emer O'Kelly.

The Netherlands, Belgium and Poland will feature in this year's Dublin Theatre Festival, as well as multiple representation from both the UK and the US, though Australia, which featured strongly in recent years, is absent in this year's line-up.

But the headline feature this year will be the Gate theatre where the now internationally acclaimed Ruth Negga will star in a new production of Hamlet directed by Israeli director Yael Farber. It will probably be sensational, given Negga's electrifying talent - but it is a slightly depressing thought that she will be a draw chiefly because of her movie pulling power, which increasingly features in the success of stage productions. It's also perhaps a sign of the times that the festival doesn't have a title sponsor this year, the "big money" seemingly more interested in cultural events which they see as having a wider appeal than theatre.

At our national theatre, most interest is likely to feature on visiting companies: Druid, having opened their Richard III in their native Galway, will bring it to the Abbey mainstage, where Aaron Monaghan will play the title role, supported by Druid stalwarts Marty Rea, Garret Lombard, Marie Mullen and Rory Nolan, and directed by Garry Hynes. If it even approaches the standard of their epic Henriad of a few years ago, it will be spectacular.

Aoibhinn McGinnity and Aidan Kelly in The Misfits at Smock Alley
Aoibhinn McGinnity and Aidan Kelly in The Misfits at Smock Alley

The Peacock stage will feature a new play by Gina Moxley in a co-production with PanPan. It's The Patient Gloria, inspired by the film trilogy The Gloria Films. It's a study of female desire in our sexually fraught era, and will feature the author Liv O'Donoghue. (PanPan will also bring their own production to the Beckett Centre in Trinity: Eliza's Adventures in the Uncanny Valley).

The Abbey mainstage will also host Deirdre Kinahan's Rathmines Road which will have opened for a short run at the Civic in Tallaght. It's a long-promised production emanating from the Waking the Feminists movement in which Kinahan was a lead mover, and examines the cultural response to accusations of sexual assault. It will star Karen Ardiff and will be directed by Jim Culleton, with his justly award-winning company Fishamble as co-producers.

Rough Magic will move into the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire with Arthur Riordan's adaptation of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, featuring many of the cast who so memorably delivered Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream recently at Kilkenny Arts Festival, while Galway's Decadent will revive Marina Carr's The Mai (featuring Derbhle Crotty) at the Civic in Tallaght.

Annie Ryan's Corn Exchange company will "re-imagine" The Misfits, Arthur Miller's legendary study of outsider life in the dust belt. Ryan will direct it at Smock Alley.

Also at Smock Alley, and billed by the festival as an Irish premiere (which it is not: it was performed in the Beckett centre a number of years ago by the original actor, Brian Cox) will be Conor McPherson's St Nicholas, a ferocious and mocking study of alienation, vampirism and criticism. This production travels from the Donmar Warehouse, and is performed by Brendan Coyle.

Dance is represented by the hilarious transgender company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, and the Junk Ensemble performing at Axis in Ballymun with The Bystander, a study of contemporary attitudes to street violence.

Aaron Monaghan as Richard III in the Druid production, coming to the Abbey
Aaron Monaghan as Richard III in the Druid production, coming to the Abbey

Opera again features in the line-up with INO presenting Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle directed by Enda Walsh and conducted by Andre de Ridder.

The always unexpected and supremely talented Sarah Jane Scaife will present her own adaptation of Beckett's Company at Project, performed by Raymond Keane while Project will also be home to Mining Stories from Belgium, and the Bush Theatre's Nassim, an autobiographical experimental piece on language from Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour.

From the Netherlands comes My Name is Language, based on interviews by Nicoline van Harskamp, along with excerpts from Friel's Translations. It's at the (temporary) Wood Quay venue.

Across the Liffey, Anu will present The Lost O'Casey, a 21st Century street re-imagining of O'Casey's Nannie's Night Out. Meeting point will be at the Gate Theatre.

Fresh from New York comes Everyone's Fine with Virginia Woolf, described as a feminist takedown of the Albee classic. It will be at the Gaiety produced by Elevator Repair Service and Kate Scelsa.

And there are numerous other international productions offering an eclectic mix of experiences, as well as a full children's programme and several other Irish offerings, so it should be a full and interesting festival.

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