Wednesday 23 May 2018

Stage: Revolution and rocking chairs for your 2016 fun

Setting the stage: Michael Sands as Captain and Regina Crowley as Juno in The Everyman Production of Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney
Setting the stage: Michael Sands as Captain and Regina Crowley as Juno in The Everyman Production of Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney

Maggie Armstrong

Let's look forward to some plays for 2016. For better or worse, revolution fills the air as 1916 is remembered, with playhouses lorded over by that great chronicler of unrest, Sean O'Casey. To Civil War and broken families, Juno and the Paycock opens in The Gate (February 16), a muscular cast led by Derbhle Crotty and Marty Rea (lately high-blown kings in Druid/Shakespeare) and Love/Hate's Peter Coonan. It's directed by Mark O'Rowe, better known as a playwright.

Meanwhile in Cork (February 10 - 20), The Everyman revives O'Casey's tragicomedy of Juno and her peacocking husband in the city's own idiom. Director Ger Fitzgibbon takes the play out of Dublin and imagines those tenements were in Civil War-torn Cork City.

Back in The Abbey, The Plough and the Stars (March 9 - April 23) claims Easter Week. (This is directed by Sean Holmes who directed Drumbelly, a blood-gushing gangster show about the Irish Mafia. The squeamish are warned.) Famously there were riots in The Abbey when the play was first performed in 1926. More likely than riots this time are loud noises from Waking the Feminists, a movement that has challenged the paucity of women's voices in The Abbey - and it won't go away.

At the Project Arts Centre is THEATREclub's 1916 contribution, It's not over (October, tbc). More O'Casey: a script devised by actor Barry John O'Connor and director Grace Dyas incorporates extracts from The Plough and the Stars. In this four and a half hour durational piece the company explores "the history of political violence and the effect of commemoration".

In May, THEATREclub will stage an installation centred around repealing the Eighth Amendment.

It will reconstruct an abortion clinic, and with a soundscape of women's stories, re-enact the experiences of an estimated 200,000 women who have travelled abroad for abortions since 1980.

ANU productions, known and loved for its guerrilla staging of history in site-specific locations, returns with a major triptych of new work. Director Louise Lowe describes its 2016 programme as a "radical year-long interrogation that blurs reality". Sunder is set during the final hours of the Rising; On Corporation Street occupies buildings to mark 20 years since the Arndale bombing in Manchester; and These Rooms is a dance piece co-produced with Coisceim.

Rough Magic unearths an earlier rebellion with Northern Star by the late Belfast playwright Stewart Parker. Set in a labourer's cottage outside Belfast in 1798, this thrilling script imagines the last hours of United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken before his arrest and execution, as he narrates through seven ages of his life.

Staying with 1916 though in a different place entirely, Blue Raincoat premiers Shackleton at home in The Factory Performance Space in Sligo (opens March 21). Last year it revived dozens of buried Yeats plays out of doors, now Jocelyn Clarke and director Niall Henry have made a purely visual movement piece, based on Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition to the Antarctic, using footage and photographs, animation and puppetry.

Much anticipated is Pan Pan's All That Fall, an international hit returned to The Abbey (February 11-20). Samuel Beckett's first radio play was written for the BBC in 1956/7. Set loosely in Beckett's boyhood Foxrock, it's about ruddy, rheumatoidal 70-something Maddey Rooney walking out to meet her blind husband at the train - enter, her many wandering thoughts, the many local characters she meets. Pan Pan gives us each our own rocking chair to listen to the play and its soundscape. That way we rock to Beckett.

Another moving night comes with Fake it Till you Make it at The Everyman (April 18 - 20). Edinburgh Fringe First winner Bryony Kimmings devised this with her boyfriend Tim Grayburn when she found he suffered from clinical depression. It's meant to be fun, promise.

After Miss Julie, for Belfast's Prime Cut Productions, is an Irish take on August Strindberg's 1888 play Miss Julie. Written by Patrick Marber, who wrote films Notes on a Scandal and Closer, this new production is set in a Fermanagh stately home in 1945. It keeps the important bit: an affair between the mistress of the house and a servant. (Opens March 9 in the Project Arts Centre and tours nationally.)

Best not forget that to the mega-seater Bord Gáis Energy Theatre cometh Billy Elliott (July 26 - September 3). But so much better, so does The Commitments (October 12 - 29). Roddy Doyle's soul music story returns to the city where his original novel and film were born.

Roddy Doyle strikes again this Dublin Theatre Festival in October, with a new translation of Mozart's Don Giovanni for Wide Open Opera, directed by Pan Pan's Gavin Quinn.

Don Juan in Dublin, now there's a revolution.

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