August is seeming quite novel in terms of Irish theatre, as there is a strong bill of bold and adventurous acts on the table.
First: Pan Pan are back! With the Irish Times Theatre Awards Best Production 2010 trophy under their belt and never-ending acclaim for The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane (check out tour dates for October and November), the mavericks have returned for a date with Beckett (a first date, mind you. Considering their postmodern aesthetic I was surprised that Pan Pan had not engaged Beckett before). All That Fall is a radio play about a seventy year old woman and her laborious journey to the Boghill train station to meet her blind husband as a surprise for him on his birthday. The composition has been described as part black comedy, part murder mystery, part cryptic literary riddle, and part quasi-musical score. Furthermore, audiences will experience the play in a “listening chamber” in the upstairs space in the Project Arts Centre (Aug 23-Sept 2) architected by Aedín Cosgrove – who’s previous sets have been masterpieces in themselves. Gavin Quinn is on directing duties and Danes Andrew Bennett and Judith Roddy are among the cast.
Secondly: Una McKevitt is back with a new show. Those familiar with McKevitt’s work know its remarkable authenticity and issued quarrels between life and illusion, onstage and off, as very real people present themselves onstage with very real testimonies. Work such as Victor & Gord and 565+ have rewritten theatrical code in such a manner that the distance between spectator and performer has been joyously reduced. With The Big Deal (pictured above), McKevitt’s practice seems to have taken a whole new step. Described as an “extraordinary real life story of two women who knew from a very young age that they were born into the wrong bodies”, The Big Deal is based on these two friends and their individual journeys towards full transition from male to female bodies. Like McKevitt’s previous work, the subjects have composed the script themselves, supplying material such as journals, poems, songs, and interviews. Unlike her previous work, the individuals themselves will not be delivering the content. Instead, McKevitt has cast two actors to perform in the show. It will be interesting to see if the authentic nature which made her work so moving in the past will be present in the absence of those whose lives are ‘The Big Deal’ on this particular occasion. Catch the play at the Barnstorm theatre (Aug 10-14) as part of the Kilkenny Arts Festival.
Kilkenny is the place to be this August. New York ensemble Banana Bag & Bodice bring their SongPlay Beowulf – A Thousand Years of Baggage – a cabaret/jazz harmony/punk rock infusion of the epic poem by a seven-piece band – to the Set Theatre (Aug 5-7). Corcadorcha’s Request Programme will also be in attendance. Gare St Lazare Players Ireland will be presenting Title & Deed by Will Eno (“A Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation” – The New York Times) at the Barnstorm Theatre Aug 10-14. There’s also a strong dance line-up, consisting of Fearghus Ó Conchúir’s Tabernacle, ponydance’s Anybody waitin’?, and Irish Modern Dance Theatre’s Body Duet.
Over in Galway, Mephisto are storming the Town Hall’s main stage with Bryan MacMahon’s The Honey Spike (Aug 9-13). MacMahon’s play is about a traveller woman and her husband’s race from one end of Ireland to the other so that their child may be born at The Honey Spike – the lucky hospital. Mephisto work best when armed with powerful writing, and watching them travel across cultural frontiers with MacMahon’s mastery over poetry and ritual will be quite exciting. A new production of Friel’s Faith Healer directed by Andrew Flynn will be at the Town Hall Aug 25-Sept 3. Also, Truman Theatre will be presenting Mick Donnellan’s (Sunday Morning Coming Down) Shortcut to Hallelujah at Studio THT Aug 29-Sept 3.
THEATREclub will be retiring past hit THEATRECLUB stole your CLOCK RADIO what the FUCK you gonna do about it? at the Project Arts Centre Aug 6. Over at the Abbey, Translations will be finishing up on Aug 13 and Sam Shepherd’s poverty play The Curse of the Starving Glass will run Aug 23-Sept 10. Noël Coward’s family comedy Hay Fever will be in residence at the Gate.
Finally, up at Belfast’s Lyric Owen McCafferty’s The Absence of Women – a “funny and poignant play about the life journey of two ordinary and lonely Belfast men at the end of their lives” – runs Aug 20-Sept 3. Also, polarising hit Carmel Winters’ B for Baby will be there Aug 23-28.
What theatre will you be going to in August?