Saturday, January 4, 2014

Irish Theatre to See in 2014

Some plays for your diary ...

Following the triumph of DruidMurphy, Druid's premiere of Tom Murphy's Brigit is easily the most anticipated play of 2014. I had previously reported that this prequel to Bailegangaire - Murphy's 1985 drama about a senile grandmother at war with two granddaughters, with the liberation of all three resting in the matriarch's ability to recall a story from her past - to be a new play when in fact its time of writing predates both it and A Thief of a Christmas - a dramatisation of the grandmother's saga - and was produced as a television play in 1987. Druid will premiere the stage production sometime in 2014 in Galway.  

Five years in the making, the conclusion of ANU Productions' Monto Cycle will take place at Dublin Theatre Festival (25 September - 12 October) according to an Arts Council funding release. Having chronicled periods of regeneration in the Monto area, from its being as an infamous 19th century red light district (World's End Lane), the ensuing catholic rehabilitation (Laundry) and its post-dockworker community of the 1970s fractured by crime and heroin (The Boys of Foley Street), ANU's finale of the set, Vardo Corner, looks at the area's present landscape through a family of Romany fortunetellers who've lived in the area through all the previous regenerations. 

Dancer Emma O'Kane in an in-development showing of Vardo Corner

The Arts Council also confirmed funding for Landmark Productions to reunite the creative team of Misterman for a new play by Enda Walsh at the Galway Arts Festival (14 - 27 July). A previous funding award suggests the piece to be an opera. Also, I'm making my prediction right now that the Mark O'Rowe adaptation of The Threepenny Opera, undelivered by the Gate this year, will end up in Landmark's hands somewhere in the future. 

Speaking of Brecht and Weill's musical satire, its follow-up, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, will be co-produced by Rough Magic and Opera Theatre Company in the Olympia Theatre, July 12-22. Expect a big budget as the project is backed by a hefty €230,000 arts award from broadcasting company Sky Ireland.

Closer to the present, Selina Cartmell's Siren Productions bring Ben Power's reimagining of Romeo and JulietA Tender Thing, to Project Arts Centre from 23 January - 15 February. Power's play, originally a commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company, wonders "What if the star-cross'd lovers had lived and loved?" and presents them in their old age. The filmic Cartmell is one of the best directors working in the country, and while her Abbey production of King Lear last year wasn't as good as I was expecting it to be, I sense that it was affected by the time restraints of working for an in-house venue. Her work with her independent entity, Siren Productions, feels more unrestrained and resulted in fabulous projects such as The Lulu House and The Making of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. A Tender Thing stars her long-time collaborators Olwen Fouéré and Owen Roe. 

Promotional art for A Tender Thing.

There was bad news on the management end of Limerick City of Culture this week with the resignation of three senior organisers and what appears to be a poor appointment of a chief executive without a competency in the arts. One would hope that the controversy will spur the event's board chairman, Pat Cox, to find a replacement Artistic Director - one that will be listened to this time around and allowed to engage the cultural programming. I urge that we don't let the negative press stunt the event, which is incredibly important for the city's current arts crisis. The line-up includes Pat Kinevane's Silent follow-up, Underneath; an ANU Productions and The Performance Corporation co-production called Beautiful Dreamers exploring the dreams and realities of the city's people, to be staged in May; and Limerick playwright Helena Enright's River Shannon Project, performed on a boat over the river itself in the autumn.

An Arts Council Project Award was given to Galway's Moonfish company, who are deftly skilled in bi-lingual storytelling and use of puppetry and sound design (as seen in their acclaimed
Tromluí Phinocchio/Pinocchio – A Nightmare), towards an adaptation of Joseph O'Connor's famine ship novel, The Star of the Sea, for Galway Arts Festival. Another rising company, BrokenCrow in Cork, received funding to produce an offsite production for a major festival, I'm guessing Cork Midsummer (Jun 21-30).

Moonfish in rehearsal for The Star of the Sea

As for the Project Awards that didn't include scheduled performance dates, we'll have to speculate as to when the recipient artists will produce their work. Dead Centre probably produced the best theatre production of 2013 with Lippy, and their charming frontman Bush Moukarzel is now funded to develop a work unlocking the lost plays of the early 20th century. José Miguel Jiménez received support for The Company to stage a reworking of the Oresteia - the trilogy of Greek tragedies - in Project Arts Centre. Funding was also given to Maeve Stone for her first theatre project since finishing her assistant director residency at the Abbey. Stone brought beautiful vision and emotional realism to the 2011 play You Can't Just Leave - There's Always Something, and now she turns to the dream-like surrealism of August Strindberg's satirical novel The Red Room. 

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