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Irish Theater Now

Updated: Apr 7


From Dublin’s The Gate, The Abbey and the annual fringe and main Dublin Theatre Festivals, tracking west to the Druid Theatre in Galway, north to the Lyric in Belfast and all the way south to the Cork Opera House, Theaterhound will report on the world of Irish theater on its home grounds. We’ll focus especially on new, innovative forms of theater and the companies that are creating them – what brought them together, what makes them tick, and how they envision the future of Irish theater.


HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES:



IRISH REP, OFF BROADWAY

THREE BALLYBEG PLAYS

The rich tapestry of Brian Friel's Ballybeg plays were recently brought to life by the Irish Repertory Theater's Friel Project Off Broadway. Kicking off with "Translations," a compelling exploration of 19th-century British colonialism in Ireland directed by Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes, the series unfolded with the Chekhovian drama "Aristocrats," helmed by Charlotte Moore in January. Capping off the trio in March was "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" directed by Ciaran O'Reilly, which delved into the yearning for escape. The profound examination of Irish identity and universal human experiences in this captivating revival series by the Irish Repertory Theater allowed us into Friel's imaginative world, inspired by the landscapes of Glenties, County Donegal.


GOOD VIBRATIONS

BELFAST

In 1977, amid the Troubles in Belfast, Terri Hooley opened a record store called "Good Vibrations" that welcomed both Protestants and Catholics, providing a rare oasis of unity in a divided community. This inspiring story of bridging warring communities became a movie and later a stage musical, currently running at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan. The musical follows Hooley's journey in starting the shop and a record label that released songs by notable bands like the Undertones. Through the punk movement, Hooley sought to expand options and promote positivity amidst the turmoil of Northern Ireland. The show celebrates ordinary people who tried to make a difference during a challenging time in the country's history.


DRUID THEATRE, GALWAY NEW WRITING DEBUT

Founded by Garry Hynes, Marie Mullen and Mick Lally in 1975, Druid was the first professional theater company in Ireland to be based outside Dublin. With a strong focus on touring the country to make high quality theater more accessible and an accomplished new writing program, Druid is at the forefront of Irish theater today as it continues to push the limits of contemporary theater. Reinventing classics in addition to premiering new work, it is currently touring its critically acclaimed production of Waiting for Godot across Ireland and the United States. Playwright Marina Carr, whose work debuted at Druid, discusses the merits of refocusing theater outside of Dublin, and what it means for a writer to launch their career beyond the restraints of Ireland’s capital.


DUBLIN CITY NO LONGER JUST A GATE TO THE PAST

The Abbey and The Gate consistently deliver top notch productions of classics, greats and canon staples. However, which theaters are hosts to the new writing emerging throughout the country? Theaters like Smock Alley (photograph left) boast intricate design and architectural features as well as innovative, contemporary programs. Our Dublin City correspondent reports from Smock Alley and The Project Arts Center on the new and unusual theater they curate, and why. Award-winning Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole writes about the changes in Irish theater in the last decade and how the city manages to retain cultural tradition while continuing to push the boundaries of contemporary theater.


PLANTING SEEDS ROUGH MAGIC THEATER COMPANY

Since its foundation in 1984, Rough Magic aims to commission new Irish work & present the best of contemporary international writing as well as innovative productions from the classical repertoire. The company’s work includes over 50 Irish and world premieres as well as tours in Ireland, the UK and beyond. Artist Director, Lynne Parker, possesses a deep knowledge of theater both above and below the border, and as one of the only theater companies in the country still supported by Government Funding, Rough Magic is one of the most prominent forces of theater in the country. Offering programs such as SEEDS (now in its sixteenth year) for upcoming artists, they strive to introduce a new generation of Irish theater-makers to the professional theater world. Previous SEEDS participant, Ronan Phelan, writes about his time with Rough Magic and how the future of Irish theater looks from his current perspective as a director of plays throughout Ireland and abroad.


NORTHERN IRELAND KABOSH THEATER COMPANY

Renowned for its installations and site-specific performances, Kabosh consistently creates original work and often partners with various arts practitioners throughout the process. By using local stories and political history, it weave sthe past, present and future of Northern Ireland into its plays for residents and visitors alike. It aims to stimulate the public and firmly believe the power of political theater to change lives. As it continues to challenge preconceptions of what theater is, our NI correspondent speaks with Artistic Director, Paula McFetridge about the associations between Northern Ireland’s troubled past and Kabosh’s rebellious approach to theater as they map out the progress and evolution of their nation.


As one of the most innovative contemporary Irish theater companies, Anu Productions regularly produces astonishingly accurate depictions of Irish life, people and history, expertly constructed in gut-wrenching immersive experiences. After a critically acclaimed run in a dilapidated Dublin building, they recently reimagined and took their newest installation project, These Rooms to London. Combining theatre, visual art, and dance, These Rooms studies Dublin’s North King Street massacre of 1916 through the lens of 38 female witnesses.




On April 24th, 1916, Irish republican forces launched an armed revolt against their detested British rulers. This struggle for independence, later named the “Easter Rising”, inspired playwright Sean O’Casey to explore the violence, fear and uncertainty that enveloped the citizens of Dublin during the six-day ordeal. When his play The Plough and the Stars debuted at the Abbey Theatre in 1926, the audience stormed the stage protesting O’Casey’s depiction of a sacred uprising. To celebrate over 100 years since the Easter Rising, the Abbey Theatre brought back O’Casey’s classic and controversial play and are now touring it throughout Ireland and the UK.

The only full-time producing theatre in Northern Ireland, the Lyric in Belfast serves as an important beacon for the theater in the region. The Lyric has a history of premiering works and reinterpreting classics by Irish playwrights. They continue to do so with a revival of The Colleen Bawn, written by legendary Irish Writer Dion Boucicault. Directed by Bruiser Theatre Company‘s Artistic Director Lisa May, this production promises to be an exciting new take on Boucicault’s classic crime drama.


Acclaimed writer Roddy Doyle is known for his prolific works as a dramatist, novelist, and screenwriter. Doyle’s own stage adaption of his award-winning novel The Snapper recently had its world premiere at Dublin’s Gate Theatre. The novel is the second in Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy, the first of which (The Commitments) had its own onstage production (with a book written by Doyle) in 2013. The Snapper revolves around a 20-year-old Dublin girl’s unexpected pregnancy, as her dysfunctional family struggles to protect her.


1 Comment


Wes Braver
Wes Braver
Aug 15, 2023

Oh gosh all these great Irish companies make me want to plan a trip to Dublin...

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