Around the World in 18 Days: The Dublin Theatre Festival programme is revealed

Around the World in 18 Days: The Dublin Theatre Festival programme is revealed

It is hard to say what an ideal Dublin Theatre Festival would look like, but the 56th programme, announced today, seems to have all the necessary ingredients.

A number of new Irish plays, several new Irish productions of Irish and international classics, and a new Irish adaptation of a seminal European musical all feature prominently, as do 16 international productions drawn from Japan, India, America, the UK, Poland, France, Germany, Portugal and Canada. If you want a richly costumed Shakespeare production – or, indeed, a stripped-down postdramatic riff inspired by Shakespeare – I’m afraid you’re fresh out of luck. But, in many respects, the 27 productions in Artistic Director Willie White’s second programme have got world theatre covered.

Choosing a highlight from the programme, then, will be a matter of personal preference. Some will find it particularly gratifying that, for the first time in 14 years, Frank McGuinness will have a wholly original new play staged by the Abbey with The Hanging Gardens, a family drama directed by Patrick Mason. Others may recognise a distinct coup in enticing Desperate Optimists (the Irish-born, British-based artists Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor) back to the stage for the first time in nearly 12 years for a Festival co-production of a new work, Tom and Vera.

That indicates a programme which caters to diverse tastes, but in the year of The Gathering, it also seems weighty with homecomings. That is underscored by theatre that looks critically at cultural globalisation, theatre that celebrates international influence and a day-long symposium, Voyage and Return, on Irish theatre and the diaspora, featuring a public lecture from Fiona Shaw.

The Gate theatre’s offering, a new version of The Threepenny Opera, is to be directed by Wayne Jordan, whose track record for musicals (Alice in Funderland, Ellamenope Jones) bodes well for Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s scabrously funny anti-capitalist musical.

On the 60th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s first play Gare St Lazare Players are staging Waiting For Godot in the Gaiety Theatre in another Festival co-production. Internationally recognised for the company’s pared-back and lucid staging of Beckett’s prose work, GSLP here takes on its first production of Beckett’s dramatic work, which also marks Godot’s first major Irish production since Walter Asmus’s endlessly-revived 1991 production for the Gate – once described as the “definitive” version.

Meanwhile Rough Magic builds on its long history with the Festival with an adventurous staging of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s theatre send-up, The Critic. Director Lynne Parker will combine 18th Century characters and 21st Century techniques, staging the performance in two venues while enlisting theatre students to execute its play-within-a-play. Corn Exchange also return with a new production of Eugene O’Neill’s tragedy of desire and greed, Desire Under the Elms, stripping the play “down to its bare bones”.

There are also new plays from Eamon Morrissey, whose solo-show Maeve’s House explores his coincidental link with Maeve Brennan, a shared address, and the substance of her short stories at the Peacock; Fishamble produces Sean McLoughlin’s new play The Bruising of Clouds, and Theatre Lovett stage Frances Kay’s new musical fable A Feast of Bones as part of the Ark’s Family Season. The ever-rising dance theatre company junk ensemble debut a new work at the festival entitled Dusk Ahead in which dancers double as musicians for a piece about blindness and discerning between reality and imagination.

Irish productions have been given great prominence this year, but the programme features a greater number of international works. Among them, the Australian contemporary circus company, C!rca, (whose eponymous show was a huge success in the 2010 festival), return to the Gaiety with Wunderkammer, a cabaret of daring physical feats. The Events, a new play by prolific Scottish playwright David Greig, will be staged in the Peacock, which was partly inspired by the 2011 mass shooting in Norway, and examines the nature of community and forgiveness in the face of unimaginable atrocity.

Camille O’Sullivan’s performance of Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which premiered last year in Edinburgh and subsequently toured to Sydney, also receives its Irish premiere.

Two intriguing productions appear in the programme under the auspices of NXTSTP, a project to initiate and ciruclate international co-productions between eight European theatre festivals (the DTF joined last year). Germinal, described by White as a “festival gem” is a co-production between 13 theatre companies, for instance, in which the French team of Antoine Defoort and Halory Goerger playfully combine performance, visual art, multimedia and music to build up a universe of communication and the challenge of being together in an increasingly mediated world.

Another fruit of NXTSTP, which grants the DTF speedier access to new shows on the international grid, is Three Fingers Below the Knee by Portuguese playwright Tiago Rodrigues about the effects of censorship on theatre and dissent. Added to these are Ground and Floor from Japan’s Toshiki Okada (a response to the catastrophe at Fukushima in a contemporary version of Noh theatre); a visit from America’s postdramatic exponents Richard Maxwell and New York City Players with Neutral Hero; the slyly political piece Winners and Losers from Canada’s Theatre Replacement and Neworld Theatre; and Tramandal a charming tale from India’s The Tadpole Repertory inspired by a Satyajit Ray short story.

One noticeable loss is the discontinuation of the ReViewed programme, introduced in 2008, which revived Irish productions to allow audiences a second chance to see the highlights of the previous year, while stimulating international touring opportunities for those productions among international delegates. This year, the In Development programme has been expanded instead, featuring presentations from Pan Pan, ANU Productions, Brokentalkers, José Miguel Jiménez and Dylan Tighe, and composer Roger Doyle. A new platform in which theatre makers can pitch projects to delegates has also been added.

This year’s tagline for the festival is “Come out and play” and White elaborated on it. “It’s about an invitation. The reason the festival programme has been put together in this way is that I think and hope people will like and appreciate it. I think there’s sufficient diversity from Wunderkammer, which is a very accessible show to something like Ground and Floor, which people might find more challenging. But for audiences who are curious and adventurous and want to discover new theatrical voices, that’s absolutely what they’re there for. And within the Irish practice there’s a huge range from a revival of Sheridan or a new production of Beckett to a brand new Frank McGuinness play.”


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