A look forward to the essential theatre and dance events of 2019.
It’s in the Blood
Project Arts Centre Jan 3 – 5
As part of First Fortnight, the annual arts festival that focuses on mental health, Germany-based Ghanaian actress Gifty Wiafe brings her blend of music, dance, humour and storytelling to Dublin. She explores deeply personal life events and links them with the broader social issues of migration, culture and national identity. Wiafe touches on corporate greed and environmental challenges, imported food and visa problems. Being of African origin, it is sometimes supposed that music and rhythm are in her blood. Wiafe has a different view.
East Belfast Boy & Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful
Prime Cut Tour, Jan 29 – 30, The Mac, Belfast
Prime Cut takes this pair of plays by Fintan Brady and John Patrick Higgins on a tour of Ireland that ends in the Project Arts Centre, Dublin. The company has been cutting a dash in Irish theatre of late, garnering major plaudits for Red by John Logan last year – a play about the artist Mark Rothko. Their recent tour of the controversial play Scorch by Stacey Gregg also made a strong impact, both here and the UK. The current offering takes us back to the world of Belfast for a close look at the mindscapes of complex men.
Project Arts Centre, Feb 14 – 16
Scottee is a performance artist from Kentish Town in North London. Billed as “fat rebellion”, this show investigates the social dilemmas of fat men using humour and provocation, asking why fat men are always funny but never sexy. Created by Scottee in collaboration with choreographer Lea Anderson.
The Country Girls
Abbey & tour, February 23 – April 6
Edna O’Brien’s debut from 1960 is one of the greatest novels of the modern Irish period and has been hugely influential. This is a new adaptation of the classic text by the author herself, and will be directed by Abbey Theatre co-director Graham McLaren. This coincides with the book’s stint as Dublin: One City One Book for 2019. The novel has had a number of film adaptations and a stage adaptation, but its essential feminine spunk hasn’t been successfully captured in performance. Yet.
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Bord Gáis, Feb 26 – Mar 2
This hit ballet production returns for another twirl at the Docklands venue. Bourne’s version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet features a troupe of all-male swans, thus altering the gender dynamic of the classic work. Originally produced in Sadler’s Wells in 1995, this is that most unusual of shows: a breakout ballet that became a popular hit. It’s a genuine crowd pleaser, so particularly suitable for anyone just dipping a toe into the dance water.
Druid Tour, starts March 20 (Pavillion, Dun Laoghaire)
Sonya Kelly’s play was a big hit at the Galway International Arts Festival earlier this year, as Druid finally improved its proportional representation of female writers for its new writing season. This is a three-part show, about three pairs of people for whom furniture bears a larger-than-usual significance. Clever and wittily scripted, it offers a lot of laughs but builds to a satisfying emotional finish with the third part. Directed with style by Cathal Cleary. The tour winds up at the Everyman, Cork.
Abbey, April 9 – 20
David Ireland had a major success with Cyprus Avenue in 2016, featuring a unionist Belfast man suffering from the delusion that his grandchild is Gerry Adams. Ireland’s new play is about an Oscar-winning actor, a director on the make, and a writer from Northern Ireland who is very clear about her particular vision. They clash over various versions of Irishness and the nature of power within creative relationships. This play garnered much buzz at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Directed by Gareth Nicholls from the Traverse theatre Edinburgh.
Fishamble Tour, starts April 23 (Siamsa Tire, Tralee, Co Kerry)
Colin Murphy’s docudrama is about the 1982 deal between Charles Haughey and Tony Gregory that saw Gregory’s impoverished inner-city constituency get a sweet deal in exchange for his propping up the Haughey-led government. A smart and entertaining presentation directed by Conall Morrison, this sold out immediately for its short Peacock run last year, disappointing lots of would-be punters. It returns this year for a national tour that finishes up in Limerick.
The Glass Menagerie
The Gate, April 25 – June 1
This is traditional Gate programming: a meaty American classic with popular appeal. Co Down-born director/designer Tom Cairns makes his Irish debut with this 1944 work that established Tennessee Williams as a significant dramatist. Cairns has a lengthy CV in classic theatre and opera with the Royal Opera House, the British National Theatre and the Met Opera. A director with a big vision coupled with Tennessee Williams’s large emotional range ensure this will be a significant show
A Streetcar Named Desire
Belfast’s Lyric, May 4 – June 1
If you haven’t had enough Tennessee Williams at the Gate, then the Lyric flagship production for the summer season gives you another bite at the American playwright’s work. Emma Jordan, who has been to the forefront in directing much impressive and innovative work from Northern Ireland in recent times, takes on the challenge of creating a Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski for the post #MeToo era.
Abbey Theatre, May 10 & 11
Leading traditional Irish dance artist Colin Dunne joins with Flemish-Moroccan choreographer and dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to create a meeting of cultures and styles. Composer Michael Gallen and musician Soumik Datta join them on stage, bringing sean-nós and percussive sound to the arrangement in this specially commissioned show by the Abbey Theatre and Dublin Dance Festival (DDF) for the 15th edition of the festival.
W.A.M. (We are Monchichi)
O’Reilly Theatre, Dublin May 11 & 12
Presented by DDF in partnership with The Ark, this is a show for ages 7-plus and their families, which mixes storytelling and hip-hop, alongside classical and contemporary dance.Created by Company Wang Ramirez, it features two dancers who between them embody four different cultures in a playful search for harmony and common ground.
Rosas danst Rosas
Abbey Theatre May 18 & 19
Choreographed by Belgian-born Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, and literally translated as Roses Dance Roses, this work for four female dancers from 1983 finally has its Irish premiere. Small everyday gestures loom large in this essentially feminine contemporary classic.
Abbey, May 25 – June 8
This is the world premiere of a new play by Dylan Coburn Gray co-produced by the Abbey and London’s Soho Theatre. Coburn Gray’s play won Soho’s highly competitive Verity Bargate Award in 2017. The play is about Dublin and Dubliners from the perspective of a cab driver. Last year the new writing programme consistently sold out the 120-seater Peacock, so the Abbey has decided to present two of its new plays on the main stage, but with a re-configured, more intimate auditorium, ie less seats. An interesting experiment. The play is to be directed by talented Abbey Theatre Associate Director Caitríona McLaughlin.
Young Vic, London, Sept 19 – Nov 2
Irish writer Marina Carr creates a new version of Federico García Lorca’s classic play for the London theatre. The destructive femininity and passionate engagement with rural energy of the Spanish writer will make an interesting fit with Carr’s similar, but Irish, sensibility. It will be directed by Yaël Farber, the South African superstar who did a splendid job with Hamlet starring Ruth Negga at the Gate.
Ones to watch
Murray’s new play, All Mod Cons, about a transgender woman who returns home after eight years away, premieres at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre in May. The Limerick playwright has an MFA in playwriting from The Lir Academy; participated in the Young Writers Lab at London’s Soho Theatre; and won the Fishamble New Writing Award at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2018. This high-profile Lyric production may put her on the map.
As artistic director of Dublin’s tiny Theatre Upstairs, the Fair City actor has been supporting emerging and established talent since 2010. January will see the company breaking out of its own venue and going round the corner to collaborate with the Abbey Theatre. They will present the Irish premiere of a double bill by Philip Ridley on the Peacock stage. Shiels will direct, and the plays feature Rex Ryan and Katie Honan.
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