herald

Saturday 19 January 2019

Curtains up: City-wide theatre festival makes a welcome return to the capital

Get set for 18 days of world premieres, re-imagined classics and genre-bending visions as the annual Dublin Theatre Festival kicks off on Thursday

charlie murphy
charlie murphy
spinning

It's been 57 years since the first Dublin Theatre Festival (DTF) took place. That's a lot of history. A lot of drama. These are exciting times for domestic theatre, with a plethora of vibrant one-man shows, colourful re-imaginings and scintillating new works staged in Ireland on a weekly basis.

It's a challenging era for both established and emerging artists, but the wonder and spectacle of live performance is something we can't afford to lose.

According to DTF's artistic director and chief executive Willie White, theatrical experiences bring people together. They get people talking.

"The art of theatre is a social activity," he says, "and in a city I think it's really important - you can go on your own, you can go with your friends, you can go with your family, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever.

"I think to have a kind of public practice of culture is very important, and our responsibility then is to offer something that's worthwhile and that might give you something to talk about, particularly in Ireland, a small country with a very long and strong tradition of theatre." Well said.

Intimate A total of 27 productions will be staged across 21 venues as part of this year's festivities, juxtaposing the new with the old, the large-scale with the intimate, the classic with the contemporary.

As Willie explains, keeping an eye on the past is just as important as moving forward.

"I think there's enough of a balance of the new and the old," he says.

"You celebrate it by continuing to do the best festival that you can and using your resources and then just looking back at the history and seeing what you can learn from that."

"New plays are risky, let's face it, and what a festival does is offer a platform where some of that risk is taken out of the equation.

"How the festival works and what I enjoy about it is actually mixing both the Irish work and that's gonna be brand new and that's really exciting to be there at the start of something, with the international work".

There's a lot to look forward to, including shows from Australia, the UK, Belgium, Chile, Germany and France.

Ten Irish productions will have their world premieres, including Paul Mercier's Reiltin on the Peacock Stage (the first Irish language play at the festival in 17 years) and Hugo Hamilton's The Mariner at the Gate.

Elsewhere, there's the DTF Family Season featuring productions for ages three-plus, and a special exhibition featuring material from the festival's history will be at the Little Museum of Dublin.

Heck, we might even stumble upon the next big thing at the annual works-in-progress presentation (Phillip McMahon and Mark Palmer will be testing out a new production, I'm Your Man, at the Project Arts Centre on October 4 - one to watch for sure).

The drama kicks off next Thursday. Time to dive in.

The Dublin Theatre Festival runs city-wide from September 25 to October 12. For full list of events, www.dublintheatrefestival.com

FIVE MUST-SEES AT THIS YEAR'S DTF

Hamlet

Berlin's Schaubuhne theatre house returns to the capital for the first time in eight years with a critically-acclaimed production of the Shakespearian classic.

Directed by Thomas Ostermeier, this new and improved Hamlet features a phenomenal stage "covered in earth, blood and water" as a cast of six portrays up to 20 characters in what promises to be a theatre event like no other.

It's all done in German, mind, with English surtitles throughout.

It's almost three hours long too, with no interval, so maybe bring a cushion.

> Bord Gais Energy Theatre, September 25 to 27. Tickets: €15-€40.

Our Few and Evil Days

A new play courtesy of the man who gave us Howie the Rookie and Intermission? Yes, please. Irish playwright and director Mark O'Rowe premieres his latest work, a contemporary, familial drama "about the limits of devotion" on the Abbey stage.

There are quite a few actors from Love/Hate in there too - Lloyd Anderson, Charlie Murphy (left) and the superlative Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. Completing the cast is Sinead Cusack and Ciaran Hinds. We can't wait.

>Abbey Theatre, Sepember 26 to October 11 as part of DTF, with an additional two-week run after the festival concludes. Tickets €13-€45. Oh, and Mark O'Rowe will give a post-show talk on October 7.

what happens to the hope at the end of the evening

The lower casing is intentional. Apparently, this is a play about finding yourself. No, wait, come back - it sounds kinda cool.

A playful, 60-minute collaboration between award-winning British theatre- makers Tim Crouch and Andy Smith (An Oak Tree, ENGLAND, The Author), it involves two buddies who come together one evening to drink, chat and fight about being middle-aged.

"The world falls apart," we're told, so will there still be a friendship by the end of the night? Expect a few laughs.

>Abbey Theatre, on the Peacock Stage, October 2 to 4. Tickets: €20-€25.

Spinning

Conor isn't doing too good. According to the official synopsis, his life is falling apart and the father of one is about to meet Susan, who is mourning the death of her teenage daughter.

But what is it that binds these two lost souls? Things could get heavy in Deirdre Kinahan's new play for Fish- amble, set in "small town Ireland".

Karl Shiels, Janet Moran, Caitriona Ennis and Fiona Bell co-star.

>Smock Alley Theatre, Main Space, October 1 to 12. Tickets: €20-€30.

Hello My Name Is

We won't be so bold as to insert the words "Slim Shady" after that title. Besides, this delightful-sounding production has nowt to do with hip-hop.

The gist here is that the audience is planted in a community centre ("or a room called a community centre"), and guess what? You, the audience member, are a workshop participant. And there are quite a few activities to get through.

We're warned that the 70-minute production contains nudity.

It also includes "a short outdoor walk" (they'd want to stay fully-clothed for that bit). Sounds fun.

>Smock Alley Theatre, Banquet Hall, September 30 to October 5. Tickets: €20-25

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