It may be tough out there, but Irish theatre is responding with hard-nosed good sense. With funding cut, there’s a new focus on what audiences want. And in times of recession, as Michael Colgan says, they want entertainment. Here are ten shows in 2013 that look likely to entertain, and may well inspire.
The hit film-turned-band-turned-musical comes to the Gaiety en route to the West End, in February. Glen Hansard wrote the songs, John Carney wrote the movie and Enda Walsh wrote the play – add in director John Tiffany and you have the kind of dream team that helps to explain eight Tony awards. www.gaietytheatre.ie
Una McKevitt mined a similarly rich seam of sex and songs for Singlehood, a wry look at the diverse experiences of mostly young and mostly single folk. It was a hit at the Dublin Fringe last year and returns for two nights at Vicar Street on March 1 and 2, with support from Maeve Higgins and sublime songs by The Guilty Folk. Who could resist the overtures of their spectacularly unsubtle anthem, ‘You’re the audience we’d like to f**k’? www.vicarstreet.ie
3. Bedroom Farce
Alan Ayckbourn doesn’t bother with the songs, but sexual comedy has always been a mainstay of the work of this extraordinarily successful British playwright. Ayckbourn’s 1975 farce opens at the Gate at the beginning of February, with a strong cast including Deirdre Donnelly, Stephen Brennan and Louis Lovett. www.gatetheatre.ie
4. The Rite of Spring
If you’re more excited by the avant-garde than a double entendre, then Michael Keegan Dolan’s Stravinsky double bill at the Galway Arts Festival should light your fire, when his Fabulous Beast company stages The Rite of Spring and Petrushka with 12 actors and dancers and two pianists. www.galwayartsfestival.com
5. A double bill of George Bernard Shaw
The Gate moves from bedroom farces to brothel politics in March, for Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession. And the Shaw renaissance continues at the Abbey in July when Annabelle Comyn returns to direct Major Barbara. Her production of Shaw’s Pygmalion was one of the outstanding recent Abbey shows. www.abbeytheatre.ie
6. Best Man
Carmel Winters’s B for Baby was one of the most interesting and provocative explorations of sexual politics of recent years. Now, Winters takes on the subject of marriage, in a new play to be directed by Michael Barker Caven at the Everyman in Cork as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. www.everymanpalace.com
7. Here All Night
It’s presumably only a matter of time before someone stages a Beckett musical. But in the meantime, Gare St Lazare Players – perhaps the most sensitive interpreters of Beckett around – have plumbed his work for original music, songs and musical passages of text. The resulting show, Here All Night, is expected to tour here in the summer. www.garetour.squarespace.com
8. The Bridge Below the Town
Cavan-based Livin Dred have ploughed a fertile furrow with robustly entertaining productions of new and classic Irish plays, and scored a big hit with Padraic McIntyre’s The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down. McIntyre returns as director of this new play by Pat McCabe, which opens at the Ramor in Virginia in April before touring. Watch out also for The Sand Park by Seamus O’Rourke, touring in spring, and a tour in autumn by Decadent Theatre of Billy Roche’s wonderful The Cavalcaders. See www.nomadtheatrenetwork.ie and www.ramortheatre.com.
9. Drum Belly
Richard Dormer scored a huge hit some years ago with his one-man show about Alex Higgins and is reportedly superb in the Belfast punk movie Good Vibrations. He brings his new play, about the Irish mafia in Brooklyn, to the Peacock in April, to be directed by one of the leading British directors, Sean Holmes of the Lyric Hammersmith.
“Think Krapp’s Last Tape as reimagined by Madonna,” wrote the LA Times of Pat Kinevane’s wonderous one-man show, Silent. What’s not to like? Kinevane embarks on an extensive national tour with this and his other one-man show, Forgotten, starting at the First Fortnight Festival in Dublin, January 10-12. See www.firstfortnight.ie and www.fishamble.com.
Published in the Irish Independent.