Eight to see at the Dublin Theatre Festival
The Sin Eaters Such has been the power of Louise Lowe and Owen Boss’s company Anu Productions, and the spellbinding collaborations that have brought our unresolved histories into the light of the present, that it’s easy to forget how the Dublin Theatre Festival managed without them. In The Sin Eaters, performed at the Pigeon House – a difficult venue to access – they revisit our history of constitutionally prioritised family units, contested reproductive rights and resurgent body politics, through dreamlike installations and judicial inquiries.
Nora Inspired by A Doll’s House, Ibsen’s classic about marriage in suffocating circumstances, Belinda McKeon’s new play, written with Corn Exchange’s Annie Ryan, flashes forward to 2025, a still perilous time for those who can’t afford to protect themselves. Here, a glitzy couple prepare to host a party for the elite of the art world as the facade of their partnership begins to shatter. Ryan plays Nora, with a cast including Declan Conlon, Peter Gaynor and Venetia Bowe, directed by Eoghan Carrick.
Girl Song Emma Martin’s innovative company United Fall follows 2015’s highly regarded Dancehall with a new work exploring the passage of a single life, conveying an ordinary existence in extraordinary details, where movement and imagery combine the quotidian, the haunting and the absurd. A co-production between the Dublin Theatre Festival and Noorderzon, it already epitomises the international reach of the festival platform, while the performance charts the hopes and accommodations of an individual at home. Josephine K and the Algorithms “Someone must have been spreading lies about Josephine K . . . ” Stacey Gregg has quickly become one of Ireland’s most frequently staged new writers at home and abroad, and here she threads Franz Kafka’s enduring piece of paranoid absurdism about a figure hounded by un unaccountable justice system, The Trial, into the age of big data, technological intrusion and online mobs. Directed by Caitríona McLaughlin for the Abbey, it all takes place in a breathless hour-long showdown between Josephine, her judges, jury and executioner.
Come Away With Me to the End of the World You could say that theatre is always heavy with considerations of mortality. Still, this year’s programme foregrounds the issue, either solemnly or anarchically, from Dead Centre’s Shakespearean riff in Hamnet to Australia’s Tamara Saulwick and her starkly titled Endings. Her compatriots, the contemporary company Ranters, keep their reflections quietly humorous, reshaping their world between the actual and ideal towards an encounter with Greek music legend Demis Roussos – the man with all the answers.
Rapids The spirited documentary theatre company Talking Shop Ensemble make their DTF debut with a work about living in Ireland with HIV. Written by frequent collaborator Shaun Dunne, it is informed by groups affected by the issue, from young rural Irish men to migrant women seeking refuge. Transforming their sober details into a piece that works on stage requires both sensitivity and creative latitude, a complicated balance. But that is what Talking Shop Ensemble have long been working towards.
Fruits of Labour It’s not hard to trace the influence of Miet Warlop’s mindexpanding visual stage world in some of the broader horizons of Irish scenography since her first Dublin visit in 2012. Like Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance, Warlop’s new piece is somewhere between theatre performance and music concert, in which Warlop, three musicians and a roadie preside over a psychoactive parade through religion, terrorism, hallucinations and nature trails, transforming the stage is into its own skittering musical instrument.
The Second Violinist This show premiered at this year’s Galway International Arts Festival, where Woyzeck in Winter also originated, and Enda Walsh and Donnacha Dennehy’s collaboration for Landmark and Wide Open Opera brings another misfit to Dublin. Aaron Monaghan plays a dangerously isolated professional musician, falling down on his job, stalked by technology and heaving with violent impulses, while an opera explodes to life around him. A composition on creativity and destruction, it is a remarkably spectacular work on a troublingly recurrent subject. Peter Crawley
Left: Venetia Bowe and Annie Ryan in Nora. Above: Aaron Monaghan in The Second Violinist