art for Rough Magic’s Peer Gynt.

How It’s New York:  A lot of scouts (producers, directors, and so on) go to the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival in the autumn to find work to present, many from the US, many from America.  Under the Radar’s Mark Russell was one of the first people I met when I went out last year. And the Festival sends some of its hits to NYC too:  Druid’s The Silver Tassie was just here, Pan Pan’s The Rehearsal; Playing the Dane will be at NYU’s Skirball Center in November.   Though most of the productions are Irish, it’s also an internationa; Festival that brings work to Dublin.
How It’s Irish:  Thanks to the ReViewed program, sponsored by Culture Ireland, the Theatre Festival and the Irish Theatre Institute, the Festival not only presents new work but some terrific work that’s already run around the country. 
This year is the fifth and final festival for Artistic Director Loughlin Deegan, and he’s going out with a bang.  The 28 productions include ten, count ’em, ten new works from Rough
Rough Magic, the Abbey Theatre and the National Theatre of Great Britain, The Gate, Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival and Landmark Productions, Fabulous Beast and Sadler’s Wells, Brokentalkers, Siren Productions, ANU Productions and THISISPOPBABY.

I had a great time at last year’s Festival!  I didn’t get a lot to eat, but I was fed, as I wrote in my review for Irish Examiner USA:

The Theatre Festival, which has been running since 1957, is a must destination for American producers and scouts. Under the Radar’s Mark Russell and Meiyin Wang were among the first people I bumped into; former boss, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Artistic Director Marc Masterson, was literally the first – I saw him in the lobby of the Morrison hotel as I was checking in. Delegates to the Irish Theatre Institute included Irish Examiner’s man of the year, Origin Theatre’s George C. Heslin. The Directors’ Circle had its first international meeting at the Festival.
From October 7-11, I saw eight plays, two pieces in development, one late-night dance piece, one director talk. I went to the Gaiety, the Peacock, the Gate, the Project Arts Centre, the Ark, the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, and O’Reilly Theatre. I drank pints, thanks to friends who sent lists or brought me, included the Long Hall, the Stag’s Head, Grogan’s, Mulligan’s, the Palace and the International (not in one night!). Yeah, it’s better there.

This year’s Festival looks like it’s going to be another feast. Along with the picks below I’m really looking forward to seeing The Maeve Brennan Project, a work in progress from Emma Donoghue (author of Room, which I read on my iphone, not once but twice).  Here are my thoughts based on the press materials, but it hardly covers everything, to see it all and browse yourself, check out their website.

Gwen’s Picks:

1.  Peer Gynt from Rough Magic.  Rough Magic’s  Phaedra  (look for my review of the soundtrack in an upcoming issue of Irish Music Magazine) last year completely knocked me down I wrote for Irish Examiner USA:    

Rough Magic brought Improbable Frequency to New York in 2008, a wildly inventive piece about Irish spies during World War II – in verse!
Their production of Phaedra, though not the same creative team, also delights and surprises.
Musicians onstage play uillean pipes and bodhran as well as cello and flute. Fannin and Cranitch set the show in a kind of mythic Ireland – not tying it down to time and place but using references like “horlock’s” (I had to ask my neighbor what that was). The chorus are gods Artemis, Poseidon and Aphrodite (glorious singers Fionnuala Gill, Rory Musgrave, Cary White), costumed in otherworldy, semi-punk fashion (designed by Bláithín Sheerin). Music blends from baroque to trad and back….
Overall this blew me away. Sizzling and fresh.

 This time they’re doing their own take on Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, and reuniting the creative team from Improbably Frequency, director Lynne Parker and writer Arthur Riordan.  For Back Stage I wrote that Improbable Frequency was:

Like a cross between Monty Python and The 39 Steps, with a soupçon of The Threepenny Opera and a dash of Dr. Strangelove, Improbable Frequency is absolute entertainment.

So I’m really looking forward to this one!  I just hope there will be trolls!  DO NOT CUT THE TROLLS!

2.  Colm Tóibín’s  Testament, directed by Garry Hynes.   From Landmark Productions  commissioned with support from Irish Theatre Trust (Garry talks about it on last week’s podcast!).  hynes is just a terrifically good director and I’m excited about what she will do with Toibin’s work.

3.  Juno and the Paycock, by Sean O’Casey.   From the Abbey Theatre, in collaboration with the National Theatre of Great Britain (wasn’t it the Royal National Theatre recently? I can’t keep up).
I’m so up for more O’Casey after the brilliant Silver Tassie that Druid brought us.  I wasn’t that wild about the Abbey’s John Gabriel Borkman at BAM, but I did enjoy B for Baby, and after all, O’Casey was an Abbey playwright right up until he fell out with Yeats over The Silver Tassie.  Directed by Howard Davies, the cast includes Sinéad Cusack and Ciarán Hinds, both of whom can do no wrong. 

4.  16 Possible Glimpses by Marina Carr.  Also from the Abbey. Now Carr actually isn’t the only great female Irish playwright, though you might think so the way even people who should know better talk about it (two years ago I interviewed 4 female Irish playwrights at 1st Irish, for the L Magazine who had loads to say, though the best stuff was off the record) (but don’t miss Deirdre Kinahan’s Bogboy at Irish Arts Center in September, as part of 1st Irish), but she surely is important.   16 Possible Glimpses iss an imagistic imagining of the life of Anton Chekhov, directed by Wayne Jordan.

5.  The Blue Boy, from Brokentalkers. I had the chance to see this as a work in progress last year and was highly intrigued by this multimedia, partly documentary piece about childhood abuse in Catholic residential institutions.  This company loves to explode the myth that Irish theatre focuses on language (hence their name); I wrote about Silver Stars, a piece about gay Irish men coming out, set to music, when it came to New York for the New York TimesLike that piece, this one features music by Seán Millar, and is devised by Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan.  It’s a coproduction with a long long list of groups.

Picks from ReViewed and more after the jump!

ReViewed revives some productions that have already run around the country during the past year, for Dublin theatergoers and of course for the International presenters and critics.  The five this year all focus on newer younger work:

1.  Fight Night.   Winner of the Best Actor and the Bewley’s Little Gem Awards in last year’s Absolut Fringe, new play by Gavin Kostick (who wrote This Is What We Sang, which appeared at the Synagogue of the Arts as part of 1st Irish last year,.  Keeping up my Jirishness, I wrote about this one for The Forward).  Gavin’s the literary manager of Fishamble, who often bring work to NY, this is not a Fishamble production but was written and developed as part of Show in a Bag, an artist development initiative of Absolute Fringe, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute.

2. Slattery’s Sago Saga by The Performance Corporation, adapted by Arthur Riordan (yes, he of Improbable Frequency) from the unfinished novel by Flann O’Brien, to be restaged in Rathfarnham Castle.   Really, you can’t go too far wrong investigating Flann O’Brien.  Brendan Gleeson is about to direct and star At-Swim-Two-Birds by that very same Myles Na Coppaleen (how, I don’t know, but everyone is in it, including Gabriel Byrne and Colin Farrell).

3.  HEROIN, from THEATREclub, dir. by Grace Dyas (no playwright listed).  Winner of last year’s Spirit of the Fringe Award at Absolut Fringe, an exploration of the drug’s popularity in Ireland and its effects

4.World’s End Lane, from ANU Productions, dir. by Louise Lowe (no playwright listed).  The show is about Dublin’s red light district in the north inner city—winner of Best Off Site Production at the 2010 Absolut Fringe.  It’s one of those shows that is for just 3 people at a time.  This type of thing hasn’t caught on much in NYC, yet.  

5.  I Heart Alice Heart I, by Amy Conroy.   From HotforTheatre, about a couple coming out, which goes to 4 different venues during the festival, Winner of two Absolut Fringe awards in 2010 including the Fishamble New Writing Award,  Amy Conroy is part of the group “Six in the Attic,” an Irish Theatre Institute resource sharing initiative.   


That includes England, so one of the companies in this strand is Kneehigh Theatre,  who brought their glorious Brief Encounter  (which I adored, and reviewed for The L Magazine) to St. Ann’s Warehouse and then to Broadway, where it received a Tony nomination.  They’ve got a new show, The Wild Bride, by one of my favorite scary story writers, Emma Rice; the show tells the story of what happens when your father accidentally sells you to the Devil.

Dutch director Ivo van Hove and Toneelgroep Amsterdam wil present  La Voix Humaine  (he had Opening Night a few years back at BAM; I reviewed it, too, for Back Stage).
And more of course, to see the rest check the Festival website!
Other programs the Festival will present include “The Radical Mind:  50 Years of the Goethe-Institut,” celebrating 50 years of their presence in Ireland by presenting three contemporary German works.
“Behind Closed Doors” is described as “a series of remarkably intimate theatrical experiences focused on the private lives of Dublin’s inhabitants.”  ANU (same company doing World’s End Lane) is presenting Laundry, in a Magdaelene laundry, for three people at a time. THISISPOPBABY’s Trade, written by celebrated Irish screenwriter Mark O’Halloran is performed in a rundown guesthouse in Dublin’s north inner city.. Corcadorca, the celebrated Cork company known for its site-specific work, presents Request Programme, a haunting and intimate show that offers a devastating glimpse into the life of one woman, who in the course of an hour makes a decision that changes everything.
There are other site-specific productions listed, and Festival Highlights that include a work in progress from Emma Donoghue, The Maeve Brennan, among others.
And there will be three children’s companies: Denmark’s Teatret Gruppe 38, and the Belgian companies Studio ORKA and Carte Blanche.
Tickets for the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival go on sale the morning of August 16 and can be purchased by calling 011353.677.8899 or on their website.  
The Festival gets financial assistance from a lot of people.  You can read all about them, too, on their website.

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.