By Charlie McBride
DECEMBER 30, and as 2014 makes its valedictory bow, and takes its final curtain call, before tomorrow exiting the stage - to appreciative applause, naturally - while bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 2015 waits in the wings for its turn in the limelight.
As one year of play-going and theatre-making concludes, what theatrical attractions can Galway audiences look forward to in the next 12 months from the city’s resident companies? At the time of going to press not all of them were in a position to confirm their plans for 2015 but a goodly number were able to do so and, suffice to say, there are some cracking shows to look forward to in the months ahead.
Director Anne McCabe is making things happen at An Taibhdhearc and there is plenty to attract audiences to Middle Street in 2015, both from in-house and visiting shows. An early highlight at the venue is Doonreagan by Anne Henning Jocelyn.
The play examines the relationship between poet Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill. Hughes had begun an affair with Wevill while still married to Sylvia Plath and the couple subsequently had a daughter, Shura. In a tragic echo of Plath’s fate, in 1969 Wevill gassed herself and her daughter in their London flat. Three years earlier, in February 1966, Wevill and Hughes spent a brief time together at Doonreagan House in Connemara.
Henning Jocelyn’s play explores their efforts to find a common ground, free from the overshadowing presence of Sylvia Plath. In Connemara, close to nature, away from the judgments and pressures of the world at large, Jocelyn suggests they came closer not only to each other but also to themselves. Doonreagan premiered in London last year and comes to An Taibhdhearc for three performances from January 22 to 24. The cast features Daniel Simpson as Ted Hughes and Tara Breathnach as Assia Wevill. Performances will be followed by a talk with the author.
One of the highlights of last year’s Galway International Arts Festival was Star of the Sea, the brilliant stage adaptation of Joseph O’Connor’s novel co-produced by An Taibhdhearc and Moonfish. It makes a welcome return in the autumn for a richly deserved second run in Galway followed by a national tour - sure to be another highlight in An Taibhdhearc’s 2015 calendar.
An Taibhdhearc also has a fascinating show in store for next year’s GIAF - Maumtrasna, written by Sighle Meehan and translated by Macdara O’Fatharta. The play dramatises the story of the grisly 1882 Maamtrasna murders, in which five members of the Joyce family were slain, and the aftermath of the crime which saw 10 local man charged with the killings and three of them sentenced to hang.
It was one of the most notorious murder cases in Irish history and was debated widely in the UK and beyond, not least because there was strong evidence to suggest that one of the hanged men, Myles Joyce, was entirely innocent, as were several others who had been sentenced to long terms in prison for their supposed part in the crime. Maumtrasna should make for a gripping and provocative evening of drama.
Another notable event in An Taibhdhearc’s programme is a commemorative night in honour of the late Maire Stafford - for many years was a stalwart of the company in many different capacities, including actor, translator, and costume-designer. The all-star event will take place on March 6, which would have been Maire’s birthday. 2015 will also see An Taibhdhearc mark the centenary of Walter Macken, another stalwart of the company from earlier times, and, in May, the venue will host the Galway Theatre Festival.
And also playing in 2015...
Andrew Flynn’s Decadent Theatre Company have two very strong shows lined up for next year. In February, at the Town Hall Theatre, they stage the Irish premiere of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.
The play opens in a prison cell where a young writer is being questioned about the children’s tales he has written – grim tales which have inspired copycat killings in the streets outside. Two interrogators tease out the resemblance between real and fictional worlds while probing the personal responsibility of the writer. One of McDonagh’s very best plays, this is definitely a highlight of the spring theatre season. The cast includes Peter Campion and Michael Ford Fitzgerald. The Pillowman runs from February 23 to 28, with previews from 19 to 21.
In the autumn, Decadent are back in action with another Irish premiere; DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little, adapted for stage by Tanya Ronder. Vernon God Little is a blackly humorous look at the misadventures of a Texas teen named Vernon Little whose best friend has just killed 16 of their classmates and himself. In the wake of the tragedy, the townspeople seek both answers and vengeance; because Vernon was the killer’s closest friend, he becomes the focus of their fury. Bracingly satirical and biliously funny this is another one worth noting in one’s diary.
Theatrecorp consistently excel in their staging of classics of world theatre and they’re in the Town Hall from February 3 to 7 with John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. In this macabre Jacobean tragedy, when the widowed Duchess secretly marries her steward it drives her siblings into a murderous, bloody, quest for retribution against her. Theatrecorp’s production is directed by Max Hafler.
Fregoli Theatre Company have just been announced as the inaugural recipients of the Mike Diskin Arts Bursary and will be treating audiences to two new productions next year. Mary Mary Mary, by Maria Tivnan, is a delicately woven poetic piece about three generations of Irish women. Crafted in fragments, Mary Mary Mary offers glimpses into the loves, lives, and duties of three women, inviting the audience to share in their most poignant moments. Directed by Kate Murray and performed by Tracy Bruen, Eimear Kilmartin, and Eilis McCarthy, it is at the Town Hall studio from February 24 to 27.
Later in the year, Fregoli will debut another large scale original production entitled Pleasure Ground. It explores the decline of small town rural Ireland and its effect on a particular group of young people.
For Branar Theatre, 2015 will be a year of trains, planes, and automobiles. They are touring three different shows over the year; Spraoi heads to London, Limoges, and Paris, The Way Back Home will tour Ireland before heading to Japan and the World Puppet Theatre Festival in France, and Blath will head to Belfast. The company are also working on a new show with Scottish ensemble, Starcatchers.
Thereisbear! have been busy beavers this past while (if that doesn’t mix the animal metaphors too much ) and the company is back in action next year with a Gothic literary project to be unveiled in the early summer, stay tuned for futher details in due course!
Caroline Lynch, of Mephisto, and Sarah O’Toole, from Anam Theatre, are collaborating on a play about Maud Gonne which they will present at NUI Galway’s Arts in Action week in late February.
Emma O’Grady, also of Mephisto, is currently working on a solo play about her late grandfather who left 15 hours of recordings on his dictaphone prior to his death. “A lot of it is him telling stories,” O’Grady tells me. “He was a civil servant but really wanted to be a writer.” The memorable title of this work in progress is; The Contender or What Good Is Looking Well When You’re Rotten Inside.