Last week the line-up for this year’s ABSOLUT Fringe was revealed, which will take place in Dublin September 10-25. Sailing under the banner ‘Brave New World’ – this year’s festival intends to chart “a new course through a very changed Irish society”. Below are a few thoughts on the programme and a provisional strategy of what shows I’m going to attend.
There is something of a retrospective vibe to July. Brian Friel is seemingly the writer-in-residence at both the Abbey and the Gate this month. Molly Sweeney – “a humorous, compelling and moving drama, which tells the story of a woman, blind since infancy, who has the chance to regain her sight” – will run at the Gate while post-colonial masterpiece Translations – featuring a cast including Janet Moran (Freefall, Pineapple), Aaron Monaghan (Christ Deliver Us!, The Silver Tassie) and Denis Conway (The Gigli Concert, Penelope) – runs in the Abbey until mid August.
Also revisiting from the past is Enda Walsh’s Misterman (pictured above) – a highlight of this year’s Galway Arts Festival and also my pick of the month. This dark tale of a man on a self-appointed mission to “do the Lord’s work” in the small community of Inishfree was originally staged by Corcadorcha in 1999 starring Walsh himself. Now reworked and expanded, with Walsh on directing duties and Disco Pig Cillian Murphy cast in the role, it’s hard not to get excited about Misterman (Town Hall Theatre, Jul 7-24). This year’s festival does present a Disco Pigs reunion of sorts, as Eileen Walsh can be seen as the lone star of Corcadorcha’s arcane site-specific Request Programme (the Western Hotel, Jul 11-23). Combined, these three individuals once arrested expectations with a surrealist theatre that had little history and little inhibition. It will be interesting to catch up with them since their days tearing up ‘Pork City’.
Raymond Keane’s City of Clowns has been in production for some time now, and marks Barabbas’ return to the theatre scene since their core funding was cut last year. A considerable project grant has put the clowns back on their feet, allowing them to bring City of Clowns to the Clomnel Junction and Earagail Arts Festivals this month. The show opens in Clomnel this Sunday but Keane, as artist-in-residence at Dunamaise, premiered the show there two weeks ago.
Personally, the show is a winner. Keane has a presence that can replace the audience’s laughter with sympathetic silence instantly, and the Barabbas portrayal of ‘clowns’ as individuals not invincible to human loss and longing continues to be a very interesting psychology. The triumph of City of Clowns lies in a left turn in the performance that I won’t even dare to mention here, though I will discuss it in the comments section with people if they desire. Barabbas have gone back to the raw element of ‘theatre’ as a social art with this one, and it’s a very appropriate move considering the company’s recent battles for security and resource.