The Humours of Bandon, Photo (c) George Carter

Great shows to see this year

I haven’t entirely forgotten about this blog. I hope you haven’t either. I think of it guiltily every now and then. Sometimes I even think of something that I would like to write about here, and on the odd, very rare occasion, I actually manage to write about that thing and put it online. This is one of those rare occasions. Who knows when it will happen again.

As we are (still, barely) in the first week of the new year, here is a post about shows that are coming up in 2018 but have been on before. There are loads of exciting, brand new plays coming, but these are all shows that I saw and loved over the last couple of years, including two of my absolute favourites. Excitingly they are on in venues all over the country so I don’t have to feel any guilt for the Dublin-centric nature of my theatre recommendations.

I’ll start with my two favourites.

The Humours of Bandon

Margaret McAuliffe’s one-woman show began as a Show in a Bag at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016. It won the Little Gem Award and it was in Bewley’s Theatre that I saw and loved it last year. Since then it’s been to the Edinburgh Festival and on tour around Ireland, but it’s back again for a few dates in Leitrim, Cork and Bray throughout February.

I really enjoyed this show. It’s like a big sports movie about triumph and defeat, hard-work, determination and sacrifice, but it’s also about Irish dancing and being a teenage girl. And it manages to cover all that in under an hour. Both the acting and the dancing are spectacular. It’s also has a really big heart and made me a bit teary-eyed at the end. It got an enthusiastic and much deserved standing ovation the day I saw it in Bewley’s. I think everyone should see this show because it such a joy to watch.

It’s on in The Dock, Leitrim on Feb 3, the Blackwater Fit Up Festival in Cork on Feb 6-11 and in the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray on Feb 24. More information here.

Swan Lake

My other recent favourite show is Swan Lake/Loch na hEala which is a glorious piece of work by Michael Keegan Dolan, featuring a group of wonderfully talented dancers and Mikel Mufi who doesn’t dance, but does play a goat, and at least a dozen other characters. I saw this show twice when it was on as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2016 and I can’t wait to see it again.

I saw it first as a festival volunteer on the first or second night of the run. That night, people were still able to walk up and buy a tickets before the show and all the volunteers were able to sit in. When I went back to see it a couple of days later on the closing night, the O’Reilly Theatre was completely sold out and they had added extra rows of seats at the front. It was a huge word of month hit and deservedly so.

You don’t have to be understand or even like dance to love this show. It’s fantastically visual and very Irish. There are lots of joyful moments but it’s also dark and worrisome in places. It looks amazing, the music is wonderful, I loved it and already have my ticket for the run in the Abbey in early February.

Outside Dublin, the touring network NOMAD are taking it to venues around the country. It will be on in Donegal, Roscommon, Sligo, Kildare, Westmeath, Louth, Cavan and Longford. The first date is An Grianán, Letterkenny on Jan 28 and the last show is in Backstage Theatre, Longford at the start of April. All those dates and ticket links are here.

Not a Funny Word

I saw lots of great things in the Abbey last year and one of most wonderful things I saw was Tara Flynn’s Not a Funny Word. Directed by Philly McMahon, written and performed by Tara Flynn with songs by Alma Kelliher, it’s a personal and political look at abortion. The songs are great and Tara Flynn is very very funny, even in a show about a difficult and very personal experience. The tone is never flippant and the jokes are generally at her own expense. It’s an exposing show and her honesty and openness made it feel like a privilege to experience it with her. She is an incredibly generous performer and allows herself to be very vulnerable. To see this show at the National Theatre felt special and note-worthy too.

In March it will be on in the Complex in Smithfield for four performances only as part of Thisispopbaby’s festival This is Where We Live.

And, as you would expect from Thisispopbaby, there are lots of other exciting shows on as part of the festival, and I recommend you check them out here.

Waiting for Godot

I missed this show when it was on in the Galway Arts Festival in 2015, partly on purpose because it was on in the Mick Lally Theatre which is very small and I was afraid that my habit of failing asleep during Beckett plays might be a tad insulting to the actors onstage. I regretted it when I heard so many people raving about it that summer, including the new directors of the Abbey, so I was delighted when they brought it to Dublin. I managed to stay awake for the whole show at the Abbey and enjoyed it very much. The Druid ensemble did such a good job of it. It was funny and more joyful than I expected but the poignant moments where there as well. Francis O’Connor’s set is absolutely beautiful, and so utterly perfect for the production.

This is another one that’s on all over the country. During February, March and April t’s going to Galway, Limerick, Letterkenny, Cork, Longford, Wexford, Dun Laoghaire and Sligo, and all the details are here.

Jimmy’s Hall

Once again, it’s another show I saw in the Abbey, and I’m delighted that Jimmy’s Hall will be back again this year. I’ve already writing about this show (and how much I enjoyed it) here and it’s great to see it back because I don’t think it had a particularly long run last summer. I am planning to head along to the Free First Preview on 26 July but it will be on all through August and into the first week of September. Early Bird tickets are available before June 11. I think it’s a great summer show – the live music makes it a great one for tourists (along with the fact that it’s based on a film) but it also includes a nice chunk of neglected Irish history, as well as encouraging a revolutionary frame of mind!

26 July – 8 Sept
Free First Preview – 26 July
Early Bird Booking before June 11

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