Abbey auditorium rises twice for first night of 'Lear'
THE SOCIAL NETWORK: The Abbey audience were on their feet twice at the opening night of King Lear on Tuesday: first as President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, entered the auditorium; and second, three and a half hours later, to applaud the performance of Owen Roe as Lear (and possibly to stretch their legs). Later, director Selina Cartmell was “relieved”, adding, “I hate opening nights. I’m too nervous.”
By the interval, the writer Sebastian Barry was already marvelling. He summed it up in one word: “Greatness..” He was there with his daughter Coral (20), who is studying English and history at UCD.
He had been talking to the President and his bodyguard while Sabina Higgins caught up with a friend from her acting days, Tom Hickey. Both had acted at the Focus Theatre, with Hickey claiming their performance of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya as their best together. Hickey was looking forward to returning to his native Naas – “old Naas” as he called it – for an interview at Nás na Riogh Housing Association, although he suspected some old friends might have some interesting questions.
The actor Sinéad Cusack had caused almost as much of a stir arriving in the foyer as the President. She took photos with the Abbey’s artistic director, Fiach Mac Conghail. Mac Conghail was last month named a knight in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of France’s highest cultural awards. The fashion designer Peter O’Brien attended with the actor Ingrid Craigie, whom he met while costume designer for his time on Lady Windermere’s Fan, which was far from Craigie’s first play. “I was late to it,” said O’Brien. “I only started doing plays at 50, but I’ve done a lot since then.” O’Brien is now working on a film about the Irish architect and designer Eileen Gray, called The Price of Desire, which begins shooting in France in April. “I’m in a state of panic,” he said, sounding calm.
Tom Creed, director of Cork Midsummer Festival, was photographed with Cian O’Brien of Project Arts Centre, suggesting a position in front of a certain portrait. “Shall we stand here by Yeats?” It was that kind of evening.
On Thursday there were more wine and canapes at the national theatre as the Peacock space opened two short plays by Nancy Harris and Elaine Murphy. They are part of a new collection of short plays that was launched by the playwright Mark O’Rowe.
Who we spotted: the playwright Tom Murphy; the actors Nick Dunning and Lise Ann McLaughlin.