Front row

 

John Banville's most successful novel, The Book of Evidence, is to be staged as a dramatic monologue by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Irish film director, Alan Gilsenan, has adapted the novel and will direct the show, which will feature the actor, Declan Conlan.

The novel is already written as a monologue, which chronicles the descent towards murder of an unhinged personality. It was suggested by the true story of Malcolm Mac Arthur's murder of Bridie Gargan in 1982. Gilsenan says he stayed up all night reading the book when it came out in 1989 and it immediately struck him as a stage play. He has pared the story back to its dramatic core.

Gilsenan is best known as an award-winning documentary-maker. His ITV Network documentary on Irish dance, Emerald Shoes, will be screened this Sunday at 10.45 p.m. on ITV; he is currently revisiting some of those who featured in his 1986 documentary about Irish young people, The Road to God Knows Where? to produce a new documentary about a shockingly different Ireland.

Rehearsed readings of The Book of Evidence will be performed at The Other Place in Stratford on September 16th and 21st as part of the RSC's Fringe, which is run by actors and presents shows for a fiver and under. It is hoped that the festival will tour to Newcastle and to London, with a fully staged Book Of Evidence. If there is any justice (and the novel disputes this) it will tour to Ireland too.

"Quite frankly, Victoria, I don't care what goes on in there." The new Executive Director of Belfast's Lyric Theatre, John Sheehan, from the US of A, talks a good talk when it comes to the theatre's new studio space, The Pitch. "As long as there's activity. Keep it open! Keep it running! Keep stirring the pot! See what emerges."

That's the stuff, John. A group of young directors will be taken on and each will have a chance to stage a show in the new space, as well as assisting on a show for the main stage, and working on readings and workshops.

Even when it comes to the main space, Sheehan, whose first job in Ireland was with Siamsa Tire in Tralee, boldly states: "I'm not afraid." So what if Brian Friel's Wonderful Tennessee was poorly received when it premiered in 1993? - "The fact that it was a failure makes it more of a challenge." It came in the wake of Dancing at Lughnasa and people were expecting it to be cut from the same cloth, argues Sheehan, whereas now, time has intervened. Brian Brady will direct the show, and it goes up on September 29th.

But first, Sheehan's own directing debut at the Lyric goes up, a production of the American Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, which previews from Friday. The show is about the abusive relationship between a young girl and her uncle as they drive around rural Maryland, but by contrast with Lolita, this girl, Li'l Bit, learns to drive away from the danger.

It didn't go down so well in London, but Sheehan is comforted by Paula Vogel's own explanation of this: "I don't think the English get the sex thing." ere of Edward Albee's play, Three Tall Women, which is inspired by the playwright's strange relationship with his mother. This will be presented by Prime Cut in January, directed by Jackie Doyle.

To book phone 028-90381081

From the Spanish perspective, the British in general don't "get the sex thing", it seems. In his review of the Abbey/Edinburgh Festival production of ValleInclan's Barbaric Comedies, Marcus Ordonez of El Pais notes in his largely positive review that some members of the "British audience" murmured with disapproval at the inverted crucifix and found the sex scenes "unpalatable"; they don't seem to have fazed the Spaniard at all, though he admits "The Barbaric Comedies have never been to everyone's taste."

He is dying to find out how the Irish respond to the "profanities" of the piece when it goes up at the Dublin Theatre Festival. So far, the word is that interest has been generated by the ridiculous "sex scandal" headlines in Edinburgh, and the Abbey's Head of Marketing, Madeleine Boughton, says Dubliners are saying: "I really want to see that for myself."

The general verdict of the El Pais review is "Bold . . . bold . . . bold". It praises Frank McGuinness's "sensitive translation" and adds: "Inevitably, however, as with any translation, certain references, colours and nuances are lost. Moreover, by cutting the text so significantly, he and Bieito run the risk of presenting nothing more than a succession of violent atrocities. Fortunately, Bieito has resisted the usual temptation to cut the most cinematic elements of the text, in particularly the character of the narrator, Don Galan, played by the remarkable Irish actor, Eamon Morrissey."

The writer considers it "invidious" to single out members of such a strong ensemble, but does so anyway: Mark Lambert, Kate O'Toole, Cathy White, Joan O'Hara, Ronnie Masterson, Karl Sheils, Derry Power and Garrett Keogh.

Firkin Crane in Cork will soon be a mere memory. Instead it will be The Institute for Choreography and Dance. This will, says Sharon Sheehan of Firkin Crane, more fully explain what goes on at the centre in Shandon which "engineers opportunities for dance"; it will also, she agrees, "have something to do" with the fact that it is cast as the proposed dance wing of the dispersed Irish Academy for the Performing Arts (though a question mark now hangs over that venture. Much of the criticism has been directed against its "dispersal" as this may work against cross-fertilisation between disciplines).

Among the fascinating shows which the centre (or "d'Institute", I should say) is hosting soon is Fabrik/Do Theatre's Hopeless Games, a German/Russian co-production featuring a catalogue of wonderful dance styles (which also comes to the Dublin Fringe Festival), a new work by Cindy Cummings and Todd Winkler called Hitches Bitches, which chronicles a blonde's journey through a Hitchcockian landscape and Yoskima Chuma's first work with Daghda, Sioscarach, (also coming to the Dublin Fringe).

Other initiatives include a choreographic masterclass for invited choreographers with Peter Boneham, and an interesting yearlong development called Safe Harbour which will celebrate the neighbourhood of Shandon through dance and film, and will be staged for next year's Cork Midsummer Festival.

To book phone 021-4507487. To book for Dublin Fringe Festival, phone: 1850 374643.