Gig of the Week: A welcome back to live audiences at Dublin Theatre Festival

September 27th-October 3rd, 2021: The best of the week’s culture events, right around Ireland


Dublin Theatre Festival
Thursday, September 30th-Sunday, October 17th; various locations, times and prices;

The annual celebration of theatre welcomes back live audiences, and as a nod to the 18 months we’ve just had its promotional poster is a riff on handwashing instructions, only this time it’s how to handclap, just in case we’ve forgotten. Many of the productions will offer a livestream option, but theatregoers are likely to jump at the chance to attend in person. Among the first week’s attractions are:

  • Root, an environmental drama addressing the denuding of Ireland's forests (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College Dublin, Wednesday, September 29th, to Saturday, October 2nd, €15-€25)
  • Duck Duck Goose, a story of a young man embroiled in a rape allegation, exploring issues of consent and trial by social media (Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Wednesday, September 29th, to Sunday, October 3rd, €25-€28)
  • Rearing Is Sparing, a hard-hitting play about the challenges of motherhood in Dublin's north inner city (Axis, Ballymun, Wednesday, September 29th, to Sunday, October 10th, €14-€16)
  • Stronger, a tense new drama by Gúna Nua, telling the story of a teacher who is sexually assaulted by a student, and interrogating the concept of restorative justice (Smock Alley Theatre, Thursday, September 30th, to Saturday, October 9th, €15-€25)
  • The First Child, a stormy new opera by Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh, which follows on from their acclaimed operas The Last Hotel and The Second Violinist (O'Reilly Theatre, Belvedere College, Saturday, October 2nd, to Saturday, October 9th, €25–€40)
  • Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks, Sara Hanly's provocative debut about a young woman from a religious background getting a taste of freedom in London, and finding she can't get enough of it (Peacock stage, Abbey Theatre, Thursday, September 30th, to Saturday, October 16th, €20-€25).

Cork Folk Festival
Wednesday, September 29th, to Sunday, October 3rd; various locations, times and prices;

Cork Folk Festival has had to put huge effort into coming up with an event that would tick all the Covid safety boxes but also give folk-music fans plenty of reasons to be cheerful. What the organisers have settled on sounds most enticing indeed: it includes four headline concerts at Triskel Arts Centre, featuring Freddie White, Steve Cooney, Tara Breen and Fiona Kennedy; an open-air Folk Fest in Fitzgerald Park, featuring Seán Ó Sé and The Abbey Céili Band; a celebration of the trad legends Margaret Barry and Robert Thompson at St Peter’s Church; and any number of folk and trad sessions around the place from Dermot Byrne, Pádraig Rynne, Mary Greene, Anna Mitchell, Eoin O Riabhaigh and more.


Up Close and Personal: Villagers, Gemma Hayes and Mary Coughlan
Tuesday, September 28th, Wednesday, September 29th and Sunday, October 3rd; the Grand Social, Dublin; from €20;

Imagine meeting the makers of your favourite Irish albums, in an intimate setting, and chatting with them about their inspirations and influences at a listening party. That’s the idea behind the Up Close and Personal series organised by Hot Press magazine, which has got six of the best to come in and revisit one of their finest musical moments. It kicks off with Villagers talking about their Choice Music Prize-winning second album, Awayland, a masterclass in literate songwriting from the band’s main man, Conor O’Brien.

Next up is Gemma Hayes, whose superb 2002 debut album, Night on My Side, still has the critics reaching for the superlatives. (“Gorgeous” seems to be the most-used adjective here.) And Mary Coughlan will cast her memory back to her 1985 debut album, Tired and Emotional, which announced the arrival of a singing talent to be reckoned with (and became a classic). Later in October, Tim Wheeler will recall Ash’s all-conquering debut album, 1977, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny will talk about Planxty’s seminal 1973 debut, and Damien Dempsey will chat about his 2003 album, Seize the Day.

Monday, September 27th, to Thursday, September 30th, Lir Academy, Dublin; €17/€12 (livestream Wednesday, September 29th, €10/€6);

The final play in the Lir Academy’s GradFest season is Sophie Treadwell’s tale of a woman caught in the machinery of upper-class society, who knows she must break free or get ground into talcum powder. Helen’s boss wants to marry her and make her the archetypal desperate housewife, and she tries to fit into the role at first, but as she begins disconnecting from her true self her mind is in danger of short-circuiting. Showcasing the work of the school’s theatre-directing postgraduate students, the shows are performed and crewed by academy undergraduates. The theatre will be at 60 per cent capacity for the live shows, with all audience members fully vaccinated, so don’t forget your vaccination cert.

Masters of Tradition Festival 2021
Wednesday, September 29th, to Wednesday, November 17th; Bantry House, Co Cork, and other venues;

Although this year’s Master of Tradition Festival is staying online, its artistic director, Martin Hayes, promises musical riches that will transcend the virtual platform, in concerts recorded at Bantry House, Future Forests in Kealkil and Abbestrewry Church in Skibbereen. Gigs will be streamed each Wednesday evening and also be available on demand. Hayes will be joined by Steve Cooney, Bruce Molsky, John Walsh and Phil Robson; the singers Christine Tobin and John Hoban; the multi-instrumentalists Francesco Turrisi and Brian Donnellan; the pianist and composer Cormac McCarthy; the poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa; the accordionist Derek Hickey; the uilleann pipers David Power and Mick O’Brien, the flautist Emer Mayock and the fiddler Aoife Ní Bhriain; and the violinist Marja Gaynor.

Vision Live at Vicar St
Until Thursday, October 21st; Vicar St, Dublin; various times and prices;

One of our favourite music venues has been shuttered throughout the pandemic, and we’ve been seriously missing it. Now Vicar St is reopening with a series of gigs under the Vision Live Banner, and we’re looking forward to taking our usual place at the back of the venue to watch some great acts in action. This week’s gigs form a bit of a comedy fest, with Foil, Arms and Hog (Thursday, September 30th), Neil Delamere (Friday, October 1st), Ardal O’Hanlon, Deirdre O’Kane and Kevin Gildea (Saturday, October 2nd) and Jason Byrne, Ian Coppinger, Sinead Quinlan and Barry Murphy (Sunday, October 3rd).

Music's Coming Home
Friday, October 1st, and Saturday, October 2nd; Cultural Plaza, Stephen Street, Sligo; free;

Get outdoors in Sligo town this weekend for two free concerts celebrating the return of live music to a town that lives and breathes the stuff. Imelda May headlines the first day of this weekender, part of Sligo Live; the Dublin rock diva will be joined by The Unwanted, a sort of Appalachian supergroup featuring Dervish’s Cathy Jordan and the singer-songwriter-guitarist Dean Gurrie (Saturday, 7pm). Day two features a host of local talent, including the indie elder lemons Those Nervous Animals, The Sligo All-Star Band, led by Kieran Quinn, the folk band No Crows and the singer Amy O’Hara (Sunday, 5pm). It’s all free, but you’ll need to book your tickets in advance.