Abbey Theatre announces 20 shows for the Peacock studio space

The self-described ‘Engine room of Irish theatre’ has spluttered in recent years. With the announcement of 20 productions, the Abbey hopes to set it humming again

The Peacock Theatre under the Abbey will become ‘a flexible and responsive venue, with three rapid-reaction events scheduled for May’. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Peacock Theatre under the Abbey will become ‘a flexible and responsive venue, with three rapid-reaction events scheduled for May’. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Abbey Theatre has announced a programme of 20 productions and seven works-in-development for the Peacock, the National Theatre’s problematic studio space.

Long considered a cradle for new work, an occasional receiving venue for smaller-scale visiting productions, and an infrequent site of political riot, the Peacock has been more recently described as “The engine room of Irish theatre” on its auditorium entrance. If so, in recent years it has been prone to falter through long periods of inactivity. With an expansive new programme, the Abbey’s new directors Graham McLaren and Neil Murray are hoping to get it fired up again.

The programme, announced later than anticipated, includes new plays by Owen McCafferty, Stacey Gregg and Dead Centre, each of whom has appeared at the Peacock before. They are joined by debut appearances from Scotland’s Frances Poet, with a free adaptation of Jean Racine’s Andromaque, What Put the Blood In, and from Irish writer Simon Doyle, with what may be an even freer adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set in West Kerry, staged for the Dublin Fringe Festival and titled The Shitstorm.

McCafferty’s play, Fire Below, in a co-production with Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, is a black comedy in which two couples reveal their deepest prejudices over a wine-soaked evening. Gregg’s latest, Josephine K. and the Algorithms, staged as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, is a play about the age of big data and the intrusion of tech into politics. Dead Centre’s hotly anticipated new work, Hamnet, a monologue for an 11-year-old boy inspired by the death of Shakespeare’s young son, will be developed in the space before premiering in Berlin’s Schaubune in April then returning to the Peacock in the autumn.

The venue will play host to six visiting productions, including: frequent guest Pat Kinevane with his trilogy of works for Fishamble, Forgotten, Silent and Underneath; Syrian dancer Mithkal Alzghair’s war-themed work Displacement as part of the Dublin Dance Festival; and Druid’s second visit to the National Theatre this year with a new production of Mark O’Rowe’s horrific fantasy Crestfall, directed by Annabelle Comyn.

The Peacock is also making dystopia available to young audiences, with a new staging of Karel Capek’s legendary RUR Reason’s Universal Robots by the National Youth Theatre, directed by the Abbey’s new associate director Caitríona McLoughlin. Theatre Lovett will also visit with recent family work, They Called Her Vivaldi, while developing a new piece, Frankenstein.

McLaren and Murray intend to make the space function both as a performance venue and a workshop, with works-in-progress taking place from writer Paul Howard, Moonfish Theatre, dance artist Oona Doherty and writer/performer Shane O’Reilly.

Their intention is also to make the Peacock a flexible and responsive venue, with three rapid-reaction events scheduled for May titled What’s Happening Now, featuring “urgent responses to urgent issues”. The programme will open the Peacock stage to the public again when Kinevane’s trilogy visits at the end of March.

With a consistent schedule of performances and development work planned for the rest of the year, the engine room should soon start humming.

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