For the first time, the Dublin Theatre Festival will open with a production staged at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Ireland's largest performance venue.
The 2,111-seat theatre, recently offered for sale by Nama for €20 million, may signal the festival’s biggest ambition, but the 27 Irish and international productions of its 55th programme stretch from such large-scale classics to much more intimate encounters.
The theatre will play host to a contemporary three-hour German-language production of Shakespeare's Hamlet from Berlin's acclaimed Schaubühne.
"Since the arrival of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, the festival has had an opportunity to present work on a scale that was not previously possible," said artistic director Willie White. "We're banking on sufficient numbers of people being interested."
Shakespeare's tragedy has been a near constant of the festival's programme in recent years, including radical reworkings by Calixto Bieito, Robert LePage, Conall Morrison, Pan Pan Theatre and, most recently, the Wooster Group. "It's a play with which people are familiar and also it is apposite for our times," said White.
Just as significant is the fourth and final instalment of Anu Production's path-breaking Monto Cycle, entitled Vardo. Exploring the lives of undocumented workers in Dublin's north inner city, director Louise Lowe's intimate new work will play to an audience of just four people every 30 minutes.
The Abbey Theatre will present Mark O'Rowe's Our Few and Evil Days, his first play in seven years, while the Gate premieres Hugo Hamilton's The Mariner, the story of a first World War Irish soldier returning home in the wake of the Easter Rising.
Within a programme evenly divided between international and homegrown work, Corn Exchange returns with an adaptation of Eimear McBride's novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing; the anarchic Pan Pan take on Chekhov with The Seagull and Other Birds; Druid returns with Tom Murphy's companion pieces Brigit and Bailegangaire; Brokentalkers stage a new work about ageing and the future called Frequency 783, and Fishamble presents a new play by Deirdre Kinahan, Spinning.
International work is divided between an Australian “season” of three plays, representing “a vibrant and contemporary performing arts scene with humour to mask serious intent” and a Belgian “focus” on three experimental plays. Set beside works from England, France, Scotland and Chile, they explore issues of self-definition, post-colonialism and nation.
“If you look at traumatic world events at the moment, they are predicated on contested stories and origins,” says White. “We’re not the only ones with these preoccupations. Let’s look at how other cultures articulate them. We might learn something.” The festival runs from September 25th-October 12th.