Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Free Preview Jan 24 Opens Jan 25-Feb 2 8pm (Sat mat 2.30pm) €20/€18 abbeytheatre.ie
Speedily revived following its debut at the Dublin Theatre Festival last year, Iseult Golden and David Horan's play Class, which they also direct, is an entertaining and challenging lesson. When a young boy has been acting up in school, his separated parents, Donna and Brian, are called into a meeting with his teacher. However well-intended, couched in the caring terms of modern education, the power dynamics of the classroom see them reverting to the nervousness of childhood.
That is also the fillip of the performance, in which the marvelous Sarah Morris and Stephen Jones also play two children under Will O'Connell's supervision. In energetic, intercutting scenes Golden and Horan tease out the influence and obstacle of class structure in every meaning of the term. Like Morris's performance, perfectly alive to the difference between childlike and childish, comedy here comes without making anyone cartoonish. Wary of being supercilious, O'Connell's teacher is trying to help, and, alternately enthusiastic and guarded, Donna and Brian both want what's best. But, like learning impediments, some barriers need to be acknowledged if they are ever to be dismantled.
Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin. Previews Jan 22-23 Opens Jan 24-Feb 3 8pm €15/€12 smockalley.com
Most genres, whether romance, western or sci-fi, go through the same cycle: from invention to adoption to parody and finally revival. For his third play for Monkey Backstage, writer and performer Keith James Walker takes on the Dublin Monologue Play, a long-standing and lively sub-genre, in which the texture and tenor of the city has been conveyed to us by alternating speakers imbued with poetic urban verve, scabrous and sensory detail, and often rhyme. See enough of the stuff, and you can imitate its rhythm and style without a pause for breath.
That was the starting point for Walkinstown, originally conceived as a short parody piece three years ago, and which advertises itself with knowing self-deprecation: "A Theatrical Odyssey. Probably." Aren't they all? Since then, however, Monkey Backstage has gained some traction; Walker's last play, 2014's How To Build Your Own Robot, was shortlisted for an award, and this two-hander has gravitated somewhere beyond a sussed-out piss-take, moving towards an exploration of what is acceptable in human behavior. That sounds a little like a genre cycle in one show, but, then again, they've always been about the journey.