Theatre highlights: ‘Come From Away’ comes to the Abbey

The stirring musical inspired by events in Newfoundland after 9/11 is a feelgood success

Come From Away deserves a warm welcome at the Abbey

Come From Away deserves a warm welcome at the Abbey

 

COME FROM AWAY
Abbey Theatre, Dublin Previews Dec 6-10 Opens Dec 11 –Jan 19 7.30pm (Sat mat 2pm) €13-€50 abbeytheatre.ie

These are not welcoming times. Seven years since the outbreak of civil war in Syria, it has never seemed a more dubious prospect to rely on the kindness of strangers. Europe has divided along lines of compassion for a humanitarian crisis and populist-stoked fears of immigration. That has found ugly expressions everywhere, from much of the xenophobia behind the UK’s Brexit debacle, to the mooted US border wall and Trump’s so-called “Muslim travel ban” to Ireland’s beleaguered direct provision system. Thank heavens, then, for Canada.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when almost 7,000 international passengers found themselves grounded in Newfoundland, the remote townsfolk opened up to accommodating a multitude of surprise guests. It was a stirring symbol of hospitality and trust during a time of shock and horror. So husband and wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein decided to make a song and dance about it. Now Come From Away, already a feelgood success of support and harmony in Canada and on Broadway, begins its European voyage with a commitment at the Abbey.

Following last year’s Let The Right One In, that extends the National Theatre’s flirtations with imported commercial product for the Christmas market – albeit this time with fewer Irish cast members and creatives. That has caused some disquiet in the industry, brewing long enough to now become audible. The irony, for this story about a small community overcoming wariness and letting outsiders in, is not exactly subtle.

SHAME
Abbey Theatre, Peacock Stage, Dublin Dec 10-15 9pm €16/€14 abbeytheatre.ie

Confidence is a faltering performance in Pom Boyd’s absorbing autobiographical show, written with musician and composer Sean Miller, and debuted on the Fringe earlier this year. A jagged memoir of turbulent family history, a lifetime of self-doubt and improvised compensations, it is performed by Boyd with the don’t-give-a-f**k strut of a punk star, comically undermining the arriving audience and tersely commanding her garage-rock ensemble. This, we come to recognise, is another elaborate defensive act.

Boyd has been performing from an early age, in awkward fabrications for the benefit of grown-ups, or flustered improvisations to cope with her social anxiety in adulthood – the kind of mechanisms that led her naturally into acting. Like the music, her show comes with a trashy contemporary aesthetic, where mystifying signifiers and found footage gradually reveal their shape. Refreshingly, they are not left to fester. Boyd’s recollections of her father’s distressing struggles with mental health, her actress mother’s lingering professional embarrassment, and her own distorted self-image, are all worked through, forgiven and, in an encouraging gesture towards the private shames of everybody watching, maybe even exorcised.

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