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Theatre highlights for the week ahead

Jane Austen one-women musical is staged with lashings of sharp wit and loving irony

New Zealand comedian Penny Ashton whose show – Promise and Promiscuity: A New Musical – runs in Tralee, Kilmallock, Nenagh and Limerick in November

Postcards from the Ledge     

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, October 25th-November 11th, 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2.30pm), €22-€55 – gaietytheatre.ie

When Paul Howard first wrote for the stage 10 years ago, with the theatrical debut of Ross O’Carroll Kelly in The Last Days of the Celtic Tiger, it didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing. The satirical title now seems cruelly prescient, but Howard drew from older knowledge of sitcoms for the play’s style and structure. By the time he wrote its sequel, Between Foxrock and a Hard Place, he had studied the shape of naturalistic drama, giving it a unity of time and place, before surging ahead for Ross’s third outing into the near future, Breaking Dad. That was 2022, to be exact – when the economy had recovered and was overheating to Ross’s benefit (also cruelly prescient). Now, Howard’s unvanquishable hero returns for Landmark Productions, again in the protean shape of Rory Nolan, and the year is 2029, when Ross is approaching 50 and working as the managing director of real estate rip-off merchants Hook, Lyon and Sinker. That’s not as surprising as the form, though: a monologue and a memory play in which Ross decides to do the valuation on a property for sale – the council-built Sallynoggin house in which he grew up. Maybe Howard knew where he was heading all along. Everything about Ross is a development.

Promise and Promiscuity: A New Musical

Siamsa Tíre, Tralee, November 2nd, siamsatire.com; Friars Gate Theatre, Kilmallock, November 3rd; Nenagh Arts Centre, November 9th; Belltable, Limerick, November 10th

Few novelists have been quite as prolific in death as Jane Austen. The deft ironist wrote seven books (three of which were published posthumously) inspiring countless literary sequels from other writers, numerous film and TV adaptations and several stage versions. Unsurprisingly for work so robust it can absorb even zombies into its fiction, there have also been musical adaptations, of both her work and her life. New Zealand comedian Penny Ashton adds to the comic revisions with a brief tour of her well-travelled, one-woman musical, funnelling Austen’s characters into song, dance, cross-stitching and lashings of loving irony. The frame of the show, comic and interactive, is all Ashton’s invention, putting one Miss Elspeth Slowtree into battle against literary snobbery, her mother’s nerves and her noxious cousin Horatio, armed only with her superior wit and a talent for the ukulele. There is usually more pride than prejudice among Austen’s followers, safe in the knowledge there is plenty more to discover in the works.

Bat the Father, Rabbit the Son

The New Theatre, Dublin, October 30th-November 11th, 7.30pm, €16/€12.50 – thenewtheatre.com

Donal O’Kelly revives his one-man show from 1988, first produced by Rough Magic Theatre Company, to stage it again nearly 30 years later. The play has a certain resonance for the times: Rabbit is a self-made haulage magnate, up to his neck in dubious deals, and obsessed with memories, who undertakes a voyage to rediscover what he feels he has lost. His deceased father Bat, once a Citizen Army volunteer who fought in the Rising and a pawn shop assistant, plays an increasing role in the journey, as Rabbit delves deeper into history, into Dublin and into himself as he seeks his lost moorings. O’Kelly has revisited the work before, not long ago, bringing one of its characters back for his play Ailliliú Fionnuala, an imagined revenge against the boring of the Shell Corrib gas pipeline. But there’s still much mileage left in the original to continue its odyssey.