Theatre of the week: Swan Lake reimagined and the Gregory deal remembered

Birds of a feather flock to the theatre this week

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala
Abbey Theatre, Dublin.
Feb 8-17 7.30pm €13-€30

In Michael Keegan-Dolan's award-winning production for Teac Damsa, the choreographer and director's successor to Fabulous Beast, two stories are adapted. The first is Tchaikovsky's ballet, whose regal characters are transposed to a depressed Irish midlands, transforming Prince Siegfried into a young Longford man living unhappily with his mother, making an evil sorcerer into a cruel local priest and replacing pivotal ballroom sequences with dismal birthday party. The second, more controversial adaptation folded into the trajectory of the protagonist, is the story of John Carthy, the Longford man with a history of mental illness, who was shot dead by gardaí during a siege at his home in 2000.

Like much of Keegan-Dolan’s work, the production is distinguished by beautiful, sparing spectacle; from its ritualistic beginning, through a succession of striking set pieces, precision movement and a blizzard of white plumage. And like much of Keegan-Dolan’s work, it is indulges broad satirical screeches for far longer than they are effective, seems to rail against oppression while itself leaving female sufferers voiceless, and is often far more handsome than coherent or potent.  Then again, it was always going to ruffle some feathers.

Haughey | Gregory
Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre, Dublin.
Feb 8-10 8pm €10/€8


In 1982, during a crisis of unemployment and addiction ravaging inner city Dublin, an Independent Socialist politician found himself in a suddenly influential position. The general election had delivered a majority of seats to Fianna Fáil, but Charles Haughey's position as taoiseach was vulnerable, and so led to an unlikely pact, known eventually as the Gregory Deal. The deal, a staggering inflow of cash, rejuvenation and employment in Gregory's constituency worth an estimated £100m, might have had more impact. Just nine months later Gregory withdrew his support for Fianna Fáil following swingeing budget cuts, and when Fine Gael swept to power, much of his deal was diluted. Now playwright and journalist Colin Murphy revisits this fascinating history for his latest documentary theatre piece for Fishamble, staged again as a "script in hand" production under Conall Morrison's direction. That rough and ready aesthetic seems appropriate for the clash of personalities involved, as Gregory, a tenacious outsider, takes on the Prince of Power.

Murder of Crows
Project Arts Centre, Dublin.
Previews Feb 5 Opens Feb 6-10 7.45pm (Sat mat 2.30pm) €18/€16

The Dublin writer Lee Coffey arrived on the scene with an early and encouraging seal of approval. When his monologue play Leper + Chip, an energetic and stylishly edgy account of violence and sex and violence in Dublin punctuated with slams, got an endorsement from Mark O’Rowe, it was easy to locate Coffey within an identifiable school. O’Rowe hasn’t dabbled in monologues for a decade, now exploring the mysteries and evasions of dialogue in recent play Our Few and Evil Days and his current play, The Approach, featuring conversations between three women. That makes this revival of Coffey’s 2016 play Murder of Crows, an interconnected story of three young women, seem like an unofficial companion piece. Told in speedy staccato exchanges, Coffey’s characters flock together to share a history of abuse, shame and secrecy, but their way beyond it will be more vicious than therapeutic. With both shows performed concurrently in Project Arts Centre, their similarities could be glancing or revealing. Either way, though, birds of a feather…