Shepard, Doyle return to Abbey

 

THE ABBEY Theatre is set to continue its relationship with American playwright Sam Shepard when it stages a production of his classic 1978 play Curse of the Starving Classlater this year.

The Abbey’s programme for the second half of the year includes a co-production of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycockwith the National Theatre in London – it will be the first time the two national theatres have collaborated in this way.

Juno, which will be part of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, will see a return to the Abbey stage of Sinead Cusack for the first time since 1966. It will also be the first time the actress takes on this major O’Casey role and the production, which also has Ciaran Hinds in the cast, marks the Abbey debut of Cork-born designer Bob Crowley, acclaimed for his work on Broadway and in the West End.

Also returning to work in the Abbey is novelist Roddy Doyle, with a new version of Gogol’s Russian satire on local corruption and mistaken identity, The Government Inspector.

Doyle’s first outing with the Abbey two years ago, an updated version of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, co-adapted with Bisi Adigun, was one of the theatre’s big hits of recent years. Jimmy Fay will direct both The Government Inspectorand the Shepard play.

The Pulitzer-prize winning playwright has written two plays for the Abbey, Kicking a Dead Horse, which has its premiere in 2007, and Ages of the Moontwo years ago.

Curse of the Starving Class, which was released in a movie version in 1994, is set in rural America in the 1950s and centres around an impoverished and dysfunctional farm family. Shepard, regarded as the poet laureate of the American west, revised the play two years ago and it’s this new version the Abbey will stage. No casting has yet been confirmed.

Abbey Theatre director Fiach Mac Conghail sees similarities of theme between the O’Casey and Shepard plays in that both works confront issues of ”property, family and the pressures of economics”. The Abbey’s season, in the meantime, continues with the old and the new: two new plays by Paul Mercier, The Passingand East Pier, in March and April and a production of Brian Friel’s Translationsand George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

– GERRY SMITH