Trad and Tintown: the best of this week’s theatre

Emmet Kirwan stars in the revival of Mark Doherty’s 2004 play; Tintown explores how idealism can be corrupted by thirst for blood and illiberalism

Trad

The Mick Lally Theatre, Galway Apr 25th-27th, 8pm; The Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre, Dublin Apr 30th-May 11th, 8pm; Everyman Theatre, Cork, May 21st-24th
The past has a habit of catching up with you. But in Mark Doherty's Trad – a terrifically funny pastiche of the absurdist high water marks of Irish theatre, given a new heart of its own – two men must to go searching for it. That the younger - though not necessarily more sprightly - of this father and son duo has already reached the grand old age of 100, and that his long lost son must now be in his 70s, gives you some idea of the way time stretches and bends in Doherty's debut play, premiered in 2004 and now receiving its first major revival from Livin Dred Theatre Company. Together Da (Emmet Kirwan) and his Son (Séamus O'Rourke) undertake a quest that unwinds through successive sketches as the father shares his obsessions with Irish history, identity, hatreds, tradition. "Is that what tradition is?" the centenarian remonstrates. "Everyone standing still and facing backwards?" Director Aaron Monaghan has made his own advances: in this touring production the brilliant Clare Barrett plays a series of roles once given to a man. That corresponds with a judicious choice in material, where even the venerable characters realise that tradition must be born anew.

Tintown

Factory Performance Space, Sligo
Apr 22nd- May 4th, blueraincoat.com

There are uneasy reverberations in the staging of Bob Kelly's new play for Blue Raincoat Theatre Company, premiering at a moment when republicanism – or one malignant strain of it – has led to renewed paramilitary violence. The play explores historical roots of unrest, though, and how idealism can be corrupted by the thirst for blood and illiberalism. It follows the story of a young Dubliner who joins the IRA in the 1930s, finds himself interned during the second World War and bearing witness to the organisation's decline and collapse within the Curragh Camp in Kildare.

Researched and written a few years ago, and now staged by Kelly's associates, it's a rare solo show to come from Sligo's ensemble based Blue Raincoat, performed by Kelly and directed by Niall Henry. Based on archival interviews with internees, Tintown reckons with the nation's violent past, together with the tug of fascism within the crucible of the Republic. Kelly is more interested in struggles of the mind and the soul, though, concentrating on republicans, fresh from the civil war, not all of them swayed by violence, who had competing ideas of nationhood. That might have been towards a socialist and secular republic, a what-if worth imagining, whose own campaign fizzled out.

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