Uplifted by Godot and let down by The Fall

Culture review 2016: The familiar delivered fresh revelations, while ghosts haunted many of our stages

What were your cultural highlights for the year gone by?

If you had asked me at the start of this year which play I least needed to see again I'd probably have nominated my favourite, Waiting for Godot, now so familiar as to have lost its mysteries. Nothing to be done. All of which made Druid's achievement feel more exceptional. By approaching the play with a near-audacious idea – that there was plenty more to discover, Udeep in its fathoms – Garry Hynes's production gave us a Godot that was fresh, funny and profound, teasing at our own desperately funny routines.

Tom Murphy's less-explored play The Wake proved just as fruitful in Annabelle Comyn's superb production for the Abbey where startling design and performance moved us from a canvas of stars to a monochrome map and finally a modest grave, where society seemed unable to rest in peace. There was some of that unease too in the Gate's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, with the terrific Fiona Bell and Denis Conway presiding over Edward Albee's devastating exorcisms; in the dawning horror of Stephen Rea's performance as a man unable to reconcile the past and the future in David Ireland's wickedly poised Cyprus Avenue; in the spirits that stalked Anu's commemorative triptych Sunder, On Corporation Street, and with CoisCeim's These Rooms where uneasy echoes from the past were intimately entwined with our present.

And what let you down?

Series three of ‘The Fall’ on BBC.

What was the dominant plot twist of 2016?

It was telling that, when reappraising the Rising, so many writers, choreographers and performers alighted on the complex figure of Roger Casement, belatedly accommodated by the national narrative. In theatre, the recurring plot twist was a sustaining if not a new one: a preoccupation with hauntings, where figures suspended in dilemmas or traumas populated The Wake, Godot, Anu's trilogy, Brokentalkers' Circus Animals Desertion, to name just a few.


How did our centenary celebrations strike you?

In its more absorbing displays it was tellingly introspective, neither triumphant nor defeated, as though keener to look forward. Emmet Kirwan's insightful and blistering spoken word in Thisispopbaby's RIOT seemed most in tune with the times.

And what is your cultural resolution for 2017?

I’d like to see work that better corresponds with the diversity of the nation; something happening faster and more appreciably in music, from which all Irish art would benefit.

2016 in three words: Rest in peace.