Abbey days – ‘Come From Away’

 

Sir, – Letter writer John Fairleigh (December 12th) laments the absence of an Irish production with Irish actors in the Abbey’s seasonal programme, which features the outstanding Come From Away, by a leading North American theatre company.

In fact, the performance includes several Irish musicians, all listed in the programme. However, even if there were not a single Irish performer, I believe it should be shown in our national theatre. Beneath its “September 11th” plot is a hard look at how stereotypes based on race, religion, sexuality and nationality diminish society and distort reality. It does so in a way that is brilliantly entertaining while addressing some key issues of our time, as relevant in Ireland as elsewhere.

The shift away, under recent and current Abbey management, from the carousel of greatest hits by a limited range of Irish playwrights has done wonders for Irish theatre makers and audiences alike. If Wednesday night’s attendance is anything to go by, this production will draw in a wider, younger audience, something badly needed in the Abbey as elsewhere. Exposing Irish audiences to the best of international stage work is surely a vital part of its role. A national theatre does not have to be nationalist. We lodged in that rut long enough.

When Mr Fairleigh speaks of our theatrical talent, “recognised and envied outside our shores”, I hope he includes Andrew Scott’s superb Hamlet in London’s Almeida theatre last year. Imagine: the greatest part in the greatest play ever written – and it goes to a foreigner, an Irishman? It was subsequently transmitted internationally by the BBC. Imogen Doel’s acclaimed Cicely, in The Importance of Being Earnest, in London, featured in live broadcast to cinema audiences all over the world. What a boost to any young actor’s career. One of the finest O’Casey productions of recent times was 2016 The Plough and the Stars, with an all-Irish cast in the Royal National Theatre, London, where it was enjoyed by thousands of British theatre-goers and overseas visitors. This summer’s production of Friel’s Translations, with a largely Irish cast, was another five-star success.– Yours, etc,

PADDY McGOVERN,

Dublin 8.