Time for a Theatrical Road Trip!

Though the weather has not conceded to it yet, summer is underway. The exam students are into their final stretch, eyes are flicking to desk calendars as people count down to their summer holidays and the Mr. Whippy machines have been turned on. As the summer sun comes out (if it does…), it might seem like the last thing you want to do is go into a darkened auditorium So pop on your seat-belt, roll down your window, and pick a good CD because we are headed on a road trip around Ireland’s stages for my pick of the best they have to offer this summer.

Since it’s the capital city, we’ll start in Dublin, where there’s plenty on offer to compete with Teddy’s ice-creams and a dip in the Forty-Foot. First up, close to home, on takeyourseats.ie we have Two Can Do at D-Light Studios on the 16th August. A dance work from Bianca Paige Smith which insightfully explores questions of support, vulnerability and trust in the arts. Just down the road at The Abbey Theatre, the programme for the Young Curators Festival is soon to be announced. Curated by four young theatremakers, with the support of the Abbey Theatre’s programming team, this festival promises to be an interesting new addition to the Abbey’s programme. Crossing the river, we come to Project Arts Centre, where Zoe Ní Riordáin’s sell-out Fringe show Everything I Do returns for just two performances next month before heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Described as “mesmerising gig theatre” by Chris McCormack, this is one I wish I could make it to.

But now, it’s not all about Dublin, so grab yourself a snack for the road and let’s get going to our next destination – Laois! Just an hour from Dublin, it has lots on offer to fill those long summer days. I’m looking forward to catching some of the NT Live broadcasts scattered through the Dunamaise Arts Centre’s summer programme, particularly Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of Small Islands. If you fancy something produced a little closer to home, make sure to catch Carnation Theatre’s Greyhound on Train, a play about the women of the Irish war of independence, at Heritage House, Abbeyleix. I saw a rehearsed reading of this in the Dunamaise Arts Centre last year, and have been looking forward to seeing a full production ever since.

If you’ve had your fill of the Midlands, scoot on down to the Sunny South-East where Kilkenny Arts Festival will fill Kilkenny with theatre, music, talks, literature and visual art for eleven days from the 8th August to the 18th. The full programme is yet to be announced, but of their early releases, I’m particularly excited about Rough Magic Theatre Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. After an excellent run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Castle Yard last year (I enjoyed it enough to see it twice!), Rough Magic’s return to Kilkenny is sure to be much-anticipated.

A tour around the country wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Rebel County, so let’s head there next and see what Cork has to offer over the next few months. The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia at the Everyman as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival brings the talents of composer, Ray Scannell, and director, Tom Creed, together to shine a darkly comic light on the housing crisis. But be quick, The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia is in previews this weekend before opening on Monday. On the Cork Opera House stage, also as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival, Junk Ensemble premiere their new dance-opera A Different Wolf, which uses personal testimony, music and song to ask “What is the wolf at your door?”

If you haven’t been festival-ed out, then it’s time to visit the Galway International Arts Festival which kicks off on the 15th July. Start your festival with Least Like The Other, an experimental work from Irish National Opera, tracing the difficult life of Rosemary Kennedy. Continue in a more lighthearted musical vein with Arthur Riordan, Justin McCarthy and Charlie McBride’s musical updating of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest, Made in Earnest. Finish off with Dylan Coburn Grey’s new play Citysong, a co-production between the Abbey Theatre and Soho Theatre which captures a beautiful and insightful snapshot of intersecting lives in a Dublin family.

 Heading North, we come to Donegal. Specifically, Letterkenny, where the Irish Aerial Dance Fest starts on the 22nd June and brings a fortnight of gravity defying performance. Created by Fidget Feet Aerial Dance, the festival programme includes classes for all ages and abilities, as well as a number of aerial dance productions and performances. If heights aren’t your thing, never fear, because there is plenty more to see over the summer in Letterkenny. One particular production that looks set to be a highlight is an immersive outdoor performance of A Winter’s Tale, presented by An Grianán Theatre and Parrabbola.

Finally, we finish up our tour in Belfast with some excellent theatre for young audiences. Coming from the West-End, Sally Cookson’s acclaimed production of We’re Going On A Bear hunt brings Michael Rosen and Helen Oxbury’s classic picture book to life on the stage of the Lyric Theatre with a lively score from Benji Bower. Across in the MAC, Cahoots NI tell a story of learning the importance of kindness, freedom and loving and looking after nature with their upcoming production Shhh! We Have A Plan.

On that note of hope for future summers of theatrical fun, we finish up our roadtrip. We’ve only caught a snippet of what there is to see around the island over the summer months, but that’s as far as our tank of petrol and stock of car snacks will take us for now – so now it’s your turn to do some exploring.  Finish up your Mr. Freeze, pick up a ticket, and pop into a theatre to enjoy something on stage this summer.

Saoirse Anton

Saoirse Anton is a writer, critic, theatre-maker, feminist, enthusiast, optimist, opinionated scamp & human being.