Sunday, February 29, 2004

Theatre Thunday: The Abbey Theatre

While here in Dublin I checked out the two shows currently playing at The Abbey, Ireland's National Theatre, which is celebrating its centenary this year. (Twas founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats amongst others.)

In The Abbey mainspace: The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov in a new version by Irish writer Tom Murphy. It took me a moment to accept a bunch of accented Irishmen and Irishwomen playing pre-revolutionary Russians, but they had me by Leonid's bookcase monologue. The production nicely balances the comedy and tragedy, but favours the comedy as I suspect Chehkov would have liked. (Debate welcome.) Particularly good is Lorcan Cranitch (the businessman on TV's Ballykissangel) as Lopakhin.

In the Peacock smaller space: Finders Keepers, a new play by North Dubliner Peter Sheridan. Set against the background of the declining Dublin Docklands of the early 1970's, Finders Keepers is a touching coming-of-age story. Generally, I don't have much tolerance for touching coming-of-age stories -- especially ones that tie up every loose end with liquorice as this one does -- but I had a great time listening to the actors' accents and trying to decipher local references and slang. And the performances were really energetic and fun. So, all in all, a nice afternoon at the theatre that I would have absolutely loathed if the whole thing had taken place in Canada.

And now a rant: The Abbey Theatre demands that you BUY programmes. Yes: There are no free programmes. The programmes they have are glossy and colourful and cost 5 Euro each. Even on Broadway there are free programmes alongside the expensive souvenir volumes. But not in Dublin, noooo... I'm not going to shell out 5 Euro for a bloody programme. Do you know what that is in Canadian? Alls I wants is a photocopied piece of paper with the Dramatis Personae and the director's name and the designers' names. That's all. Is that too much to ask from a government-funded theatre? My ancestors' descendants tax dollars are go--

Oh, never mind.


In response to comments below, I have asked the folks at The Towers here in Dublin to name a floor after Seamus Heaney. They have acquiesced and agreed to start building one immediately following the poet's death. (I suspect they'll build one after Marina Carr passes away too. God forbid she die soon, though. Carr is a great Irish playwright and -- on the cusp of forty -- she has many fruitful writing days ahead...)

Hey, you know what I wish I was here for? The Burial of Thebes by Seamus Heaney, a new adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone that is going on at the Abbey in April. Could rival Jean Anouilh's famed version, methinks... Look at me, I'm drooling in anticipation. I'll have to order in a script.


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