I thought it would be an interesting personal project to look back at the past year and pick one theatrical highlight. It was not an easy task.

My own barometer for this is to consider what productions moved me, and on that scale there was one highlight. It was Conor McPherson’s Girl from the North Country, based on the music of Bob Dylan.

The good news is the production will play at the Grand Opera House in Belfast from 14-18 February and it is simply a show you must not miss.

Conor McPherson is also directing Tales from the Holywell and this has a slightly longer run at the Abbey Theatre starting on 30 January and running until 18 February. This is based on the back catalogue of the wonderful musician Damien Dempsey, as he traces his career progression.

Overseas recognition

The success being enjoyed internationally by Irish playwrights, directors, costume designers and actors is enormous, though they often fail to attract the attention in the media that they deserve. One man whose name is on everyone’s lips is Martin McDonagh, and his catalogue of work is world-class. However, sometimes his plays have gained fame abroad before we get to see them in Ireland.

Take Hangmen for example. It received its world premiere at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in September 2015. It was universally acclaimed by critics and was an Olivier award winner. It also was a Tony Award winner in the US where it had its premiere in 2018. Now it finally opens in Ireland, playing for a month at the Gaiety from 11 March. TV star Killian Scott will make his stage debut in this.

Watch out for dates in April and May, yet to be announced, for Conversations After Sex. Winner of the gong for best new play at the Irish Theatre Awards last year, Mark O’Halloran’s work is directed by Tom Creed and the nationwide tour in Ireland will follow its run in New York.

Speaking of Conversations After Sex, the production team behind it ThisIsPopBaby are set to present a new work performed by actors, acrobats and aerialists called DreamFactory. This family show runs next month at The Everyman Palace in Cork.


King sees one of Ireland’s greatest talents, Pat Kinevane, in a solo performance that will leave you spellbound. The play is part of a series about people living on the edge of Irish society and features a character called Luther, who tells his story through the songs of Elvis. This piece premieres at Glór in Ennis on 23 February before moving on to Limerick, Galway, Letterkenny, Longford, Portlaoise, Dún Laoghaire and Tralee.

The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, a show for five-year-olds and older, will be in many locations from 11 February until 1 April. Families with access to theatres in Newbridge, Portlaoise, Bray, Dún Laoghaire, Roscommon, Waterford and Tralee will be among the many who can see it.

This two-hander, starring Julie Maguire and Ashleigh Dorrell, requires the help of children and their teddy bears as they go in search of the famous teddy bear’s picnic.

Read more

In concert: Finbar Wright on returning to the stage, lockdown life in Cork

Shirley Valentine: set in Cork and finishing her tour of Ireland this spring