As the nights draw in, and we head to work in the dark, it would be very easy to begin a period of near hibernation, settling in front of a warm fire, hot drink in hand and a remote by your side. Don’t.

It seems no time at all since we emerged from an involuntary lockdown, and started to immerse ourselves again in social activity. Keep that gradual reengagement going and try to get out to some cultural events when possible.

Theatres are working hard to get the proverbial “bums on seats”, as this ensures that actors, musicians, performers and more are kept in gainful employment.

After all, it is not just the people you see on stage who contribute to a successful evening at the theatre. The management team, artistic directors, stage personnel, sound operators, lighting technicians, box-office teams, bar staff and others all make up the running of a theatre, while there are also the creatives, writers and composers among them.

Small theatre

I have to own up now, and explain why I have a newfound interest in all of this. Following a recent approach, I put myself forward for consideration as a director of a small, but very vibrant, theatre which is based in the precincts of the Dundrum shopping centre in Dublin. Last week I was named as one of five new members of the board.

Opened just 16 years ago by President Mary McAleese, the dlr Mill Theatre, to give its proper title, seats just over 200 people in the auditorium. However, it is much more than just a space to put on over 400 productions each year. It is a community-based creative space that reaches out to a national audience. It is also a gallery space, has an extensive education programme and runs a number of workshops in both drama and art.

Last weekend I saw a performance of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the dlr Mill Theatre. It is the prescribed play for the current cohort of Leaving Certificate students, just as it was for me back in the realms of time. Unlike the majority of the young audience at the Saturday night performance I attended, who simply lapped up director Geoff O’Keeffe innovative take on the classic, I dreaded Macbeth when I was in school.

Any apprehension I had of reliving a bad dream was quickly dispelled by a truly spellbinding version of Macbeth, or as it is often referred to, The Scottish Play, folklore believing that it should not be mentioned in conversation by its name. The cast of young actors delivered a flawless staging of the piece, said to have been first performed in 1606. The message of the play, which portrays the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power, is as relevant today as it was then.

Gerard Bourke’s minimalist set design will have you transfixed, and at all times complements the piece, never taking from the actors or the action. Ruairí Lenaghan is outstanding in the lead role, but it seems almost unjust to name him ahead of any other member of a cast brimming with talent. All were excellent.

In case you feel that I am partisan, consider these words, which are not my own. “Mill Productions’ version of Macbeth at the Mill Theatre in Dundrum, Co Dublin, directed by Geoff O’Keeffe, is beautifully staged and passionately presented by young actors who engage with and enliven a narrative that seems as relevant today as when Shakespeare first penned it over 400 years ago.”

The play has a limited run until 27 October.

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