As the world slowly returns to a greater degree of freedom and activity – we cannot yet call it normal – it is a relief to be able to report that the Dublin Theatre Festival will be staged for a period of two and a half weeks, starting at the end of September and mainly happening in the first fortnight of October.

While this might appear to be very early to preview the event, it is certain to be a sell-out, given that theatregoers have been starved of live performances for so long. Now is the time to get your diary out and make plans. Online booking opens on Tuesday next, 24 August. Set the alarm clock now.

The aim of the organisers is to present world-class theatre in Dublin, while also supporting artists in creating outstanding work. It provides a hugely valuable platform to showcase the best of Irish theatre to the world.

Willie White has been artistic director and chief executive of the Dublin Theatre Festival for a decade now, and he provides a summation of what the event is all about. “At the heart of the festival is the city of Dublin – its people and its stories – and a commitment to contributing to the vibrant social and cultural life of our capital. Our mission is to present a programme of exceptional theatrical experiences that will appeal to the diverse communities and visitors that make up our city.

Heading the bucket list for me is iGIRL

“We have a rich history, with much to celebrate, but what we are most excited about is what is yet to come. In the future, we want to see more people participating in culture and more artists creating bold new work that challenges and inspires.”

The director of programme and production is Stephen McManus, and he and the team have assembled a wide-ranging collection of pieces that will appeal to all tastes and all ages.

It is almost impossible to select a handful from the more than 25 productions that make up the bulk of the main festival, but there are three that I will be trying especially hard to get tickets for. Heading the bucket list for me is iGIRL. In her first production as artistic director of the Abbey Theatre, Caitríona McLaughlin reunites with Marina Carr for this world premiere, which stars the truly magnificent Olwen Fouéré. This simply must not be missed.

Olwyn Fouéré, iGirl. \ Barry-McCall

The Gate Theatre will also host a world premiere. Once Before I Go is described as an intensely moving play from Phillip McMahon, co-creator of the iconic sensation RIOT! It explores the fragile yet resilient bonds of Irish queer lives across four decades in Dublin, London and Paris, charting the close friendship of Lynn, Daithí and Bernard.

The theatre’s auditorium will be reconfigured to include a hybrid, cabaret-style setting.

On the edge between comedy, tragedy and melodrama, it’s an unforgettable story of living with humility, forgiveness and love. The theatre’s auditorium will be reconfigured to include a hybrid, cabaret-style setting.

Finally, and for three nights only, Dun Laoghaire’s Pavilion Theatre will present David Bolger’s Uncle Ray. The wonders of reality, imagination and family lore collide in this touching new dance duet performed by CoisCéim Dance Theatre.

The Dublin Theatre Festival 2021 runs from 30 September to 17 October, while a number of previews will be staged on 29 September.

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