Last night, Dublin saw the launch of its 55th Theatre Festival. The City Hall Rotunda where it was held was fitting surroundings for what new curator Willie White called “a civic occasion”.
This is Willie White’s first year as artistic director of the Festival, following his move from the Project Arts Centre. White said that this year, like many others, is “a pivotal moment of Irish history”. Perhaps to reflect this, 2012’s programme has less theatre from abroad and more from home. White also emphasized the importance of the festival to the city and its inhabitants. “Theatre is the original social network – ask the Greeks”, he said, to prove his point that theatre is about communication and the coming together of people in the form of audiences.
Opening the festival is none other than The Corn Exchange’s adaptation of Joyce’s Dubliners, set to take the stage at the Gaiety theatre. And while there is less coming from outside Ireland, there is by no means an equivalent drop in quality; the legendary Wooster Group come with their interpretation of Hamlet, and fellow New Yorkers Elevator Repair Service bring The Select (The Sun Also Rises). Homegrown talent sees Garry Hynes bring the DruidMurphy cycle to Dublin after a stellar run in Galway, an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray in the Abbey, and PanPan’s Everyone is King Lear in his Own Home at Smock Alley. For the whole family, the Ark is showing four plays for ages two and upwards: Ha Ha Ha, Potato Needs a Bath, White and Mouth Open, Story Jump Out. There is even an opera: Tristan und Isolde in the Bord Gais Enerygy theatre – a new venue for the Festival, and one that they hope to use in years to come.