This year's Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival was offically launched yesterday. Once again the programme is varied and impressive, featuring high-profile international works, world premiers, and a range of special events.
I'll be writing more about the Dublin Theatre Festival over the next few weeks in the lead up to its start on September 29th, and of course we'll aim to review as many of the plays as possible. With 28 shows in 25 venues (plus many special events), we'll have our hands full. That's part of what makes the festival fun - there's just so much going on.
There's one production I'd like to highlight right away, because it might well be the highlight of the festival and it could sell out quickly. Laundry is about the Magdalene Laundries and is being performed in the Gloucester Street Magdalene Convent. As if the setting weren't enough, this is a participatory event. As the festival guide puts it: "Inside there are two rooms. You are in one. Holding your dirty laundry. They are in the other. Waiting for you." There is a limit of three people per performance.
The reason I regard Laundry as being a highlight of the festival is that it links in to several importance issues. Firstly, it addresses the criticism that's sometimes made that Irish theatre ignores the wider society around it, particularly on hard issues. (Frankly I've never agreed with that idea anyway.) It's also a continuation of the "immersive theatre" concept. I was somewhat critical of immersive theatre last year, because I felt that it seems to rely too heavily on shock value and a power imbalance; I suspect that this time, in Laundry, the format will support the drama rather than relying on novelty. That would be an immense step forward for a potentially exciting approach to theatre. And finally, Laundry also links into the festival's Behind Closed Doors and Access All Areas discussions in Project Arts Centre.
Oh, and well done to all of the sponsors for their involvement in the festival. I quite like Carmen Wines so I was pleased to see they're continuing their support.