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Abbey Theatre Unveils New 2020 Line-up


Abbey Theatre Unveils New 2020 Line-up

Directors of the Abbey Theatre, Graham McLaren and Neil Murray, today announced an "extraordinary programme for an extraordinary year", a bespoke range of theatre projects that audiences can experience in person, or at home, from August 2020.

Having been forced to cancel or postpone its entire 2020 programme since the Abbey's closure in March, today, the national theatre of Ireland is launching five live theatre productions for a live audience, in addition to four new digital theatre projects. This new programme boldly meets the challenges of theatre-making during COVID-19, embracing the restrictions placed upon artists during the pandemic, and providing the audience with unique, intimate and elemental experiences. Highlights include: a ground-breaking, blind-folded production of Bram Stoker's Dracula; an immersive site-specific telling of Patrick Kavanagh's epic poem The Great Hunger, in a historic partnership with IMMA; two further instalments of the Abbey's acclaimed online series, Dear Ireland; a witty exploration of living in COVID-19 times through a Zoom adaptation of the award winning play This Beautiful Village; and a nationwide partnership with the GAA, bringing the stories of 14 victims of tragic violence to life in Fourteen Voices from the Bloodied Field, plus more exciting programming listed in full below.

Graham McLaren and Neil Murray said: "COVID-19 strikes at the very heart of theatre's foundations - a collective experience which, typically, has no social distancing, no distance between performers, no distance between the audience members and, in some cases, no distance between audience and performers. Whilst the impact of social distancing has a profound effect on the physical making of theatre, the guidelines also present a creative challenge and, within this challenge, is a space to innovate and experiment with form. The world may be changing but the Abbey's function must not change. The job is to tell Ireland's story to Ireland. The way in which we do it may be different, but the end must be the same. We are proud to announce an initial six month programme of new theatre - for a socially distant audience at our home in Abbey Street, live performance for a live audience in site specific locations across the country and new digital work for an online audience.

"Continued support from the Arts Council and Irish Government - coupled with a radical programme rethink - has allowed us to retain our core staff and produce a newly imagined programme of work for 2020. Many other theatre organisations find themselves in much deeper peril. In even more dire straits, are individual theatre artists, technicians and practitioners. They are the bedrock of our industry. As Ireland's national theatre, we must continually seek to create opportunities for Irish artists to create work and connect with audiences. Therefore, one of the guiding principles of this new programme is to employ as many freelance theatre-makers as possible, within the constraints we currently face. We are proud to be one of very few theatres in the world, at this juncture, announcing a newly conceived programme of work, developed almost entirely, during the pandemic.

"We conceived of this bespoke programme to engage and directly employ as many freelance theatre-makers, as possible, affected by COVID-19. Currently, that number stands at 170, (270 including the first iteration of Dear Ireland, which does not count the 67 artists, whose contracts were honoured in full, for postponed and cancelled shows). That does not come close to solving the issues our industry faces. The sector is in crisis and its long-term security urgently needs to be considered by us all. We urge the new Government to build on its commitment of €25M and to seize this moment in our nation's history to enshrine the value we place on our artists."

The Directors of the Abbey Theatre's commitment to present a diverse and engaging programme in 2020 endures. The safety of artists, audiences and staff have been considered paramount in the creation of the programme. The remainder of 2020 will see the Abbey producing new productions in-house; collaborating with some of Ireland's most prestigious institutions, IMMA and the GAA; and continuing to make Ireland's national theatre open to all, by presenting stories from under-represented communities and original voices. The commitment to new writing will continue with a record number of full length play commissions, helping ensure the future for Irish artists in our forthcoming seasons.

Each project will have a tailored set of safety protocols, based on government guidelines, venue capacity and consideration as to whether the show takes place indoors or outdoors. These will be announced when tickets go on sale. Tickets for new productions will be available in the coming weeks on the Abbey Theatre's website, with further programming initiatives to be announced during the year. The continuation of the Dear Ireland project remains free online for all to enjoy.

Dear Ireland continues

A few short days into lockdown in Ireland the Directors of the Abbey Theatre created a moment for the country to reflect on itself where it is and where it, perhaps, could be. In April, 50 playwrights came together in a choir of voices to capture that moment in time. Dear Ireland was the beginning of a national conversation, connecting 100 self-isolating artists, with over 150,000 people in their homes, across the globe.

In June, the Abbey extended an invitation to its audience to respond and write their own letter to Ireland. Twenty of these letters will be performed on the Abbey stage by some of Ireland's leading actors and streamed online in August. The readings will be interspersed with music and spoken word performances from thought-leaders and artists - a virtual 'open house' of letters, poems, and songs that express the many different hopes, experiences, and challenges facing Ireland at this time.

Dear Ireland is free on the Abbey's digital channels. Donations to the Abbey Theatre can be made here.

This Beautiful Virtual Village

An innovative 60 minute, online, adaptation of Lisa Tierney-Keogh's play This Beautiful Village for the Zoom age, reflecting the current realities of social distancing. Winner of "Best New Play" at the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2020, This Beautiful Village was due to return to the Abbey stage this summer, ahead of a nationwide tour. Now, set over one virtual residents association meeting, six people will confront their pride, prejudice and privilege. A wholly original Abbey Theatre production, This Beautiful Virtual Village is a razor-sharp exposé of what it means to co-exist in Ireland today.

Tickets are €5 and go on-sale today.


The ground breaking, award winning Irish band, Lankum will broadcast a live concert from the Abbey stage for one night only on Saturday, 15 August. Promising a unique set, Lankum will be joined by some very special guests on the night. Presented by Foggy Notions.

Tickets are now available from Dice FM.

Dublin Fringe Festival

Stay tuned - Dublin Fringe Festival programme will be announced on 5 August 2020.

The Great Hunger

A historic partnership between the Abbey Theatre and IMMA, The Great Hunger is a site specific, promenade production of the Patrick Kavanagh poem. Conceived by the Directors of the Abbey Theatre, this production is jointly directed by award-winning Irish theatre directors Caitríona McLaughlin and Conall Morrison. A large cast of actors and musicians will boldly bring Kavanagh's tragic masterpiece to life on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. This production will premiere as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival and will run in October.

Tickets will go on sale in August.

Theatre for One

Theatre for One is a mobile state-of-the-art performance space for one actor and one audience member at a time. Conceived and created by the Olivier award-winning designer Christine Jones and designed by LOT-EK architects, it is part peep-show booth, part confessional, and completely visceral. Produced by Landmark Productions and Octopus Theatricals, it features short plays by six of Ireland's leading writers - Marina Carr, Stacey Gregg, Emmet Kirwan, Louise Lowe, Mark O'Rowe and Enda Walsh - in 'theatre distilled to its purest, most intense version, then injected directly into the vein' (The Irish Times). Supported by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival and Dublin City Council.

Tickets are free - booking details will be announced in the coming months

Dear Ireland continues

In November, Dear Ireland will continue with 25 three minute postcards from underrepresented voices in Irish society. Featuring will be a number of the Abbey's 5x5 partners, along with pieces from other collaborators the Abbey has been forging relationships with, some of whom have been the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Abbey works with groups that are disenfranchised and marginalised, giving them opportunities to develop theatre that needs a national voice. In these profoundly unsettling times for Irish society and the entire world, this evening of songs, stories and poems will try to make sense of the world around us.

Dear Ireland is free on the Abbey's digital channels. Donations to the Abbey Theatre can be made here.

From Eden / Northern Lights

From Eden and Northern Lights are two compelling, darkly comic dramas from award-winning playwright Stephen Jones. Directed by the late Karl Shiels, Stephen also performs opposite Seána Kerslake in both pieces. These plays will be staged in the Peacock, with social distancing measures in place.

Tickets on sale now.

Fourteen Voices from the Bloodied Field

14 monologues, giving voice to the men, woman and children who were killed in Croke Park on 21 November 1920. This Abbey Theatre production, in partnership with the GAA, commissions 14 writers, 14 directors and 14 actors to come together to create a 14 minute play for the solo performer, to be staged live in 14 different GAA clubs and schools across the nation.

Tickets to the performances of Fourteen Voices from the Bloodied Field are free - booking details will be announced in the coming months. Donations to the Abbey Theatre can be made here.


"Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring."

The Abbey Theatre's winter offering will see Irish playwright Sarah Hanly adapt Bram Stoker's timeless and terrifying classic Dracula for the Abbey stage - but not as you know it. A socially distanced audience will enter the auditorium blindfolded, and then embark on a frightening journey into one of the world's most compelling horror stories. Conceived and directed by Graham McLaren, the immersive production will be performed live by an actor, whose voice will be underscored and accompanied by a complete, binaural sound design. This world premiere will be an intimate sensational experience for the ears and the imagination.

Tickets will go on-sale in the coming months.

See for more information.

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