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Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - Ireland (A Country Under Wave)

"Come away, O human child: to the waters and the wild". Follow the lead of the famous lines by W.B. Yeats, celebrated this year on the 150th anniversary of his birth, and explore the depths of the country this summer.

Blue Raincoat Theatre Company pay tribute to the legendary dramatist in his home county of Sligo with a festival entitled: A Country Under Wave (June 21-August 8). All 26 of Yeats's plays will be staged in a variety of locations, from the summit of Benbulbin mountain, Streedagh beach, to the troupe's own venue The Factory. This will be a feast for those hooked on the elemental magic of Blue Raincoat's previous outdoor performances (pictured: image from last year's On Baile's Strand).

There are many opportunities left to catch DruidShakespeare (touring until August 15): Druid's presentation of Shakespeare's Henriad (Richard II, Henry IV part I, Henry IV part II and Henry V), adapted into a six-hour epic by Mark O'Rowe. Crushing defeats of kings (Marty Rea's Richard II steals the show) and powerful battle scenes combine in director Garry Hynes's electrifying production. With new dates announced for the company's own Mick Lally Theatre (fitted especially for Druid's 40th anniversary), and a tour to An Grianán in Letterkenny, Limerick's Lime Tree Theatre, the Town Hall in Skibbereen, accumulating with outdoor performances in the yard of Kilkenny Castle (where Richard II stayed during the Irish Wars), this is not to be missed.

Also getting around this summer is Noni Stapleton's surreal Charolais, a murderous comedy about an amorous woman whose beau is distracted by a Charolais heifer. Digging deep into the dark pastures of rural Ireland, this agricultural drama tours to the Town Hall in Galway (June 12), Áras Éanna on Inis Oírr (June 13), the Solstice Arts Cenre in Navan (June 20-21), Dublin's Dolmen Theatre (June 22-July 4) and the Clonmel Junction Festival (July 8-10).

Festival season is underway with Cork's Midsummer Festival. Join Conflicted Theatre at the table for Come Dine With Charles Mee (June 12-21). Part food-tasting, part mash-up of U.S. playwright Charles Mee's works, the latest serving by this vigorous company takes place in the intimate environs of the Barden Private Dining Club. A group of artists follow the footsteps of two friars who left Ireland in 1323 on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Friar's Walk (June 19-21) at the Ennismore Meditation Centre. Finally, Ruairí Donovan, a choreographer known for spiriting us away into secret locations in the middle of the night, presents a prologue to his upcoming Ghosts (June 12-13), probing the queer energies of the universe.

Also in Cork, Julie Kelleher makes her directorial debut since becoming artistic director of the Everyman Theatre, staging Brian Friel's two-part drama Lovers - Winners & Losers (July 7-25).

Over in the West, the draw of acts from overseas will certainly be felt at the Galway International Arts Festival. There's no ignoring the power of Exhibit B (July 14-19), Brett Bailey's performance installation about the colonial histories of Europe and Africa, which last year in London had protestors lined up outside accusing it of racism. The ferocious Hofesh Shechter Company are back in town, after blowing the roof off the Black Box Theatre with 2010's Political Mother. deGeneration (July 21-25) is an evening of three performances showcasing the talents of the younger members of the company.

Frank McGuinness joins the ranks of Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson in a year that sees the homecomings of plays by Irish writers that are overdue their Irish premieres. A festival commission, The Match Box (July 15-26) is a monologue play about a grieving mother. Reputed for his poetic yet savage style, McGuinness's play is directed by Joan Sheehy and stars one of the country's leading actors, Cathy Belton.

The Galway festival also sees the world premiere of Amy Conroy's new play for HotForTheatre, Luck Just Kissed You Hello (July 9-25). Conroy is a subversive voice in the realm of gender politics, and in her new drama a woman returns for her father's funeral, unbeknownst to others that she has since transitioned into being a man. After the tidal success of her Finegan's Wake adaptation riverrun, Olwen Fouéré turns to the short prose of Samuel Beckett. In Lessness (July 22-26), a naked figure is exposed to the elements in a finite and decomposing world. This is sure to be fraught and beautiful.

Closing out the summer are the Kilkenny-based Devious Theatre Company, producing Adrian Kavanagh's new play The Union (July 29-August 1) at Cleere's Theatre: a furiously funny and dramatic retelling of the final days of a student union in a regional college. The energetic Devious Theatre are always worth a look.

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From This Author Chris McCormack

Chris McCormack is a theatre critic based in Dublin. He blogs on and writes for A Younger Theatre, Irish Theatre Magazine and the Arts (read more...)