Theatre: Hamnet, Abbey Theatre

hamnet online_holding_even


An Abbey Theatre and Dead Centre Co-production

From the Abbey website:

Grief fills the room up of my absent child
King John, Act III scene IV

William Shakespeare had one son. He named him Hamnet. He then left home to pursue his career in the theatre, effectively abandoning his family. In 1596, he was told that the boy – who was then eleven years old – was seriously ill. By the time Shakespeare reached Stratford, Hamnet had died.

In 1599, Shakespeare wrote a play called Hamlet.

Hamnet is too young to understand Shakespeare. And he is one letter away from being a great man. We are too old to understand Hamnet. How close are we to greatness? We meet in the middle, in a theatre, in purgatory: youth reaching forward to a life it will never know, an audience reaching back to a life it has forgotten.

A solo work for an eleven year old boy, Hamnet uses live video and dead video to bridge the gap between two generations, asking each other what they want to pass on and receive.


Dates: 26 September – 7 October
Previews: 26 & 27 September
On the Peacock stage

Times: Mon – Sat 8pm, Matinees Sat 2.30pm
Tickets: €18 – €25 / Conc. €16 – €20

To book for a group of 6+ call (01) 87 97 266

More information:


Programme: Shakespeare Lives, 2016


The full programme of events marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is now available for download: Shakespeare Lives Across the Island – Conversations and Celebrations 2016.

This fantastic line-up, happening all across Ireland, is in partnership with the British Council, and involves universities, museums, libraries and theatres on both sides of the border.

Here’s a preview of just some of the upcoming events:


Irish Renaissance Seminar, QUB: Shakespeare Lives across the Island

on Saturday 7th May, 12pm- 7pm, in the Old Staff Common room, QUB


“Shakespeare: Here and Elsewhere” workshop, dlr Lexicon

a workshop on Shakespeare in film and modern popular culture at dlr Lexicon, Dun Laoighaire, 14th May 


Public talks: UCD – Abbey Theatre Shakespeare Lectures 2016

11th May, 7pm, Pearse Museum:  Prof. Andrew Murphy (University of St Andrews),‘Shakespeare and Irish Radicalism: The Road to 1916’

12th May, 5pm, Abbey Theatre (Peacock):  Prof. Gordon McMullan (King’s College, London), ‘Remembering and Forgetting Shakespeare in 1916’

27th May, 4pm, Abbey Theatre (Peacock): Dr Farah Karim-Cooper (Shakespeare’s Globe), ‘Gesture on the Shakespearean Stage’

9th June, National Library, 7pm: Prof. Margaret Kelleher (UCD) and Prof. Danielle Clarke (UCD): ‘An “Irish Mode”? The Literary Writings and Legacy of Thomas MacDonagh. A conversation, with selected readings from MacDonagh’s works, performed by the UCD Ad Astra Drama Scholars


Symposium: Shakespeare 400 Ireland, NUIM, 21-22 Oct 2016

with a keynote lecture by Professor Willy Maley (University of Glasgow) ‘”They are rising, they are rising”: Shakespeare and 1916’, and papers by Professor Mark Burnett (Queens University Belfast), Dr Jane Grogan (UCD) and Professor Patrick Lonergan (NUI Galway)


More events can be found here.


Check back for more details soon, including an exhibition on Sir Kenneth Branagh at Queen’s University Belfast, a Shakespeare Day at Trinity College Dublin, and a performance of Pericles, Prince of Tyre in association with University College, Cork.

You can also follow what’s happening on Twitter @ShakesinIreland and using the hashtag #ShaxIRL400. Get in touch and let us know what you think!

Public talks: UCD – Abbey Theatre Shakespeare Lectures 2016

The UCD School of English, Drama, and Film and the Abbey Theatre are delighted to announce the forthcoming UCD/Abbey Theatre Shakespeare Lectures 2016.

11th May, 7pm, Pearse Museum:  Prof. Andrew Murphy (University of St Andrews), ‘Shakespeare and Irish Radicalism: The Road to 1916’

12th May, 5pm, Abbey Theatre (Peacock):  Prof. Gordon McMullan (King’s College, London), ‘Remembering and Forgetting Shakespeare in 1916’

27th May, 4pm, Abbey Theatre (Peacock): Dr Farah Karim-Cooper (Shakespeare’s Globe), ‘Gesture on the Shakespearean Stage’

9th June, National Library, 7pm: Prof. Margaret Kelleher (UCD) and Prof. Danielle Clarke (UCD): ‘An “Irish Mode”? The Literary Writings and Legacy of Thomas MacDonagh. A conversation, with selected readings from MacDonagh’s works, performed by the UCD Ad Astra Drama Scholars

These lectures are free and open to all, but tickets must be pre-booked. For 11th May and 9th June, please book online at For 12th May and 27th May, please contact the Abbey Theatre Box office on (01) 8787 222 or

Podcasts: UCD Abbey Theatre Shakespeare Lectures

Naomi McAreavey - Shakespeare and Seventeenth-Century Irish TheatreAndrew Murphy - Shakespeare and the 1916 RisingAnthony Roche. Shakespeare: “the chap that writes like Synge"Michael Dobson. Shakespeare, Amateur Performance and Civic Identity in Britain and IrelandJane Grogan - Shakespeare and the EastEwan Fernie - St Edgar and his Demons

Kiernan Ryan. Shakespeare’s Universality: The Revolutionary Imagination

The UCD/Abbey Theatre Shakespeare Lectures began in 2012 and the series has seen a number of distinguished guest speakers visit both UCD and the Abbey Theatre. Several of the lectures have been recorded for podcasting by Real Smart Media. The podcasts are available here and on iTunes, or you can click on the speaker images above.

As you can see, many of these talks speak directly to the question of Shakespeare and Ireland, so it is our great pleasure to point people in the direction of such a fantastic resource. With thanks to Dr. Jane Grogan for putting these together.

Podcasts include:

Dr Naomi McAreavey (UCD)Shakespeare and Seventeenth-Century Irish Theatre.

Prof Andrew Murphy (University of St Andrews)Acts of Rebellion: Shakespeare and the 1916 Rising.

Prof Anthony Roche (UCD)Shakespeare: “the chap that writes like Synge”.

Prof Michael Dobson (Shakespeare Institute)Shakespeare, Amateur Performance and Civic Identity in Britain and Ireland

Dr Jane Grogan (UCD)Shakespeare and the East

Prof Ewan Fernie (Shakespeare Institute) – St Edgar and his Demons

Prof Kiernan Ryan (Royal Holloway)Shakespeare’s Universality: The Revolutionary Imagination

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Abbey

With two sets of lovers, a royal betrothal, and a troubled marriage at its centre, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has long been associated with the heady and complex passions of youthful love. The decision then to shift the play’s setting from the court and forest of Athens to a modern nursing home for the elderly and infirm is certainly a bold one and it throws open the possibility of seeing the play from a new and fresh perspective. The opening strangeness of Gavin Quinn’s Dream sets the tone for the rest of the production; during one of the daily exercises designed to keep the elderly active and busy, the frail residents dance, shuffle with zimmer frames, roll about in their wheelchairs, or sit immobile and senile, to Johnny Cash’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, before forming a conga line with their carers. On several fronts, the old folk’s home setting is a stroke of genius. Notably, while Hermia and Lysander’s relationship lacks the fiery vigour of youth, it is imbued with a new tenderness and thoughtfulness. The power dynamics of the play generally map neatly onto the new setting; Duke Theseus and Hippolyta become a head clinician and matron; the lovers the patients under their care; and Egeus is now a son angered by his mother’s misplaced senescent affections. In this world, seniors are disempowered and are open to abuse; Theseus backs Egeus, who no doubt pays for his mother’s upkeep, by urging Hermia to marry Demetrius, whose suit her son approves. In Egeus’ request that his mother suffer the ‘ancient privilege of Athens’ – death – we see that euthanasia is the price for inconveniencing or disobeying one’s children. Trapped in enfeebled bodies, dependent on their children and carers, and oppressed by a corrupt system, only in their dreams are the elderly free.

Thus in Act 2, when the play moves to the forest, night settles on the nursing home lounge and it becomes a dreamscape where anything is possible. Here, the lovers play out their fantasies unhindered by walking sticks; Theseus and Hippolyta are transformed into Oberon and Titania rulers of the Fairy world; and the residents become elegant, energetic faeries. In these night-time scenes, the dominance of the nursing home in the minds of its patients and employees is everywhere in evidence; Oberon, for instance, administered the love potion to Titania through a drip. In places however, the setting proved to be a hindrance and inconsistencies appeared at times. For their first meeting, Titania and Oberon arrived on stage standing on wheelchairs and the pair remained static throughout their exchange. This strange behaviour may have been intended to imply their otherworldliness, but it weakened the actors’ performances. For instance, Titania’s speech on her close friendship with her Indian votaress, which contains some of the play’s most beautiful poetry, was toneless and lacklustre; the audience lost out on the pleasure to be had from these lines and was denied a fuller understanding of Titania’s character. Later, Hermia and Lysander dragged on duvets but discarded them in their pursuit of love; at this point, the stage resembled the aftermath of a teenage slumber party, but ultimately it just looked cluttered. Similarly, Titania’s bower was formed from an assemblage of flowery pillows and blankets; considering the devotion to the medical setting elsewhere, a wheeled hospital bed would have made more sense in the overall scheme.

The nursing home setting also raised problems for the depiction of the ‘Rude Mechanicals’. In Shakespeare, these working class figures gather to put on a play to celebrate Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding day and their adventures are the comic highlights of the play. In the Abbey production, the Mechanicals comprised a motley crew: Bottom was an orderly; Snug was a painter decorating the home; Snout and Flute were patients; and Quince’s connection to the care home was uncertain. Why such a group would form an impromptu playing company was unclear. The Mechanicals’ play, and the harsh response to it, might have been part of the elder abuse hinted at earlier in the production, in Egeus’ treatment of his mother, but the logic of it could have been better explained. ‘The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe’ could have been presented, for instance, as an activity for seniors, like the dance sequence that opened the play. In the Mechanicals’ concluding dance, the incongruity of seeing seniors rave was initially comic but then, as it stretched on, simply awkward – perhaps this was the point.

In its stage design, the Abbey’s Dream clearly drew inspiration from Peter Brook’s seminal production of the play for the RSC in 1970. Although large saffron yellow curtains were used in places, the care home set was essentially a brightly-lit white box. Against the white background, the colours of the costumes popped: some patients wore pastel blues and greens that linked them to the furniture and medical scrubs of their carers, while, for their nocturnal wanderings, Demetrius donned a yellow suit and Lysander sported flower-patterned pants.

At several points throughout the production, the characters recited various Shakespearean sonnets. While these added little to the play, they did give some characters a firmer voice; Cobweb, for instance, was a dejected hospital inmate by day but in the forest spoke eloquently to the audience. Of particular note was the decision to add lines in modern English to gloss Shakespeare’s words which suggests that there was a fear that Dream would not be understood, or, that the audience would not find it funny. Overall, the glosses proved distracting and were redundant. For instance, the fine performances of the actors meant that having a drug-addled Lysander shout at Hermia “Didn’t you figure out that I left you because I don’t love you?” was unnecessary. In considering the Abbey’s Dream as a whole, its innovations and its shortcomings, Puck’s epilogue springs to mind; the production certainly has some failings to “reprehend”, but there is much of interest and originality in its treatment of the play’s “weak and idle theme”.

– Dr. Edel Semple, University College Cork.

Talks: UCD – Abbey Theatre Shakespeare Lectures 2015

Image from The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare, edited by Edmund Malone (Dublin, 1794), by kind permission of UCD Library Special Collections.

The UCD School of English, Drama and Film is delighted to renew their association with the Abbey Theatre again this year and announce the forthcoming UCD/Abbey Theatre Shakespeare Lectures 2015.

These FREE lectures are open to all UCD alumni & friends, students and staff.

This first lecture in the series will be ‘Acts of Rebellion: Shakespeare and the 1916 Rising’

The full schedule for this series is as follows:

February 26th
UCD Clinton Auditorium

‘Acts of Rebellion:
Shakespeare and the 1916 Rising’

Prof Andrew Murphy
University of St Andrews

March 5th
UCD Clinton Auditorium

‘Shakespeare and Seventeenth-Century Irish Theatre’
Dr Naomi McAreavey
UCD School of English, Drama & Film

March 18th
Abbey Theatre

Strong Imaginations: Exploring Shakespeare in the contemporary world – A Conversation with Wayne Jordan (director of Twelfth Night at the Abbey (2014)), and Gavin Quinn (director of the Abbey’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (February 2015))’

For further details, including how to reserve a place, please follow this link.

Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

“The course of true love never did run smooth”

For the first time in 35 years, the Abbey Theatre is proud to present A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This magical comedy continues our exploration of Shakespeare following the critically acclaimed Twelfth Night.

True to Shakespeare’s original text, this contemporary interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream centres on the residents of a nursing home. The vitality and timelessness of love come to the fore in this production immersed with beautiful verse and original music.

Director Gavin Quinn of Pan Pan Theatre takes us on a fantastical journey in his Abbey Theatre debut where dreams and reality collide with riotous consequences. Featuring the finest calibre of Irish acting talent, prepare for Shakespeare as you have never experienced before.


From 11 February 2015 – 28 March 2015
Previews: 11 – 16 February
On the Abbey stage

Times: Mon – Sat 7.30pm, Sat matinee 2pm
Tickets: €13 – €40 / Conc. €13 – €25

Taken from the Abbey website, where tickets can be booked online.