Theatre: Much Ado About Nothing now playing at Smock Alley, Dublin


Arclight Drama Studio

29 May – 2 Jun | 8PM | Boys’ School

Weaving wit, romance and comedy, Much Ado About Nothing is a whirlwind race to the finish line of “happily ever after”.

It is said that love conquers all, but not without a few battles along the way! Arclight Drama Studio have had a wonderful relationship with Shakespeare and have previously performed acclaimed productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth and As You Like It.

They are delighted to bring one of the bard’s most enduring comedies to the Boys’ School stage at Smock Alley.

Running Time : 90mins + Interval

WRITTEN BY: William Shakespeare
DIRECTED BY: Paul Cullen
ORIGINAL MUSIC: Darragh Cullen

CAST: Raven Aflakete, Bruna Allen, Ellen Barnes, Laura Bracken, Eoghan Byrne, Mark Byrne, Ally Courtney, Darragh Cullen, Elaine Cullen, Eve Cullen, Paul Cullen, Ronan Cullen, Sarah Farrell, Rachel Fennell, Martha McKinney Perry, Coley McManus, Alan Nolan, Chloe O’Hanlon, Aoife O’Rourke, Ciara Phelan, Karl Timmins

Founded in 1992, Arclight have produced more than 60 plays in Ireland and have also performed internationally. This is their fourth time performing in Smock Alley after previously being here in 2013, 2016 and 2017 with their acclaimed productions of Macbeth, As You Like It and Our Town.

Tickets available at the Smock Alley website.


Gaiety School of Acting Shakespeare Schools Programme: King Lear (Cork and Dublin)

The Gaiety School of Acting Shakespeare Schools Programme presents King Lear. A run at Dean Crowe theatre in Athlone has already been completed, with dates remaining in Cork and Dublin cities at Firkin Crane and Smock Alley theatres respectively.

King Lear

The Gaiety School of Acting – The National Theatre School of Ireland is offering Leaving Cert. students a unique opportunity.

The Gaiety School of Acting is delighted to launch our 2017 production of King Lear. This production will travel to Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, Firkin Crane, Cork and The Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone from the 23rd of October to the 1st December.

This is the 5th year of our Shakespeare Schools programme and in 2016 we performed Hamlet for almost 6500 students from 130 schools. This means that almost 1 in every 9 students sitting their leaving Certificate English exams in June will have seen our production. We are excited to once again provide students with the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s work live.

Student tickets are €17 with all teachers tickets complimentary. Included in the ticket price is the following:

  • Traditional Production of King Lear (1.5 Hours).
  • Workshop (1 Hour) with a chance to engage with some of the cast about questions on the Leaving Cert, including relationships, characters and themes
  • Student Workbook with information on General Vision and Viewpoint, Social Settings, Characters and Theatrical information.
  • Pre show video for your students which will introduce them to the play, its literary genre and the cultural context.


Dean CroweAthlone24th-27th October 2017

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin6th-10th November 2017

Firkin Crane, Cork City13th-17th November 2017

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin: 27th November – 1st December 2017

Tickets: € 17 (Teachers complimentary)

Booking info:

For programme queries or to speak directly to the Programme Coordinator contact The Gaiety School of Acting on 01 6799277

Review: Hamlet, Globe to Globe

Hamlet G2G

Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe, dir. Dominic Dromgoole, Bill Buckhurst

Smock Alley Theatre, Matinee, Jan 2nd

As this Globe production of Hamlet reaches Ireland as the 155th stop in its global tour, you might expect a lack of freshness from the actors. The rousing, frenetic and funny Hamlet presented to Smock Alley audiences defied such expectations.

Flexibility is the name of the game with this production, as audiences are asked to accept Amanda Wilkin in a floor-length robe to be Queen Gertrude, while later transformed to a grave-digger with leather cap and mattock in hand. Indeed the same actress that matinee audiences saw as Gertrude would play Ophelia later that evening, while the lead role of Hamlet revolved from Ladi Emeruwa to Naeem Hayat. Doubtless such varying of roles helps to keep the language and action fresh for a 2 year tour, while also demanding huge variety and dexterity from the actors. For the set, packing crates remain onstage throughout, with small repositionings used to transform Elsinore’s battlements to Gertrude’s closet. Meanwhile a line of clothes hooks at the back held weapons, robes and instruments as required, which would be donned or doffed in full view of the audience for the play’s many many doublings.

The production’s overall aesthetic could be described as hipster-gypsy. Costumes sported lots of tweed waistcoats and braces, complemented by worn-out brown leather boots that really did look like they were made for walking. While not looking out of place in Smock Alley, this seemed designed to help Shakespeare blend in with his surroundings on the tour’s many far-flung appearances, from an archaeological site in Austria to Za’atari, Jordan’s Syrian refugee camp. Indeed the programme note was keen to emphasise how this was a return to the touring traditions of early modern playing, both in England and abroad.


Photo by Sarah Lee, photojournalist for the Guardian

Music. Never before have I seen a Hamlet so full of music. The decision to cast actors who could also hold a tune or play an instrument (standard Globe practice for touring shows) has the dual advantage of making the company more compact, while also carrying the audience gently from scene to scene. Instruments varied from the unearthly bowing of a cymbal on the ghost’s appearance to accordions and tin whistles accompanying the arrival of the players. This enlivened the 2 hour 45 minute running time, enhancing the overall folk atmosphere.

For me, the ‘tragedians of the city’ were a personal highlight. Hamlet’s play-within-a-play is well-known for its meta-theatricality, and this was given added richness in a production where the evidence of touring is never hidden from view. The makeshift curtain used for the Mousetrap had elsewhere been used to hide Claudius and Polonius during ‘To be or not to be’, and would go on to serve as the fatal arras of that ‘wretched, rash, intruding fool’. The curtain also facilitated lightning quick changes that allowed Claudius and Gertrude to double as the Player King & Queen, with Hamlet attentively observing both spectacles from the sidelines. In a trimmed-down touring production I found the choice to retain both dumbshow and spoken version intriguing, which on reflection made complete sense considering the company are so often performing for non-Anglophone audiences. And thankfully so, as the dumbshow’s melodramatic gestures and rhythmic beat had the entire audience hypnotised, leading to spontaneous applause.

smock alley Hamlet

Seated on the extreme stage-left, I was surprised with how front-facing the blocking appeared to be. When Hamlet interacted with other actors the action was fluid and dynamic, for example during the swearing scene following the ghost’s revelations. Yet for soliloquies Ladi Emeruwa frequently took up position down-stage centre, hardly turning to engage flanking audiences. In terms of focus, this felt very much like an ensemble production rather than a star-vehicle (unlike other Hamlets I could name). John Dougall was a reasonable Claudius, but to my mind was even stronger as the old ham player, acting out the Pyrrhus speech with cane in hand. The versatility of Keith Bartlett as Polonius, grave-digger, priest and soldier was admirable, while Matthew Romain’s turn as Osric stole the scene (the same actor made a great Edmund/Tom o’ Bedlam in the Globe’s previous touring production of King Lear).

In terms of text, this production favoured clarity over nuance, which is by no means a criticism. Cuts were clever and unobtrusive, while room was made for some first quarto material such as Hamlet’s advice about clowns rehearsing tired jests like ‘your beer is sour’ (with an improvised Guinness joke), and Horatio’s final instruction to let a ‘scaffold be reared up in the marketplace’. The final scene showed beautiful choreography, first for the duel between Hamlet and Laertes, and then for the transition from catastrophe to jig. Jennifer Leong’s Ophelia first raised her brother Laertes for a slow stately dance, then dancing with Keith Bartlett who had played Polonius, before resurrecting Ladi Emeruwa’s Hamlet. It had never struck me before how much Ophelia is the thread that connects all the major characters, and her interaction with each in turn was – to choose a word equally suited to early modern performance and twenty-first century touring – moving.

Review by Derek Dunne

For more on this tour see


Conference Report: The Place of Spenser/Spenser’s Places

Between the 18th and 20th June over 160 scholars from all over the world flocked to the medieval and early modern heartland of Dublin to attend the fifth International Spenser Society conference, organized by Dr Jane Grogan (UCD), Dr Thomas Herron (East Carolina University), and Dr Andrew King (UCC). The main body of the conference took place in the surroundings of Dublin Castle, while four of the panels took place in beautiful Marsh’s Library. The first two plenaries showcased more of Dublin’s eloquent venues, taking place in the Royal Irish Academy and Smock Alley Theatre respectively. Over the three days, attendees listened to a wide range of round-table focus panels and open-topic paper sessions; these panels were diverse in nature, but were also interconnected in attempting to explore Edmund Spenser’s interest in spaces and places, both imaginative and real. Topics discussed in the open-topic paper sessions covered a wide range of topics, including the reception of Edmund Spenser, Spenser’s Cities, Spenser and Chaucer, Digital Spenser, and Spenser and the Sea. Various panels, at the same time, focused in detail on specific texts, including the Ruins of Rome, The Mutabilitie Cantos, Book VI of the Faerie Queene and The View of the Present State of Ireland.  The focus panels then attempted to question the broader picture in more detail, looking at the issues surrounding how to teach and edit Spenser, his style, and questions surrounding biography.


Due to the conference’s location, the organisers took the opportunity to artfully weave an Irish strand through the proceedings, focusing on the tricky question: what is Spenser’s place in Ireland? There were open-topic paper sessions that focused on Spenser in seventeenth-century Ireland, the sources and contexts that Spenser drew on for The View, and Spenser’s place in Irish writing, while there was also a focus panel dedicated specifically to Spenser and Ireland. This Irish theme also arose in papers given in other panels, most notably the Digital Spenser Panel, in which Dr Thomas Herron presented his audience with a digital reconstruction of Kilcolman Castle, which anyone can take a tour of on the Centering Spenser website ( The pinnacle of this Irish strand occurred during the Thursday evening session at the Royal Irish Academy, when Dr Marc Caball gave a paper entitled ‘Culture in Early Modern Gaelic Ireland’. In his paper, he looked at Spenser’s Irish language contemporaries, and suggested that Spenser may have been jealous of the bards due to their influence on Irish society. Dr Caball’s paper was given in conjunction with an excellent special exhibition featuring both printed texts and manuscripts from Ireland and Europe, including treasures such as the Book of Fermoy and the first Irish-language printing, the Tiomna Nua. ‘Another View: Gaelic manuscript culture in Edmund Spenser’s Ireland’, is open to the public until 7 August 2015 (

This session was followed by the first plenary, a paper by Prof Anne Fogarty, which also drew on this underlying Irish theme. In her excellent talk, entitled ‘“The rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of”: Topography and the Rhetoric of Rivers in Spenser and Joyce’, Fogarty highlighted how Joyce drew on, and experimented with Spenser’s language, how Joyce played with language to forge a connection with Spenser, and how Joyce, like Spenser, teaches one how to read his work. The second plenary paper was given by Prof Helen Cooper, and in her paper she amplified and enriched the places and character of Spenser’s pastoral, across a range of Spenser’s work, arguing that there is more to the pastoral than The Shepheardes Calender. In the final plenary paper, Prof Jeff Dolven gave a paper entitled ‘Besides Good and Evil’ in which he illustrated The Faerie Queene’s limits, and ultimately the poem’s failures, as an agent of moral instruction. He demonstrated this by looking at what happens when “good” characters do “evil” things, and more importantly what happens when “evil” characters show compassion when no “good” character is there to influence them.

Overall, from the engaging opening remarks by Minister Jan O’Sullivan, Prof Orla Feely, and Prof Graham Hammill to the thought-provoking disputation by Prof Andrew Hadfield and Dr Julian Lethbridge this conference celebrated the work currently being done on Edmund Spenser, but also suggested several potential possibilities as to where Spenser studies may go in the future. However, whether one agreed with Hadfield’s and Lethbridge’s disputation or not, one thing is for certain; this excellent conference was the beginning of a new wave of material that will be published on Spenser, material I very much look forward to reading.


While the official proceedings finished on Saturday 20th June, the conclusion of the conference did not take place in Dublin, but somewhere more fitting. On the morning of Sunday June 21st the majority of the attendees boarded two buses bound for Munster, and took in sites such as Cahir Castle, and Tynte’s Castle and the Boyle Monument in Youghal. However, while both of these sites are stunning in their own right, they were only stops on the way to and from what can only be described as a pilgrimage to the ruins of Kilcolman Castle. It was here, at the site of Spenser’s home in Ireland, that one could truly understand the meaning behind the theme of the conference. From people walking through the ruins imagining Spenser writing, to those surveying the surrounding landscape looking for the Ballyhoura mountains, the Bregog and even ‘Arlo Hill’, everyone was captivated and enthralled by being in the place that had such an impact on Spenser’s work. It was here that the conference drew to a close, as it was at this moment that people could truly comprehend the importance of looking at Spenser’s places, especially his place in Ireland.


-Reported by Evan Bourke, PhD Candidate, NUI Galway.

Theatre: Hamlet/Midsummer Night’s Dream


After an acclaimed sell-out run of Twelfth Night at Smock Alley in 2014, PurpleCoat return to their favourite tour destination with a double helping of the Bard. Shakespeare’s greatest comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his greatest tragedy, Hamlet, are presented by the same ensemble in their trademark innovative style that saw Twelfth Night hailed as ‘deliciously funny’ and ‘a total success.’ Returning to Smock Alley for their first show of 2015, don’t miss ‘one of the UK’s fastest rising ensembles’ in this unique Shakespeare double-bill.

PurpleCoat are entirely self-funded, having been established back in 2008. They have played across England in Manchester, London and Stratford-Upon-Avon as parts of the World Shakespeare Festival, the International Youth Arts Festival and the 24/7 Theatre Festival, as well as establishing an acclaimed, sell-out body of work in their hometown of Liverpool.

Smock Alley Theatre, April 8th-11th

Tickets from €15, with bundle packages also available.

For more info and booking see Smock Alley website.

Theatre: Hamlet at Smock Alley, Dec 9-13

Bright Hamle bannerJust Friends’ production of Hamlet this December in Smock Alley Theatre; The Boys’ School space, Dec 9-13

Come and immerse yourself in this tragic tale of love, identity, duty and revenge. Hamlet has inherited a terrible debt of vengeance and violence, but where does his duty to right the past end, and his right to a future begin? Are we even capable of formulating answers when there must be more things in heaven and earth than our prevailing ‘modern’ philosophy.

Just Friends Theatre Collective was formed in 2013 and produced Tír na nÓg at 10 Days in Dublin 2013, Powerscourt Townhouse Theatre and at the Galway Fringe Festival 2013 in the Bentley, Eyre Square.

Tickets 15 euro. Tickets available here.

Directed by Aisling Smith

Suitable for ages 12+


Theatre: PurpleCoat Productions’ Twelfth Night at Smock Alley, 2 September

From Smock Alley’s website:

Supported by Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellen and the RSC, Liverpool’s award winning PurpleCoat Productions bring Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on a whistlestop tour of the UK and Ireland.

Playing in 6 cities across 6 nights, Twelfth Night is Shakespeare’s most bittersweet comedy; a tale of chasing hope and lost love, a hillarious and painful mix of holiday romance and drama.

With their usual eye for exhilarating, unique and innovative theatre, this critically aclaimed company are supported by some of the biggest names in the industry. Don’t miss the chance to see ‘one of the UK’s fastest rising ensembles’ on their first ever tour.