Fringe benefits

The Dublin Fringe Festival kicks off tomorrow with a programme that is as imaginative as ever. Ed Power highlights his must-see shows

Caitriona Ennis stars in A Holy Show at the Dublin Fringe Festival
Caitriona Ennis stars in A Holy Show at the Dublin Fringe Festival

In the year of the Repeal referendum, it’s fitting that Dublin Fringe Festival should explore female identity and the ways Ireland has historically tried to control and distort it. That’s one of the unofficial themes of the 2018 event, running for 16 days from tomorrow, with over 500 performances, 80 productions and 55 premieres.

The cliché of the overwrought woman driven mad by her thoughts is deconstructed by Lauren-Shannon Jone’s Viva Voce. Meanwhile, Christiane O’Mahony’s Seahorse explores female desire through the fantastical prism of underwater exploration. But there is also room for comedy, spectacle and children’s entertainment as the Fringe celebrates its 23rd year. Plus, there are a number of free events, with milliner Margaret O’Connor applying a glamorous makeover to some of the capital’s iconic statues and a special Fringe radio broadcast via Dublin Digital Radio. Here are some of the highlights.


Una McKevitt and PJ Gallagher

Peacock Stage at Abbey Theatre, September 7-15

Based on comedian Gallagher’s own youth, the by-turns serious and knockabout production is told from the perspective of 10-year-old Bobby. His ‘Ma’ has “adopted” six men with schizophrenia into the family home. Later, following the death of his father, a grown-up Bobby is swept back to his unorthodox childhood, in which his father spends all his time in the pub, his mother is busy “restocking the industrial-sized pill cabinet” and one of their lodgers, Mump, “can see a gorilla in the hall”.

Unworn Part III

The Rabble and Maeve Stone

Samuel Beckett Theatre, September 8-16

Feminist theatre company The Rabble, from Melbourne, collaborate with Irish artist Maeve Stone in an exploration of motherhood and post-menopausal identity, starring Olwen Fouéré. The producers promise “hidden miracles erupt from the earth and crawl back into the belly of the woman” – so probably not many belly-laughs, but lots of provocative language and imagery.

A Holy Show

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Janet Moran

Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre, September 8-15

Father Ted meets Die Hard in this account of a hijacking in 1981 of an Aer Lingus flight by a former Trappist monk. He’s armed with a bottle of holy water, desperate to discover the Third Secret of Fatima. Catriona Ennis and Patrick Moy star. The producers promise “music, nostalgia, heroism, praying, visions, romance (maybe), sex (maybe), a special appearance by Our Lady (definitely)”.

Ireland’s Call

John Connors

Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, September 10-18

Connors draws on his childhood with this tale of three young men growing up in Coolock, north Dublin. As with his 2017 movie Cardboard Gangsters, we see them sucked into a life of crime, where their individual identities become sublimated.


On The Quays and Garry Duggan

Chocolate Factory, September 10-15

A young Irish couple reunite over a day in New York – embarking on an odyssey that takes them through “bedrooms, subway stations, dreams and hallucinations”. The theme is identity and reinvention, how living in the now changes how we view our past and future.

Viva Voce

Lauren-Shannon Jones

The New Theatre, September 17-21

The trope of the unhinged and depressive woman is all too familiar. Female insanity, Jones argues, is “aestheticised”. She “learns” from these “great depressives” to unlock her madness in a “darkly playful interactive tour through a nervous breakdown”.


Pom Boyd and Sean Millar

Peacock Stage at Abbey Theatre, September 18-22

A “punk theatrical ritual” exploring shame – specifically how humiliations from the past can shape who we are today. The story is told via theatre performance and original songs.

Drip Feed

Karen Cogan

Project Arts Centre Space Upstairs, September 19-22

Brenda and her friends are living life at full tilt – a blur of “dancing on tables and 3am breakfast rolls”. But then Brenda wakes up on the “wrong person’s doorstep” and things start to unravel. Cogan’s production was shortlisted for Soho Theatre’s biennial Verity Bargate Award.


Christiane O’Mahony

Cube at Project Arts Centre, September 19-22

Mara wants to be more risqué in bed but feels having a baby means you can’t have a threesome. “A surreal underwater experience about trying to be grown-up and wishing you were a seahorse.”

See for more.

Irish Independent

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