While The Wooster Group's Hamlet formed part of EIF's programme this year following a stint at DTF in 2012, singer and performer Camille O'Sullivan brought her Herald Angel winning solo take on Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece for a run at Dublin's O'Reilly Theatre following its Edinburgh premiere the previous year. This was a major turning point for O'Sullivan, whose career began on the Fringe, and it's significant that two shows from this year's Edinburgh Fringe appeared at DTF. Actors Touring Company's production of David Greig's play, The Events, which opened at the Traverse, appeared at the Peacock, while Australian company CIRCA's Wunderkammer, which also picked up a Herald Angel in Edinburgh, wowed audiences in a similar fashion at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre.
These made up part of DTF's programme of some 24 productions, which, as well as a family programme, also featured several Irish companies familiar to Scottish audiences. This began from touching down at Dublin Airport, where maverick producers Fuel presented While You Wait, a series of nine ten-minute podcasts by Fuel regulars on the theme of waiting.
This initiative may have been inspired by Waiting For Godot, Samuel Beckett's classic piece of existential vaudeville, which was presented by Cork-based Beckett specialists, Gare St Lazare Players. Gare St Lazare have been Edinburgh regulars with their solo stage versions of Beckett's prose works for several years now, and this was the company's biggest show to date.
This year's EIF programme was dominated by stage versions of Beckett's non-dramatic works in a Herald Angel-winning programme presented by Dublin's Gate Theatre alongside the Pan Pan company. While the Gate was very much in evidence at DTF, it was on a much grander scale than the solo pieces seen at EIF. Their new production of Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Opera, was a raucous and sexy take on the pair's fantastical Weimar-era romp. In its bow-tied and posh frocked finery and black and white staging, it looked not unlike something that Glasgow's Citizens Theatre might have had decadent fun with during the 1970s.
Wayne Jordan's production opened with the coyest of stripteases before the audience were led into the underworld by David Shannon's matinee idol-like Street Singer. Here David Ganly's potty-mouthed Mac The Knife held court in a ribald version of the play that made liberal use of a street-smart Irish demotic.
Over at the Culture Box, an intimate cafe environment was created for Rough Magic's radical new take on Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 18th Century satire of theatrical types, The Critic. Relocating the action from London to Sheridan's native Dublin, the audience are given an insight into the city's theatrical history, as Karl Shiels' crazed man of letters, Puff, inveigled a coterie of wannabes and theatrical groupies into his rehearsal room. This involved the audience being led out onto the streets and taken round the corner to children's theatre, The Ark, where a large ensemble of student performers ripped into Puff's self-styled masterpiece.
In Lynne Parker's production, the spirit and philosophy of Peter Brook and other theatrical gurus was invoked. A magnificent coup de theatre ended the show with the theatre wall opening out onto the Temple Bar streets as the names of a multitude of Irish theatre companies are projected above - a love letter to the country's rich theatrical tapestry.
As with The Threepenny Opera and The Critic, Annie Ryan's new production of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under The Elms for regular Edinburgh visitors The Corn Exchange transplanted the action of O'Neill's most pungent tragedy from rural America to somewhere a lot closer to home. This worked supremely well in the intimate space of the Smock Alley Theatre.
In Maeve's House, seen at the Peacock, veteran actor Eamon Morrissey recounted his fascination for ex-pat Irish writer Maeve Brennan, who blazed a trail writing for the New Yorker. Morrissey grew up in the Dublin house where Brennan had once lived, and recognised his former home while reading one of Brennan's short stories on the subway when a young actor touring New York. As Morrissey recounted his sole meeting with the mercurial author, he relayed a sense of warmth and endless fascination with one of Ireland's most iconic talents with considerable charm.
One of the most anticipated events in the final week of DTF was The Hanging Gardens, the world premiere of a new play by Frank McGuinness, authour of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, directed by Patrick Mason at The Abbey. McGuinness' first play for Ireland's national theatre in 14 years was a big, grown-up family saga concerning ageing writer Sam Grant's loss of his creative faculties and the responses of those around him. As the messed-up family he sired comes together, they seek sanctuary in the place where Sam authored his own mythology. The garden may appear idyllic, but the black cloud above it spoke volumes about the emotional explosion that followed. Niall Buggy gave a heartfelt performance as Sam in a work riddled with classical allusions but which remained rooted in human experience.
By far the biggest talking point of this year's DTF was riverrun, Olwen Fouere's impressionistic look at James Joyce's epic novel, Finnegan's Wake. Presented by TheEmergencyRoom and Galway Arts Festival at the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar, riverrun tapped into the evocative musicality of a text performed by Fouere that leant towards elements of sound installation in a piece which anyone who saw it declared must have another life. If that life is in Edinburgh, it would further the artistic links between these two great cities even more.
Neil Cooper's visit to Dublin Theatre Festival was supported by Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland.