Dublin, 28 November 2019 – Directors of the Abbey Theatre, Graham McLaren and Neil Murray, today announced a wide range of projects for the Abbey and Peacock Stages and on tour in 2020 presenting a diverse, challenging and engaging programme for theatre audiences.

2020 will see the Abbey creating new productions in-house; collaborating on co-productions with some of Ireland’s most exciting artists and theatre companies; and continuing their commitment to making Ireland’s National Theatre open to all, presenting stories from under-represented communities and original voices.

Directors of the Abbey Theatre, Graham McLaren and Neil Murray (GML & NM) said “Our mission is to create ambitious, courageous and new theatre relevant to our times. To us, this programme is about the playwrights and artists who creatively collaborate with the Abbey, coming together with the artists and theatre makers within the Abbey team to bring art to life for the audience. Week by week, our self-produced work announced today encompasses 75% of the year on the Abbey Stage, and will be a showcase of outstanding theatrical ambition.”


A centrepiece of the Abbey’s programme for 2020 is award-winning playwright Marina Carr’s The Boy – a powerful, newly commissioned cycle of plays presented as an epic theatrical event to be experienced over one day. This major new project reunites Marina with acclaimed Irish director Caitríona McLaughlin, features a cast of 20 and premieres during the Dublin Theatre Festival for a nine-week run. Channelling the pain and beauty of Greek myth into a radically new form for today, The Boy continues Marina’s conversation with the foundations of modern drama.

GML & NM added “This daring production speaks with a powerful voice to the world right now, asking timeless questions about the responsibility of humans to one another, our complicity in the violence of our world, and the cost of love and duty. Forming a compelling narrative that speaks to the cyclic nature of violence and provoked by the events that founded our modern state, The Boy can be viewed as a durational event or as one of two parts.”

2020 features major new Abbey Theatre productions of plays from the Irish and international canon. Róisín McBrinn directs A Taste of HoneySheelagh Delaney’s ground-breaking debut play that became one of the defining plays of the 20th century. A Taste of Honey caused a storm on its premiere in 1958, due to its portrayal of mixed-race relationships, gender, and sexual orientation. This new production revisits a play that explores topics society continues to wrestle with today. 

And from the Irish canon, 40 years since his first captivating production of Brian Friel’s masterpiece at the Abbey Theatre, Joe Dowling returns to direct Faith Healer on the Abbey Stage. Travelling through isolated areas in Scotland and Wales, Frank Hardy offers his unique cure to the most desperate and hopeless of people. Does he actually possess a gift? Or are these rare and miracle healings only tricks of the mind?


After a sold-out run in 2019, Irish playwright Lisa Tierney-Keogh’s This Beautiful Village returns to the Abbey, ahead of a national tour to The Everyman (Cork), Town Hall Theatre (Galway), Hawk’s Well Theatre (Sligo), Lime Tree Theatre (Limerick), Wexford Opera House and the Lyric Theatre (Belfast) next year. Directed by David Horan, this razor-sharp play exposes every side of what it means to co-exist in Ireland today. 

The Abbey smash-hit production of Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints will have a limited run at the Olympia Theatre in August 2020. First seen at the bar of your local pub and then on the Abbey Stage, this play has entertained audiences across Ireland, the UK and the US.

Me, Mollser by Ali White retells The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey through the eyes of its youngest character, Mollser. Directed by Sarah Fitzgibbon, Me, Mollser will be presented in both English and Irish (Mise, Mollser) in 2020 and will be touring to schools and venues across the country before finishing with a week-long run on the Peacock Stage.


The Abbey Theatre co-produces six new productions in 2020. These include four world premieres and one Irish premiere of new writing, alongside the world premiere of a new production of an internationally renowned opera.

GML & NM said “Collaboration is another important pillar of our programming – joining forces with talented artists and theatre companies on projects that, we feel, say something about the world we live in and hold a mirror up to Irish society.”

The Fall of the Second Republic is a co-production between the Abbey Theatre and Dublin theatre company The Corn Exchange. A new ensemble comedy from the creators of the much-loved Dublin By Lamplight, Michael West and Annie Ryan look at what Ireland might have become 50 years after its independence.

Written and performed by the remarkable, new Irish playwright Sarah Hanly, Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks is a vibrant story of survival. This co-production between the Abbey Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre opens in London ahead of a run on the Peacock Stage in July and August.

Irish language production Éist Liom (Listen to Me) is inspired by the city and by the opera, Carmen. It’s a relationship drama that ends in murder. It’s in Irish, but you don’t need to speak Irish to understand. Created by Zoe Ní Riordáin, Maud Lee and Shaun Dunne, Éist Liom is a One Two One Two and Abbey Theatre co-production, in association with Cork Midsummer Festival.

In February 2020, Irish National Opera, Theatre Lovett and the Abbey Theatre join forces to produce one of the greatest operas about children. Intensely atmospheric, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is full of music that is sweet and beguiling, combining childlike simplicity with heart-aching beauty.

What I (Don’t) Know About Autism is a sometimes comic, sometimes heartbreaking journey into the world of autism, performed by autistic and non-autistic actors. Written by Irish playwright Jody O’Neill, this co-production with the Abbey Theatre, in association with Mermaid Arts Centre and The Everyman, celebrates autistic identity whilst offering deeper insight and understanding to non-autistic audiences.

Into the Dark Woods is Charlene Kelly‘s debut play and a Blue Teapot Theatre Companyand Abbey Theatre co-production. Through the familiar archetypes of fairy-tale, Charlene deftly entices us into rare territory: the living realm of the woods is an extraordinary invitation into the world as experienced by someone with an intellectual disability.


GML & NM added “We are excited to be co-producing with Blue Teapot on a play that sheds light on the experiences of people with intellectual disability and to work with Jody O’Neill on a piece of work that explores and celebrates autism. The latter will be presented as “relaxed performances”. Amongst other things, this means there will be a relaxed approach to noise during the show and audience members are free to move about or leave the auditorium as they need. Part of our mission is to ensure that the Abbey is open to all. We have a role to help provide as many people as possible the opportunity to connect with theatre and art, to feel their stories are being represented at their National Theatre, and to know they are welcome here.

Over the past two years, the 5×5 series saw ten community groups that felt marginalised and silenced, given the opportunity to develop a project that needed a national voice. Supported by The Ireland Funds, a further five groups will be announced for 2020 in December.

Along with relaxed performances of What I (Don’t) Know About Autism, the Abbey offers a range of performances that are audio described, captioned and Irish Sign Language interpreted. 

GMcL & NM – ‘We want the Abbey Theatre and its audience to be reflective of Ireland. To us, this means presenting work all over Ireland, work for all ages and backgrounds and work at affordable ticket prices. Our tickets start at €0.’

More than 9,000 people have enjoyed free theatre as part of the Abbey’s Free First Previews to date. The Abbey Theatre will have a minimum of 2,500 tickets available for free which will help increase access to anyone who wants to experience the programme in 2020. There are €13 front row tickets for every show on the Abbey Stage and Early Bird discounts run until six weeks out from a show’s start date. The Theatre offers discounts for theatre makers, students, unwaged and OAPs when booking through the box office.


GML & NM added “Along with creating our own productions and collaborating with artists and theatre companies, we are delighted to also present a range of other productions ensuring that the widest variety of compelling stories are being shared in 2020. We are delighted to present Irish theatre companies and artists making their Abbey debuts, writing debuts, a musical grown in Belfast and three fantastic dance pieces.”

The Lyric Theatre in Belfast’s Good Vibrations plays on the Abbey Stage in August. It tells the story of Terri Hooley, a radical music-lover in 1970s Belfast and his mission to create an alternative Ulster and to bring his city back to life.

John Connors’ Ireland’s Call follows the lives and family histories of three young men as they grow up in Coolock on Dublin’s northside.

Malaprop’s Everything Not Saved is a show about memory (but not nostalgia). Devised by the company and Dylan Coburn Gray whose play Citysong played on the Abbey Stage in 2019.

From Eden and Northern Lights are two compelling comic dramas from award-winning playwright Stephen Jones. Directed by the late Karl Shiels,Stephen also performs opposite Seána Kerslake in both pieces.

Dublin Dance Festival returns to the Abbey Theatre with three productions; ANΩNYMO by Tzeni Argyriou, aSH by Aurélien Bory and Shantala Shivalingappa and A Love Supreme by Salva Sanchis and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

Dublin Fringe Festival will return, with programme announcements expected in Summer 2020.

RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival – The winner of the Abbey Theatre Award, at the 2020 festival of amateur dramatics taking place in Athlone, will perform on the Peacock Stage.

The 24 Hour Plays: Dublin is back for the ninth consecutive year. Within 24 hours, six short plays will be written, rehearsed and performed by the best of Irish writing and directing talent and over two dozen of Ireland’s stars of stage and screen. All proceeds from this special gala fundraiser go directly to Dublin Youth Theatre.

Opera Briefs – Steered by the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Opera Briefs affords Irish audiences the opportunity to experience first-hand, the next generation of Irish opera singers. 2020 sees the world premiere of Kevin O’Connell’s DreamCatchr to a libretto by Lily Akerman.


For six weeks across April and May, the Abbey is turning the Peacock over to new writing development. The Peacock Weeks are six weeks of work on nine plays and two new theatre projects, as well as a series of discussion spaces. Across this time, the Abbey will be working with fifty artists (and one theatre company), supporting writers at several different stages of development reach the next stage with their plays. Artists include John McCarthy, Caitriona Daly, BrokenCrow, Pom Boyd and Iseult Golden, with full details to be announced in 2020.

Throughout the year, the New Work Department will continue to provide established artists and newer playwrights with support to develop their work through closed development sessions and public access workshops. Initiatives will include one-off workshops on monologue and on voice, the return of our popular Abbey Begins writing group, and a new series of supports for writers working as Gaeilge (in the Irish Language) with our partners at An Taibhdhearc, Ireland’s National Irish Language Theatre. There will also be a virtual writing group delivered by podcast and a chance to write your own play in the space of the historic Abbey auditorium. Further details on how to apply will be released throughout the year.

Tickets for the majority of the programme go on sale today, with further programming to be announced next year. See abbeytheatre.ie/2020 for more information. 

The Abbey Theatre gratefully acknowledges the support of

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon

Culture Ireland

Principal Partner

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

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