To mark the occasion, the National Theatre of Ireland has announced that The Sugar Wife, by Elizabeth Kuti, will be directed by Annabelle Comyn, with tickets going on sale today.  An Abbey Theatre production on the Abbey Stage, it will run from  Thursday June 13 – Saturday July 20, 2024. Elizabeth Kuti is an English actor and award-winning playwright with a close connection to Irish theatre. Coming to Ireland in 1993 to study at Trinity College Dublin, Kuti has performed with most of Ireland’s leading theatre companies including the Abbey Theatre, Rough Magic, Loose Canon, Bedrock and the Corn Exchange.

A play at the knife edge of gender and ethnicity, this work of major of ambition highlights the tension between appearances, perception and virtue signaling, against the backdrop of a marriage and a business relying on Ireland’s challenging historic involvement in the sugar trade in the 1800s.

“shot through with intelligence” The Guardian

The Abbey Theatre looks forward to welcoming Annabelle Comyn back into the building after last year’s widely acclaimed production of Girl on an Altar, by Marina Carr. For The Sugar Wife, she has assembled a remarkable team of top creative talent, including set designer Paul O’Mahony, costume designer Molly O’Cathain, sound designer Philip Stewart and lighting designer Paul Keogan. Abbey Theatre Resident Director Esosa Ighodaro steps into the role of Assistant Director of the production.

Annabelle Comyn, director of The Sugar Wife

Commenting on today’s announcement, Annabelle Comyn said: “The Sugar Wife has themes that are incredibly resonant today, though written nearly 20 years ago and set in 1850. The play’s immediacy is felt through a married Quaker couple. The husband’s business, which imports sugar and tea from former British colonies, is forced to deal with legacy issues when faced with his wife’s philanthropic work. The play is set in the latter years of the famine, and the needs of the Irish poor test the conviction: can money be used to do good at home when it relies on the suffering and enslavement of others on farther shores?

“Today we continue to debate these issues as charities, arts organisations, educational facilities, galleries etc. face similar questions in relation to their wealth and their ongoing support. Organisations continue to be funded by money made from slavery, oil companies, the armaments industry and big pharma, who look to gain legitimacy and elevate their profile through their charitable associations.”

The Sugar Wife is programmed as part of the Gregory Project, a body of work that marks 120 years of the National Theatre of Ireland and honours the legacy of co-founder Lady Gregory.

Meanwhile, on the Peacock stage, the award-winning Tom Moran is a Big Fat Filthy Disgusting Liar arrives from having been a smash hit at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe, and Dublin Fringe Festival, where it had its world premiere and enjoyed a smash hit run at Project Arts Centre. Moran’s one-man show about truth and empathy asks, “If I never lied again and was just myself, would any of my loved ones still love me?” This Tom Moran and Abbey Theatre Co-Production will run on the Peacock Stage, Tuesday April 30 – May 25, 2024.

“A winning show […] the truth-telling core is a seam of gold” Irish Independent

“The most searingly honest and moving show of the year” ★★★★★ The Arts Review

Tom Moran on stage

Tom Moran added: “When I wrote this play from my rented box room in Rathmines, never did I think it would play at the National Theatre. The theatrical equivalent of Croke Park, a literal dream come true. This play possesses every drop of honesty I have. This play was written with a thesis in mind, that human beings only lie in the presence of shame. I wanted to stop lying, to trust who I was. But like so many, guilt and shame held me back. And yet, so vitally, this play had to feel hopeful. Joyous, optimistic, hilarious, real.  It’s for the people-pleasers amongst us, for the self-protective liars. It’s a compassionate journey to a complicated past, to salvage the most beautiful future.”