5×5 is a development series for communities who feel marginalised and silenced. Each year, five community projects receive five days’ worth of space, technical assistance and €5,000 to help in the development of a theatre piece. 5×5 enables these communities to engage with their national theatre for the first time.

In 2019, its second year, 5×5 was supported by The Ireland Funds and ran across five weeks during the summer of 2019 with five new projects selected to take part. These projects were the Irish Dementia Working Group, Tailtiu Theatre, SoloSIRENs, LISTEN UP! and Run of the Mill Theatre.

5×5 is an initiative of the Abbey Theatre’s New Work department.

5×5 is supported by The Ireland Funds.

Read more about our 2020 projects here and our 2018 projects here.


Irish Dementia Working Group 

10 – 14 June 2019

The Irish Dementia Working Group is an advocacy group for people living with dementia, supported by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. They meet to share experiences and highlight issues important to them by raising awareness, challenging stigma and seeking to influence public policy and engage in research. The group members are early in their dementia and campaign for a human rights-based approach to the condition to make life better for the 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland. They challenge the traditional paternalistic approach to people with dementia and seek to be active citizens.

The members of the Irish Dementia Working Group know dementia is a topic which has inspired many artists in recent years and have observed theatre makers, film makers, visual artists and writers responding to this condition. Now, the Irish Dementia Working Group want their own voices to be heard by creating their own work based on the lived experience of dementia. They want to lift the lid on the complex realities of cognitive impairment.

During their 5×5 development week, members of the Irish Dementia Working Group participated in a workshop with professional theatre makers about issues which matter to them with the goal of creating a theatre piece which reflects the voice of people living with dementia.

Tailtiu Theatre Company 

17 – 21 June 2019

Tailtiu Theatre Company is an emerging company by Barry Morgan and Cathal Thornton, supported by Droichead Arts Centre and Louth County Council, which focuses on using drama to help participants find a way to express themselves creatively and to explore their identity. Tailtiu, in association with Cultúr Migrant Centre (Navan) and Droichead Arts Centre, intend to establish a new youth theatre in Mosney Direct Provision Centre.

Mosney Direct Provision Centre is home to approximately 800 people. For those living nearby, there is little knowledge of what life is like in Mosney nor is there much integration between the communities. Tailtiu believes that this project will offer a way for young people to collaborate creatively, share their stories, and feel their voice is heard and valued by the general public. It is important that those in Mosney are given the opportunity to tell their story.

In advance of their 5×5 development week, Tailtiu delivered a series of workshops and participant-led devising sessions in Mosney Direct Provision Centre. During their 5×5 week at the Abbey Theatre, they ran a sharing of work. Ultimately, it is their hope to stage a theatre piece for the people of Drogheda to connect with their neighbours in Mosney and hear their stories.


24 – 28 June 2019

SoloSIRENs is a group of women from diverse backgrounds living in South County Dublin and creating work in Tallaght. They come together as a women’s collective to share and present stories that are rarely told. Tallaght is one of the largest suburbs in Dublin and is home to a dynamic community with a hugely diverse migrant population and vibrant cultural life. SoloSIRENs is supported by Tallaght Community Arts and is led by director Jenny Macdonald and producer Jennifer Webster.

SoloSIRENs will create a devised theatre piece sharing stories in a truly creative and collaborative process. They will share a multiplicity of narratives and voices, showcasing the richness of their diversity.

During their 5×5 development week, they developed their piece to the point of a work-in-progress sharing allowing them to receive feedback from an audience before continuing to develop the piece for a full production in autumn 2019.


1 – 5 July 2019

Children on the autistic spectrum are a hidden audience. Article 31 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child states that all children are entitled to access and experience the transformative power and wonder of engaging with the arts in a meaningful way, sharing the joy with their families and carers. LISTEN UP! is a project that creates meaningful ways for children on the autistic spectrum to engage in the arts, giving agency to each child to share their work and experiences with the wider community.

The project was led by a group of people who collectively have wide experience in creating work for this audience as parent, teacher, sensory specialist, writer and musician. Phillida Eves is a devisor, performer and multi-sensory specialist with over twenty years of experience. She is joined by Michael Chang, a musician and performer;  Jody O’Neill, a devisor and performer; Marianne Ní Chinnéide, a lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway, and a consultant dramaturg; Heidi Schoenenberger, a PhD student who provided documentation support during the development week.

During their development week, the team collaborated with a group of children on the autistic spectrum to create an interactive multi-sensory musical performance piece.

Run of the Mill Theatre 

8 – 12 July 2019

Run of the Mill Theatre is a community-based theatre arts collective based in North Kildare committed to supporting people with intellectual disabilities to access high-quality experiences in drama and theatre arts as artists, makers and participants. They strive to make work that gives voice to the lived experiences of people with disabilities in Ireland today.

They have developed a form-flipping piece of documentary theatre about the life of Mark Smith, a 37-year-old emerging practitioner with Down Syndrome who spent six months in residence at Axis Ballymun in 2018. During this residency, he began the seed development for this piece, Making a Mark, working alongside leading documentary artist Shaun Dunne and his longtime collaborator Aisling Byrne (Talking Shop Ensemble) towards developing his practice in contemporary solo performance and autobiographical work. Making a Mark proposes an auto-biographical piece that explores through art, the complicated and, at times, darker facets of Mark’s lived experience in a way that challenges many of the dominant and often one-dimensional representations of people with disabilities that populate the mainstream.

During their development week, they devised, created and developed Making a Mark with the support of a team of creative designers culminating in a rehearsed reading of the piece. In addition to creating space for Mark to achieve his professional ambitions, this collaboration saw Mark’s peers and participants from Run of the Mill Theatre, supported by St John of God Community Day Services, engage in a unique shadowing and mentorship programme alongside the professional creative team. Making a Mark will premiere at the 2019 Dublin Fringe Festival.

The Ireland Funds 

5×5 is supported by The Ireland Funds.

Caitriona Fottrell, Director Ireland of The Ireland Funds: ‘The Ireland Funds is proud to support the Abbey Theatre’s 5×5 initiative through a Flagship Grant Round investment. We are delighted to see such diversity in the final five projects that have been selected and look forward to seeing their stories come to life on the national stage.’

Jen Coppinger, Head of Producing (New Work) at the Abbey Theatre: ‘We are thrilled to embark on the second year of our 5×5 project with huge thanks to The Ireland Funds. 5×5 has been a truly inspirational project to work on. It has brought new voices to the national stage, wonderful energy to the organisation and has opened up relationships between audiences, the groups involved and the Abbey. We anticipate that an exciting and equally exhilarating programme of work will take place in 2019 and look forward to a brilliant summer of fresh voices at our national theatre.’