In 2013, one of the most vibrant cities in the world for theatre will be Derry, Northern Ireland

Starting today, and running through the end of the year, Derry-Londonderry is the inaugural UK City of Culture 2013.

It’s a big deal in a place like Derry – especially to get the very first one they’ve ever done in the UK.

And it portends, along with unfathomable alcohol sales in local pubs and gridlocked traffic on medieval-sized roads, the kind of extended, quality arts programming (and government spending thereon) we North Americans can only dream about.

The designation is good economic news for the hearty citizens of the entire region, and a welcome note of hope for the old walled city along the River Foyle, once the scene of so much carnage in the 70’s and 80’s, and now trying to truly turn the page.

But it’s also a windfall for Irish theatre fans.

Theatre is serious business in the north (and south) of Ireland, and the full power of the world’s first or second most important English language theatre tradition (depending on where you come down on the always slippery question of what country the area is located in) will be focused on the stages, pubs, and stony streets of Derry for most of the coming year.

One of the biggest bits of theatre excitement is the news that Field Day, the key Northern Ireland theatre compay formed by Brian Frield and Stephen Rea in 1980 and the originator of timeless Friel works like FAITH HEALER and TRANSLATIONS, is getting the band back together and will be putting on several shows, including a world premiere of a Sam Shepard play.

If you’re anywhere nearby, a special trip is absolutely worth it. The whole of Northern Ireland is sure to be lit up (but in a good way) with the impact of this year’s COC designation.

The full 2013 programme can be downloaded here.

Field Day, one of the key Irish theatre companies of the 1980's, returns to Derry in 2013.
Field Day, one of the key Irish theatre companies of the 1980’s, returns to Derry in 2013.

Other highlights include a collaboration between theatre artists from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Slovenia on THE CONQUEST OF HAPPINESS, a play by star Belfast playwright Gary Mitchell, Shakespeare by the RSC, multiple Friel plays – and more.

A small place with big theatre.
A small place with big theatre: Northern Ireland.