Enda Walsh + David Bowie + Ivo van Hove = a little show you may want to catch at New York Theatre Workshop

What does exciting look like in the theatre today?

Like this.

Irish star playwright Enda Walsh is teaming up with David Bowie and director Ivo van Hove to create a new show called LAZARUS at New York Theatre Workshop.

Assuming the show opens at NYTW first, before going on to the now standard Walsh world tour (ONCE anyone?), it will be one of the hardest small space tickets in the 2015-16 NYC theatre season to get.


“Following his revelatory production of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage, the internationally acclaimed director Ivo van Hove returns to New York Theatre Workshop with a new production, LAZARUS by David Bowie and Enda Walsh. Mr. Walsh makes his return to NYTW after the successful run of Once. LAZARUS features songs specially composed for this production by Mr. Bowie as well as new arrangements of previously recorded songs. LAZARUS is inspired by the 1963 novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis, and centers on the character of Thomas Newton famously portrayed by Mr. Bowie in the 1976 screen adaptation directed by Nicolas Roeg.”

BALLYTURK countdown: Something “insane” is coming your way | Video interview with Enda Walsh, Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi, and Stephen Rea

“After years of making work, the ambition is still to keep theatre alive, dangerous, unknowable and dreadfully f**king exciting for an audience.”
-Enda Walsh

A sold out world premiere of BALLYTURK by Enda Walsh is on in Galway’s Black Box Theatre. And if you’ve got a ticket, you’re one of the luckiest people on earth.

New Irish plays bound for stages all over the world routinely begin life in small spaces like Galway’s Black Box. It’s great to catch them wherever you can later – London, New York, LA, Sydney. But nothing compares to seeing the original production in the home town theatre in front of the home town crowd.

Here’s an invigorating video interview (inside an Irish Times story) with the four artists involved. It beautifully captures why these Enda Walsh plays are so memorable and unique – especially when you see them with an Irish cast.

UPDATE: Here’s the video only

According to Walsh, “The piece is the most crazy, wild, charged thing I think I’ve ever done.” If you know his other plays – that is saying something!

“You won’t go as a human being to BALLYTURK and NOT come out on the other side going “Oh my god!”
-Mikel Murfi

“With Enda you always know it will be unique and original. There is no one else like him.”
-Cillian Murphy

“It will be an evening of pure theatre. It won’t be about something – it will be something.”
-Stephen Rea

High praise. But Walsh is the real deal.

After Galway, BALLYTURK heads to Dublin, Cork, and the National Theatre in London.

After that… stay tuned for US tour details.

7.15.2014 Irish Times Review

BALLYTURK is here.  Enda Walsh: "It's so insane and terrifying!"
BALLYTURK is here. Enda Walsh: “It’s so insane and terrifying!”

Enda Walsh’s new play BALLYTURK becomes earliest sell out in Galway International Arts Festival history

When you’re hot, people want what you got.

Enda Walsh’s new play BALLYTURK, which opens this summer at Ireland’s Galway International Arts Festival with a who’s who of Irish theatre onboard, has sold out.

That’s not bad work considering the festival doesn’t even start until July 14. In GAIF history, a few other shows have sold out before the festival opens, but BALLYTURK sets a new mark for the earliest sell out ever.

And if you are one of the lucky few with a ticket? Prepare for one of the events of the year in the English language theatre world.

6.21.2014 Irish Times interview with Enda Walsh

Gone, daddy, gone. The tickets, that is.
Gone, daddy, gone. The tickets, that is.

BALLYTURK gathers steam | Enda Walsh’s new play will tour to London’s National Theatre for five weeks this fall

Enda Walsh’s new play BALLYTURK is picking up steam. The fastest selling show in the history of the Galway Arts Festival, the play is now gearing up to tour beyond its July world premiere on the west coast of Ireland. BALLYTURK will head to London’s National Theatre for five weeks at the Lyttleton Theatre starting September 11.

Directed by Walsh and starring Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea, and Mikel Murfi, BALLYTURK is undoubtedly one of the most exciting new English language plays to hit the world stage this year. The show is co-produced by Ireland’s Landmark Productions and the Galway Arts Festival, the same team that toured a revamped and wildly successful MISTERMAN (also by Walsh and starring Cillian Murphy) to London and New York in 2011-12.

All indicators are strong that, following the path of Walsh’s plays MISTERMAN, THE WALWORTH FARCE, THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM, and PENELOPE, BALLYTURK will touch down at New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn before too long.

Probably in early 2015.

Enda Walsh’s new play BALLYTURK to premiere at 2014 Galway Arts Festival with stunning cast

It’s been a bit of a wait for the next Enda Walsh play. In 2010, Walsh’s PENELOPE opened at the Galway Arts Festival and instantly provided one of the Irish drama highlights of the year. Featuring Druid stalwarts Denis Conway, Niall Buggy, Karl Shiels, and Tadgh Murphy, PENELOPE lit up the 99 seat Druid Lane theatre with unforgettable physical comedy.

After four long years, Walsh fans have another treat in store. His latest BALLYTURK will again open this July at GAF, and an all star list of who’s who in Irish theatre has been assembled. With Walsh directing and mega stars Mikel Murfi, Cillian Murphy, and Stephen Rea in the cast, it’s safe to say another major English language event will be hitting the world stage on the wild and windswept shores of Galway Bay this summer (or what passes for summer in the North Atlantic). The show is co-produced by Landmark Productions and the Galway Arts Festival and will run in Galway’s Black Box Theatre.

There is nowhere better on earth to catch a new Irish play than the annual GAF, which runs July 14-27 this year. With the indoor/outdoor dual offerings of world class culture and the ocean, mountains and lakes of Ireland’s West Coast, Galway has it all. Sea kayak, hike, surf, cycle by day, and see music, theatre, and dance by night.

Where else can you do that?

Well – Oregon, of course.

But almost nowhere else.

And if you can’t make it all the way to Eire, stay tuned. The production will likely tour to New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse this fall.

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Theater Review | THE WALWORTH FARCE by Enda Walsh at New Century Theatre Company (Seattle)

The day the story changed. The best show in Seattle right now is an electrifying, must-see production of THE WALWORTH FARCE by Enda Walsh, a co-production between New City Theater and New Century Theatre Company.


Just another day of drama in Cork City.
Just another day of drama in Cork City.

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the original Druid Ireland production of Enda Walsh’s stunning play THE WALWORTH FARCE took the (English-speaking) world by storm. Starting in 2007, it won a coveted Fringe First at Edinburgh. Then in 2008 it toured to New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse, where it received rave reviews. It moved from there to London’s National Theatre. And then in 2009 (with a change to two of the cast) it began a world tour with stops all over North America, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada.

Anyone who saw the original cast of Denis Conway, Tadgh Murphy, and Garrett Lombard will not soon forget it. The show was directed and essentially co-created (because of its intense physical demands) by Mikel Murfi.

Druid's incredible double threat actor/director Mikel Murfi.
Druid’s incredible double threat actor/director Mikel Murfi.

If there’s a downside to catching a Druid world premiere, it’s knowing that you are likely witnessing the best version of the play you’ll ever see – the benchmark against which all future productions will be measured. Especially for Irish plays done outside Ireland, there are so many pitfalls (me Oirish accent!) that can bedevil an effective production. And so it can be a lot harder than it should be to see a top notch version of a contemporary Irish play in the US.

Knowing all this, having seen the original Druid show, and being unfamiliar with the two Seattle theatres involved (New Century Theatre Company and New City Theater), I took a flyer anyway on a production of this modern classic and found my way to a small storefront space on 18th Ave and E Union on a densely socked in October night.

And lo! It was one of those nights in the theatre that you dream about but so rarely find. Inside the 48 seat space on a dark street was a first rate production of this scary, off-putting and verbally magical show. The place was packed with excitement and energy. The actors were exceptional. Director John Kazanjian fully understood and transmitted the play to us. This is the kind of experience you can only get in the live theatre. And we got it.

The cast for New Century's WALWORTH.  Blake (Peter Dylan O’Connor (Blake), Sean (Darragh Kennan) and  Dinny (Peter Crook).
The cast for New Century’s WALWORTH. Blake (Peter Dylan O’Connor (Blake), Sean (Darragh Kennan) and
Dinny (Peter Crook).

In the first act of WALWORTH, we discover a family of three in a dilapidated London tower block flat. There’s the manic father Dinny (an outstanding Peter Crook), who sits in a chair waxing his wig, and his two sons Sean (the superb Darragh Kennan) and Blake (the excellent Peter Dylan O’Connor), who appear to be arranging costumes as the curtain rises. Not a whole lot makes sense, and as the action kicks in, we realize things are going to get less clear by the minute. The family is performing its own sad story as theatre to each other, as they do each day and have done presumably for years and will do forever, if left to their own devices.

As the tale goes on we realize that the facts of the story, which concerns the circumstances of why the family left Ireland for London and is heavily controlled by Dinny, are wrong. And yet the sons are unable to break out of this traumatic cycle. Once a day Sean leaves the flat to go to the local Tesco to buy food supplies needed to run the daily script (such as a large chicken to roast), and it is here that he meets a young black checkout girl named Hayley (the spot on Allison Strickland). In his flustered small talk with Hayley, who fancies him, Sean mistakenly leaves his bag of groceries and grabs another, and it is this wrench in the daily routine, and particularly Hayley’s surprise arrival at the door of the family’s nightmarish flat at the end of act 1, that propels the normal course of events off the tracks and toward a tragic conclusion.

In act 2, with Hayley now an unwilling participant in the dangerous performance, things start to veer out of control. Walsh brilliantly dramatizes how frightening it is when two characters fight physically to control their narratives. What happens when someone wants to step out of their story? Can one brother let another go?

The original WALWORTH dream team.  Garrett Lombard, Denis Conway, Tadgh Murphy.
Druid’s original WALWORTH dream team: Garrett Lombard, Denis Conway, Tadhg Murphy.

The Irish accents, so often a landmine for US actors, are perfect. Kennan is a first generation Irish American, so that probably helps. Instead of being put off at each awkward word in an Irish play performed in the US, which amazingly still happens at even the largest theatres in the land when it comes to Irish theatre, here you can focus in on the story itself. Beautiful. The actors are all excellent, but Peter Crook’s Dinny is truly a high water mark.

On paper, the odds against a night of exceptional theatre at a place like the tiny New City Theater are stacked high. It’s too small a space, it’s too unknown, the play is too hard, it requires foreign social context. But incredibly it all comes together in this unique, old school Seattle space and is thereby even more exciting than a great show at a big established theatre. Indeed, the outcome here is one that even many far larger theatres could not achieve no matter how large their budgets.

This show is absolutely worth traveling for, and has just been extended thru November 3. More info.

Want to find out what else is happening on the Seattle theatre scene? Here’s a quick guide.

From this tiny 99 seat theatre in Galway to Broadway, the West End, and beyond.  Druid's home theatre.
Galway makes, the world takes. Druid’s 99 seat home theatre. It all starts here – but it ends on Broadway, the West End, and beyond.