40 Years of Making Magic
It feels like only yesterday, in the glorious summer of 1984, a collective that included Lynne Parker, Declan Hughes, Arthur Riordan, Stanley Townsend, Helene Montague, Anne Byrne and Siobhán Bourke began making work in Players’ Theatre in Trinity.
A brochure for the first season introducing the company notes that ‘ROUGH MAGIC describes that experience unique to theatre: the feeling of joy experienced when audience and actors connect. It is an ambitious name, and we will try to be worthy of it.’
Some of those early years productions included Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, and Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
Over the last 40 years Rough Magic have delivered more than 100 new productions and counting (including 44 world premieres and 26 Irish premieres – meaning 70% of our productions were new to Irish audiences). The company’s distinctive and eclectic mix of work includes reimaginings of classics (The Taming of the Shrew starring Owen Roe and Pauline McLynn and Phaedra by Hilary Fannin and Ellen Cranitch); the Irish premiere of major international contemporary plays (Top Girls by Caryl Churchill, Copenhagen by Michael Frayn and The Effect by Lucy Prebble); and the world premiere of new commissions by Irish writers (The Loved Ones by Erica Murray, Danti-Dan by Gina Moxley, The Sugar Wife by Elizabeth Kuti and Digging For Fire by Declan Hughes).
We began commissioning playwrights in the early 1990s with plays from co-founders Declan Hughes and Arthur Riordan, as well as a long and illustrious list of writers including Donal O’Kelly, Hilary Fannin, Pom Boyd and Morna Regan.
Hughes’ Digging For Fire took the company to London for the first time, and this was followed by a succession of transfers, including Hughes’ Love and a Bottle, Moxley’s Danti-Dan and Stewart Parker’s Pentecost. The company’s reputation at home began to spread internationally.
Rough Magic was formed around an ensemble of actors (Arthur Riordan, Anne Byrne, Stanley Townsend and Helene Montague) and over the 40-year history the ensemble has remained a key element of our work, even if the familiar faces change. Particular highlights of the great ensemble work include The Taming of the Shrew and Don Carlos starring Darragh Kelly, Rory Nolan, Rory Keenan, Simone Kirby and Peter Daly (2006/2007) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Paul Mescal, Peter Corboy, Martha Breen and Aoibhéann McCann in 2018
Outside of producing some of the country’s most exciting theatre (including the award-winning Solar Bones by Michael West from the novel by Mike McCormack and Hecuba by Marina Carr), Rough Magic also acts as a year-round supporter of new work and emerging theatre artists which includes our pioneering SEEDS programme which is now in its 21st year. Through our COMPASS programme (launched in 2020), which is designed to bring work from inception to production, we are navigating the future of Irish theatre with an ambitious programme of new plays and adaptations by emerging and established writers, and in collaboration with key producing partners across Ireland, we aim to reach greater audiences and new destinations.
2024 sees a year of celebratory events. Starting on 9th and 10th February in our original home of Project Arts Centre, RoughMagicForty will feature panel discussions, readings and screenings. 5th and 6th April will see Trinity College host a series of discussions delving into specific chapters of the company’s history at the Long Room Hub.
Tickets for both of these events will be available soon so keep an eye on our socials for more programme info.
May brings a brand-new production in Hilary Fannin’s adaptation of Gorky’s Children of the Sun. In a major co-production with the Abbey Theatre, this is the second of our COMPASS commissions to reach the stage. A radical reimagining of a classic text, with a large ensemble cast – it’s classic Rough Magic, and it’s only the beginning.