Kilkenny Arts Festival 2015 brings a unique Shakespearean epic to the historic Castle Yard, Ireland’s finest open-air theatre space. Following a three-year sold-out residency by Shakespeare’s Globe, the Festival is collaborating this year with one of the world’s great theatre ensembles, Druid, in a co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, New York.

DruidShakespeare is an exploration of English history through an Irish lens. As Shakespeare was writing Richard II, Henry IV (Pts. 1 & 2) and Henry V, English forces were being sent to Ireland to quell rebellions, and these expeditions cast a long shadow over the plays.

This is one of Druid’s most ambitious undertakings ever, directed by Tony-award winner Garry Hynes and adapted by one of Ireland’s most exciting writers, Mark O’Rowe. DruidShakespeare distills these four works into a sweeping continuous narrative of nation, family, power, and the effects of power on those who wield it and on the ordinary citizens who live and die as a result. O’Rowe preserves Shakespeare’s thrilling language and chronology, while removing ancillary characters and unifying the dramatic action of these epic works, which also include some of his greatest comic inventions, in particular the inimitable Sir John Falstaff.

The open-air staging in Kilkenny’s Castle Yard will have a special resonance, as both Richard II and the future Henry V stayed at Kilkenny Castle while Richard was waging his Irish campaigns.

Festival Director Eugene Downes said: “We are excited and proud to be collaborating with Druid and with Lincoln Center to bring this international theatre event to Kilkenny Arts Festival. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Shakespeare’s epic cycle brought to life by one of the world’s great theatre companies in the unique atmosphere of the Castle Yard. These are some of his greatest plays, combining an epic sweep and dramatic tension with brilliant comic moments, seeming to capture all of human life. With its complex central relationship between father and son – Henry IV and Prince Hal, later to become Henry V – and the burden of supreme power passing from one ruler to the next, this epic can feel like a medieval Godfather.”

Druid has brought together an incomparable 13-strong cast and production team for this major undertaking, including members of the Druid Ensemble, the bedrock of the company.

DruidShakespeare can be experienced either as a full cycle on a single day, or over two successive evenings.

Druid excels at producing world class theatre as exemplified in previous large scale projects presented both nationally and internationally: DruidMurphy: Three Plays by Tom Murphy (2012), O’Casey’s The Silver Tassie (2010), and DruidSynge (six plays by Synge in 2006) described by the New York Times as “a highlight not just of my theatregoing year but of my theatregoing life” preceded by the four time Tony Award-winning Leenane Trilogy by Martin McDonagh (West End and Broadway in 1998).

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