Hyemi Shin: Costume Designer – Swan Lake / Loch na hEala

Korean-born designer Hyemi Shin won The Irish Times Theatre Award 2017 for Best Costume Design for her work on Michael Keegan Dolan’s Swan Lake/ Loch na hEala.

Shin studied at Hongik University in Seoul and Wimbledon College of Arts and is also a Set Designer as well as a Costume Designer. She was the overall winner of the 2011 Linbury Prize. Her design credits include The SeagullHeronsMorningDesire under the Elms (costumes only) and Secret Theatre for Lyric Hammersmith, A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Lyric Hammersmith and Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, Once in a LifetimeDirty Butterfly and Sizwe Banzi is Dead for Young Vic, The Brink for Orange Tree Theatre, Made Visible for The Yard and He Wore a Red Hat and Playland for New Perspectives Theatre/Nottingham Academy. The Kreutzer Sonata for Russian Chamber Ballet Moscow and Unearth for National Ballet of Canada.

(information from Royal Opera House, London,

Here we display some of the stunning initial costume sketches, kindly sent to us by Michael Keegan-Dolan. They clearly display the breathtaking talent and clarity of image that is present throughout all the elements of this production of Swan Lake/Loch na hEala which you can see at An Grianán on 31st Jan & 1st Feb.

Swan Lake / Loch na hEala is here for two nights only, Wed 31 Jan and Thur 1 Feb. Tickets available at our box office on 0749120777 or online at

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Swan Lake: Why you should go see this show

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala comes to An Grianan Theatre Letterkenny in January 2018.Our costume designer Anne-marie Kilfeather on why you should definitely go and see Swan Lake / Loch na hEala:

You can go to one show this year, just one, and feel unbridled satisfaction for the rest of your days.

I saw Loch na hEala last year in Belvedere’s theatre during the Dublin Theatre Festival. I didn’t know what to expect, I just heard it would be pretty special and that the entire ensemble had been living together, not just practicing moves but breaking bread together each day and generally following a holistic lifestyle in preparation for performances. I was intrigued and rightly so.

The energy of that performance remains with me.

Live music was performed by seated musicians upstage, while dancers who moved as though channelling another realm, twisted and turned, even balanced majestically on breeze blocks.

It was mesmerising.

The simplicity of the colours in the costumes and set only heightened the tremendous prowess of these wonderful people as their stories unfolded. Every movement, from lightness to gut-wrenching torment was somehow translated through motion and stillness. I hardly remember the dialogue, even though it was delivered by the fantastic man that is Mikel Murfi.

I left that theatre with one thought, that I was so glad to be alive at that moment, witnessing it.

That is what great live theatre can do  – show you that there is magic in this world and all it takes is being there to know this.

Watching a documentary on the making of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ album, I was struck by these words as they said what I feel about the power of being at a live performance. This was how I felt when I saw him live a few years ago, but it also applies to all live experiences. I felt this way when I saw ‘Swan Lake’ too.

I’ll leave it to The Boss and Patti Scialfa to explain it better. Patti begins by describing the live experince…

“First time I saw Bruce was in 1978. I’d never seen anything like that. It was shocking! I was surprised that you could be in such a large venue and still feel that you’re having a personal experience.”
Bruce: “When you come out there in that dark, and you make that magic, you pull something that doesn’t exist out of the air. Doesn’t exist until any given night when you’re standing there in front of your audience. Nothing exists in that space until you go, “One, two, three, four, voom!” Then you and the audience together manifest an entire world, an entire set of values, an entire way of thinking about your life and the world around you, and an entire set of possibilities. That can never be taken away.”

You only need to go to one thing in the theatre for 2018 but perhaps go on the first night as you might just want to go again.

Swan Lake / Loch na hEala is here for two nights only, Wed 31 Jan and Thur 1 Feb. Tickets available at our box office on 0749120777 or online at

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Coming in Spring 2018: Swan Lake/Loch na hEala

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala comes to An Grianan Theatre Letterkenny in January 2018.After sold out tours in Ireland, London, across Europe, and Australia, Michael Keegan Dolan’s genre-defying contemporary reimagining of one of the most famous ballets in the world comes to An Grianán in Spring 2018.

Daithi Ramsay, An Grianán Theatre’s Marketing Manager, saw Loch na hEala/ Swan Lake at the Clonmel Junction Festival in July 2017:

“I had intended after the show to go to the festival club. Instead I walked the mile and a half back to the house I was staying in, open mouthed, silent. I sat in this silence for a long time processing what I’d just seen. It was the most visceral theatre experience I’ve ever shared. It integrates the music, drama and dance fully, and each of the performers excels. The story, such as it is, flows around the performers, anchored by Mikel Murfi.

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala comes to An Grianan Theatre Letterkenny in January 2018.“The story draws from the Children of Lír and Swan Lake, which they have firmly rooted in the bogs of the Irish midlands. There is a lovely mythical Irish quality to much of it but for me it’s the influence of the tragic story of Bridgie Cleary that stayed with me. The intensity of these pieces will stay with me for a very long time, and Mikel Murfi’s expressions in particular. As will remain my surprise at the many unexpected moments, some of them so beautiful and uplifting. This is the very best that theatre has to offer you really should come and see it.

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala comes to An Grianan Theatre Letterkenny in January 2018.“From where I sat in the front row I looked around at the audience: everyone was sitting forward, hands on their knees, rapt. When it was funny they laughed loudly and naturally; when it was disturbing they were on edge; when it was uplifting they were overjoyed. I wish I had photos of their faces to show you. At the end many wiped away tears while smiling. It was as if we had been plugged straight into the mains of the company and the show’s creator Michael Keegan Dolan and then all of a sudden we were released, but the feeling, the emotions, the thoughts remained.”

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala can be seen at An Grianan on Wed 31 Jan and Thur 1 Feb 2018. See the event page for further information.

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Bingo Wings!

We were delighted to welcome some of our favourite people – Jym and Chantal from Fidget Feet and Little John Nee to An Grianán for a week’s residency in April as they worked on their brand new show Bingo Wings which is due to make its debut in 2018.

They spend the week visiting day centres, swapping stories and playing bingo – not a bad way to spend a week! They also introduced members of our youth theatre to the joys of the bingo!

An Grianán Youth Theatre members Amybeth, Eoin, Ryan, Jasper and Laramie with Chantal McCormick from Fidget Feet at a workshop in April 2017. The workshop is part of the research work for a brand new show called Bingo Wings which Fidget Feet are making with Little John Nee. Watch out for it in 2018.

An Grianán Youth Theatre members Amybeth, Eoin, Ryan, Jasper and Laramie with Chantal McCormick from Fidget Feet at a workshop in April 2017. The workshop is part of the research work for a brand new show called Bingo Wings which Fidget Feet are making with Little John Nee. Watch out for it in 2018.

An Grianán Youth Theatre members Amybeth, Eoin, Evin, Darragh, Oscar, Emory, Ryan, Jasper and Laramie with Chantal McCormick from Fidget Feet at a workshop in April 2017.

An Grianán Youth Theatre members Amybeth, Eoin, Evin, Darragh, Oscar, Emory, Ryan, Jasper and Laramie with Chantal McCormick from Fidget Feet at a workshop in April 2017.

Little John Nee and Chantal McCormick playing bingo - it's work! Honest!

Little John Nee and Chantal McCormick playing bingo – it’s work! Honest!

Little John performing at one of the day centres they visiting as part of the research week for Bingo Wings. April 2017.

Little John performing at one of the day centres they visited as part of the research week for Bingo Wings.

This research was supported by the Arts Council and 5 regional venues: Lime Tree Theatre Limerick,  Town Hall Theatre Galway, Hawk’s Well Theatre Sligo, An Grianan Theatre Letterkenny and Backstage Theatre Longford.




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Sailing to Byzantium with Liz Roche

We welcome the Liz Roche Company to An Grianán for the first time with the beautiful dance show Bastard Amber this Tuesday 29 November. Book now.

Bastard Amber is a multi-disciplinary work where live music and highly innovative design/visual art take centre stage alongside sublime choreography performed by a stellar company of Irish and international dancers.

This ground-breaking dance production draws inspiration from two of the great Irish artists of the modern age, WB Yeats and Patrick Scott. Co-commissioned by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin Dance Festival and Kilkenny Arts Festival the work’s premiere at Dublin Dance Festival in May 2015 was a historic moment for dance in Ireland, the first time ever for an Irish choreographer to be commissioned to create a full length dance work for the main stage of Ireland’s National Theatre.

[box style=”yellow” closable=”un-closable”] What’s in a name? Bastard Amber is the name of a theatrical lighting gel colour that was created by mistake and discarded until lighting designer Louis Hartmann chanced upon it by accident. He loved it so much he asked the company to create more, referring to it as that “bastard amber you had.”[/box]

Bastard Amber was a resounding success, receiving fantastic reviews, a standing ovations and was seen in the Abbey by President Higgins and his wife Sabine Higgins. The production now stands as a landmark event both for Liz Roche – who remains at the forefront of defining a new landscape for dance in Ireland – but also for Irish contemporary dance within a culture more noted internationally for words rather than movement.

Bastard Amber by the Liz Roche Company, November 2016 at An Grianan Theatre

Following on from the Abbey performances Bastard Amber has since performed at the Kilkenny Arts Festival and most recently at the prestigious Espace des Arts, Chalon- Sur-Saone, France, as part of Festival Instances 2015 supported by Culture Ireland.

Bastard Amber is filled with unforgettable imagery and stunning design, conjuring a lustrous Byzantine world of contradictory influences. It draws inspiration from the imagery of W.B Yeats’ poem Sailing to Byzantium and
 captures not only the evocative and arresting imagery of the 
poem but also gives voice to the modern vision that Yeats imagined in his own work for theatre. The work of other artists is strongly referenced in relation to this, most notably Patrick Scott’s iconic Gold meditation paintings reflected in the set and light design, contrasting the subtleties of form, space and light with the wild, stark, beautiful reality of the body.

Choreographed and conceived by Liz Roche, the work includes a cast of eight highly respected irish and international dancers performing alongside four renowned musicians from traditional, rock and classical backgrounds, an exceptional set, lighting and costume design from celebrated designers Paul Wills, Lee Curran and Catherine Fay and a specially commissioned score by composer Ray Harman.

In outlining her work process, Liz Roche writes: “ My first instincts around this new work were to explore the metaphoric power of gold – its texture, colour, permanence and its enduring symbolic importance. I was drawn to Yeats’ poem Sailing to Byzantium where the substance symbolizes a sense of magnificence, monument, endurance and his own eternal preservation. I found further inspiration in the iconic gold meditation paintings – menacing and meditative in equal measure – of visual artist Patrick Scott. I was particularily drawn to Scott’s Zen-like approach to space and light influenced by his affinity with the East – a passionate interest shared with Yeats.Perhaps because of the significance of creating a dance work for the Abbey Theatre, I researched the early manuscripts of the rarely performed dance plays of its founder WB Yeats. The cyclical and supernatural themes of The Dreaming of the Bones, opened a fascinating avenue of discovery for me. Yeats’ accompanying cryptic, modernist and intuitive stage
directions, an indication of his radical spirit, which is often under-valued, began to form an abstract framework for the new work. Taking note that these themes re- emerge throughout Yeat’s work, and returning to Sailing to Byzantium, I decided to explore the universal and cyclical existential themes of the poem, heavy with the imagery of the body’s own journey through life into the afterlife, challenging me to consider my own ideas of physical and emotional stability in an ultimately unstable existence”.


Liz Roche Company (formerly known as Rex Levitates) was established in 1999 and is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary dance companies. Growing an international reputation for its finely wrought, beautifully crafted choreographic style, the Dublin based company presents the works of choreographer Liz Roche in collaboration with artists, dancers and designers of the highest calibre. An artistically distinctive and ambitious arts organisation, the company has produced over twenty original productions, touring throughout Ireland and further afield in the UK, Germany, France, USA and China, most notably being presented at the Baryshnikov Arts Centre and Judson Memorial Church in New York, the South Bank Centre, London, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and most recently a major new work Bastard Amber for the Abbey Theatre / Dublin Dance Festival May 2015. The company are currently in the creation process of new production “Time Over Distance Over Time” set to premiere at Dublin Dance Festival 2016 and afterwards to tour to Australia as part of Culture Ireland’s international celebration I Am Ireland, Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.

“Roche’s choreography is delicately woven but it’s threads possess an elusive tensile strength. Entrancing.” Donald Hutera, The Times

“Liz Roche is an artist with a serious track record…” Judith Mackrell, The Guardian


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How to Sell Out every single show: Daithí Ramsay

I was working in our box office one evening when the visiting show’s stage manager approached.
How are tickets for tonight? he said.
Pretty good, about 270 now. I said.
Really? We’d a full house in Monaghan last night, he said.
What do they hold though? 200?
Yes about that, but we sold out.
Well we’ve sold more seats than that.
We sold out in Leitrim the night before as well.
What have they, about 120?
Yes, but we sold out.

We work in a sector where people are often very emotionally attached to how their work is received. Many of us are like that too: we work in the Arts because we love the Arts, we are passionate about the Arts. We must be, we’re clearly not here to get rich.

The Sold Out Show, along with the Standing Ovation, is the measure by which many judge how well their show is doing. The people have spoken and they think you’re great: there has been so much demand that we couldn’t accommodate them all. It’s a tough stand in the Arts these days and we have to take our victories where we get them. Companies are happy, programmers, administrators and marketeers can relax, it’s a job done well. We can’t do any more than fill every available seat.

There’s a problem with that that’s been nagging me for a while now though. The Sold out show is an emotional measure not a financial or numerical, it takes no account of varying capacities or competing realities and there is a clear presumption in it that there was a huge throng clamouring for tickets who have now had to go home disappointed that they didn’t get in to see the show. This is rarely the case, very rarely.

A photo of A Sold Out Show for the DMEP at An Grianán Theatre

A Sold Out Show for the DMEP at An Grianán Theatre, photo courtesy of the DMEP

Rather than celebrating what we are achieving we are too often snatching defeats from the jaws of victory. If it doesn’t sell out and the audience don’t leap to their feet then we haven’t done our job right: we aren’t a success. That’s clearly nonsense. A show should be judged on its own merits be it artistic or entertainment levels, is it a good show should be a judgement of just that: is it a good show?

The programming and marketing of it should be judged on whether or not the maximum number of people attended who could reasonably be expected based on realistic targets taking in many factors including previous sales of this type of show, day of the week, month of the year, competing attractions etc. We all have the data now, the only targets we should project or accept are those based on a clear analysis of the data. My greatest marketing triumph in a year may be getting 30% into a show that was only realistically expected to get 15% but who is going to recognise that apart from me? I could tell you but I doubt you’d be that impressed, but you know, a Sold Out Show …

I’m here to tell you though that it’s okay I’ve come up with a fool proof plan for everyone working in the Arts to be happy all the time: it’s clear what we need to do is take out seats so that we’ve less to sell. Less seats equals more sold out shows, and sold out shows is what makes everyone happy. Until that is they look at the bottom line of the financial spreadsheets, but sure how many do that?

I’m reminded of the theatre that told me that they had done away with postering as they felt it was no longer of benefit, except for one poster that they’d put up in the pub the actors drink. It’s lovely for actors to get full houses and standing ovations but it’s important to remember it’s an emotional measure and should have no place in judging how well we professionals have done our job. We have data for that.

The Henry girls playing to a Sold Out House at An Grianán Theatre. Photo by Living Witness Photography.

The Henry girls playing to a Sold Out House at An Grianán Theatre. Photo by Living Witness Photography.

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Audiences are loving Ballet Ireland’s Coppélia. Will you?

Ireland’s National Ballet Company return to Letterkenny this November after last year’s wonderful Swan Lake.  This year’s production is the comic fairytale Coppélia. See it here on Fri 27 November and check out what audiences have been saying about it below:

“Unapologetically charming and unashamedly entertaining Coppélia is a joyous, delightful experience.”

“features choreography and comedy in equal measure, with a glamorous 50′s inspired aesthetic to boot.” Le Cool, Dublin


Ballet Ireland present
Fri 27 November 2015 at 8pm
Book now!

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12 Days of An Grianán: Day 7 Ballet Ireland Summer School

We’re closed for our Christmas holidays but we’ve lined up a few extra special online offers to tempt you over the festive period.

Starting on Christmas Day our ’12 Days of An Grianán’ will offer you a huge discount on a selection of shows including drama, music, comedy and summer schools! It’s a different offer every day so keep an eye on your inbox or follow us on twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on some substantial savings!

For day 7 of our 12 Days of An Grianán we are offering 20% off our Ballet Ireland Summer School in July.

Suitable for aspiring dancers from ages 6 and older, the Ballet Ireland Summer School is a great introduction to classical ballet for beginners and also a superb opportunity for more experienced dancers to further their skills. Over 5 days of workshops, participants will work towards a performance of a specially created ballet under the expert tuition of Ballet Ireland’s education officer Stephen Brennan and professional ballet dancers from our national ballet company.

Ballet Ireland Summer School
Mon 27 to Fri 31 July 2015 Book now!

We have free online booking until we re-open on Mon 5 January.

NB: Offer only available for one day only. Only available on online bookings (discount automatically applied when you add tickets to cart).

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Exclusive limited performance – Fabulous Beast and Sadler’s Wells present Rian UnPlugged

We are very pleased to welcome, for the first time ever at An Grianán, Ireland’s most acclaimed dance company Fabulous Beast, for a limited, intimate performance of their international hit Rian UnPlugged.

Produced in association with the UK’s Sadler’s Wells,  in Rian UnPlugged, eight hugely talented dancers from around the world share the stage with five of Ireland’s top musicians in a joyful pairing of dance and traditional Irish music.

Rian from Fabulous Beast on Vimeo.

Next week this co-production between two of the world’s top dance companies, Ireland’s Fabulous Beast and the UK’s Sadler’s Wells, will be performed at An Grianán Theatre for one night only on Wed 24 September at 8pm.

This is a rare opportunity to see this popularly acclaimed show and as the company have requested that the audience be seated on the stage close to the performers only 60 tickets have been made available.

Rian UnPlugged is directed and choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan with musical direction from Liam Ó Maonlaí. It is an expressive cultural hybrid, tapping into Irish traditions with influences from faraway places.

Winner of a 2013 Bessie (New York Dance and Performance Award) for Outstanding Production, Rian premiered in the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2011. It has toured to the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Italy, USA, Austria, France, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Co-produced by Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, London, Rian Unplugged at An Grianán Letterkenny Sept 2014

Co-produced by Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, London, Rian Unplugged at An Grianán Letterkenny Sept 2014

Rian has been seen and loved by more than 40,000 people across the world. This ‘unplugged’ version is performed with a new intimacy, bringing the audience up close to the performance.

Described as “one of the most daring and highly original dance theatre companies in the world,” (Times) Fabulous Beast is an international ensemble based in County Longford, led by artistic director Michael Keegan-Dolan.

Supported by an Arts Council Touring Award.

To find out more or to become one of the lucky 60 people to experience this famous company live call An Grianán Theatre’s box office on 0749120777 or book online now.

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Culture Night – Blue Ribbon says Donegal A-Moooo!

The Blue Ribbon Group will be performing a special Donegal themed concert this Friday night as part our Culture Night events. They’ll be on stage from 7 to 8pm and best of all the show is completely FREE!


The formidable fun team of Alma Kavanagh, (Principal of St Joseph’s Rathmullan and sister of Donegal’s own Rory Kavanagh) and Brighdín Carr (LurgyBrack NS, Director of Blue Ribbon Arts and admirer of Rory Kavanagh) have done it again!!! Since their ‘Everybody plays for Jimmy’ skit hit webland two years ago, the girls came under pressure to produce another version this time around …however, being proud Donegal fans (and indeed ambassadors) and rebels to the cause, the girls decided NOT to revamp the 2012 PMC Medias hit, but instead re-invented a traditional flavour to the Number One song of that momentous year, Rory and the Island’s ‘Jimmy’s Winning Matches’ as an INSTRUMENTAL skit, which could be sung happily by schoolchildren young and old all over the county in the build-up to the best team in Ireland’s Donegal’s Big Day on Sunday next!

Since their proud sponsorship of the Donegal team in 2010, Donegal Creameries now have an-udder string to add to their County bow, with the surprise and superb talent of their very own mascot, Daisi, who features in Rory’s Granny’s instrumental version of Jimmy’s Winning Matches by the Blue Ribbon Band, and boy does Daisi know how to ‘milk’ the cameras.  Originally a cameo role, Daisi’s deft dance-moooooves prove that the cream really does rise to the top, and it wasn’t long into the Pmc Medias YouTube shoot of Blue Ribbon’s instrumental video before Rory’s musical Granny, Ms Alma Curran (real-life sister of Rory Kavanagh), decided to highlight the ultra-moooosical Daisi and so, a star is born.

Udderly moooodest, Daisi is proud to star in the video, which can be found on Roryand the island’s facebook page, as well as blueribbonarts, pmc medias and Donegal Creameries facebook pages and of course on Youtube by searching ‘Jimmy’s winning matches (Jimstrumental)’  by Rory’s Granny.

The video shoot includes hilarious scenes starring the staff and pupils of Ms Curran’s own school, St Joseph’s NS, Rathmullan, also Scoil Mhuire, Ramelton and pupils from Lurgybrack N.S. Letterkenny, even featuring Lola the dog and children from Lurgybrack Autism Unit. Rory’s Granny whistles her way through the instrumental whilst tackling (and of course levelling!) Kerry Mammy Mary Maguire in Letterkenny Town Park in front of many Blue Ribbon Arts die-hard Donegal fans, dances in the tide at Rathmullan beach and inspires even the Lord Mayor of Rathmullan to join in on the frenzy, not to mention inspiring the children of Blue Ribbon to take to the streets of Falcarragh, and even to invade and transform the soccer territory of Ballybofey’s Finn Park into a Donegal GAA Victory Ground.  Even David Craig (‘Come on Sam Maguire’)  catches the fever and exchanges his guitar for dancing shoes, and not to have the limelight stolen from her, Daisi turns up with Irish Dancer Sophia Whoriskey at Black’s farm to join forces with the almighty Donegal Teddies of Bomany.

RTE’s Lisa McKelvey also features as she interviews Daisy, Rory’s Granny, Blue Ribbon and staff and customers of the newly opened ‘Michael Murphy Sports’ shop for an exclusive slot which will be broadcast in the build-up to the match.
Featuring the music of Jimmy’s Winning Matches written by Rory Gallagher, arranged and played by Brighdín Carr and the Blue Ribbon Band, this youtube video was arranged and directed by Brighdín, recorded by Jason Friel and Ben Carr, produced by Marty Curran of PMC Medias. This ‘Jimstrumental’ is a traditional Celtic take on the vibrancy, craic and energy of Donegal as a county, it’s children, it’s fans, it’s teamwork, and a fine Irish musical tribute to it’s GAA team and Manager, Jim McGuinness.

Rory’s Granny is proud to be back in the limelight following her unbelievable success with Blue Ribon’s ‘Everybody Plays for Jimmy’ in 2012. ‘I think it was my ability to poledance with the Sam Maguire in Voodoo that made our song and YouTube video such a success. Trevor Loughrey and Noel Sweeney (Swilly Drive) were grand, but everyone knows that I was ‘Man of the Match’ that year. Now I’m willing to share my platform with Daisi’.

Daisi the Cow of course has the last word. ‘I will be there on Sunday, in all my glory. I love Mick Mooo-rphy, and you never know, if Donegal’s  Mooo-ya Doherty ever does a revamp of RiverDance, I’m the perfect cow for the job.’

Now come on Donegal, let’s get this party started!!!

The Blue Ribbon Group will be back with us in November with their  country music themed show HonkyTonk Ho! Ho! Hoedown! on Friday 21 and Sat 22 November. More info here.

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