Director of modern take on Synge’s Playboy hopes to draw younger audience

A RADICAL new version of a famous play is being staged at the Abbey Theatre — 100 years after it caused street riots.

JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, first performed in 1907, has been revamped by writer Roddy Doyle and African-born director Bisi Adigun, and opens on Wednesday.

In the new version for the 50th Dublin Theatre Festival, the Playboy Christy Mahon is Christopher Malomo, an asylum seeker from Nigeria who is on the run after supposedly killing his father.

Mr Adigun and Doyle have switched the setting from the west of Ireland at the turn of the century to a west Dublin suburb in modern-day Ireland.

Mr Adigun, who founded Ireland’s first African theatre company Arambe Productions in 2003, said that the production would appeal to fans of the Synge work.

“It is a new play but we’re also keeping faith with the original. We are continuing its legacy for a contemporary Irish audience,” he said.

“It is breathing new life into it while also preserving its magic. If Synge were alive and in the front row, I think he would applaud it.”

Mr Adigun hopes to attract traditional theatre-goers who are familiar with the play as well as a younger audience coming to it for the first time.

Mr Adigun admits it is his biggest project to date.

“It’s a big, big deal,” he said.

The riots at the opening of the play in 1907 spread from the Abbey across the capital and had to be quelled by the Dublin Metropolitan Police.

The protests were stirred up by Irish nationalists who viewed the contents of the play as an offence to public morals and an insult to Ireland.

The play was defended by the poet WB Yeats.

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