"Knock knock? Who's there?"
The voice is uncertain in the cavernous space as the man looks at the young woman sitting opposite him. He feels he should know her - but from where?
Written by Frank McGuinness, 'The Visiting Hour' is play about a situation many families found themselves in over the past twelve months as a young woman visits her father who is distanced from her by dementia and also by the need to stay physically apart.
"It's really a very beautiful play," says Stephen Rea, who plays the father. His co star, Judith Roddy encouraged him to contact Frank McGuinness to see if he had work suitable for performance under Covid-19 restrictions and the result will be streamed by the Gate Theatre in Dublin next week.
The theatre, like so many others, has been dark for over a year but behind the scenes work has been carried out to transform the familiar auditorium into a 'studio space', suitable for rehearsal and social distanced performances.
It has been a tough year for actors too and Roddy admits, although she has done some work on film, this is the first time she has been in a theatre since Covid restrictions began.
She says that over the course of rehearsals, she has felt a 'reawakening', that energy is coming back into the theatre again.
Both actors say the play will work very well on camera, but that it is a stage play at heart, and they are looking forward to bringing it to audiences next week.
Rea says the theatre is trying to encourage people to 'have the theatre experience' at home, so that perhaps it won't be such a shock for them to be in an auditorium again when live shows eventually return.
"I hope," he says, "it will be soon'.
The Visiting Hour streams on the 22, 23 and 24 April and tickets are available on the Gate Theatre website.
A captioned version of the production will be streamed on 23 April.
A digital tour will also be presented, in partnership with venues including An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny, Backstage Theatre, Longford, Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, glór, Ennis, Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick, Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Siamsa Tíre, Tralee, Lyric Theatre Belfast and Town Hall Theatre, Galway.
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