The Next Four Years: An exhibition celebrating Irish performance design curated by Tom Creed and featuring Ciarán Bagnall, Lian Bell, Katie Davenport, Mel Mercier, Rob Moloney, Eimer Murphy, Jack Phelan and Sinéad Wallace.

Prague Quadrennial (PQ 2023) 8-18 June 2023

Irish National Tour: Autumn 2023

Established in 1967, the Prague Quadrennial showcases the best of international performance design every four years, and the 2023 event sees Irish design represented for the fourth time. Eight leading Irish designers – Ciaran Bagnall, Lian Bell, Katie Davenport, Mel Mercier, Rob Moloney, Eimer Murphy, Jack Phelan and Sinéad Wallace – will join curator Tom Creed to collaborate on this project.

If performance designers could offer new possibilities for Irish theatre after the pandemic, what shapes and sounds, spaces and acoustics, materials and formats, structures and hierarchies might they propose? What new creative and collaborative practices might emerge? What new social and artistic functions for theatre might present themselves? How might an exhibition of design indicate new directions rather than just revisiting the past?

The Next Four Years is a speculative retrospective of Irish performance design in the years 2023-2027, which challenges the designers of today to imagine the theatre of tomorrow. It investigates new approaches to design to speak to the PQ 2023 theme of RARE, which asks “what the world and theatre could look like in the post-pandemic future” and calls on designers “to imagine, visualise, and even create rare visions of the future”.

The Next Four Years comprises a film, publication, and physical installation exploring ideas, challenges and opportunities for the future. At the heart of the project is a conversation among a group of Irish performance designers, as well as a series of artistic responses to the theme. The public will be invited to engage with the participating designers during the exhibition’s run in Prague, extending the frame of the conversation into the exhibition space. The film and publication will also be presented with a series of associated public events as part of the PQ 2023 National Tour in Autumn 2023.

The fifteenth edition of the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space will present over 250 artworks in ten programme sections creating a platform for critical reflection on the contemporary state of the performing arts. The theme of the 15th edition of PQ in 2023 is RARE, in the sense of unique and raw realities that artists create. In the current state of precarity, uncertainty, and epochal change, PQ 2023 is calling on performance designers and practitioners to use their RARE imagination and creativity to help envision what the world and theatre could look like in the post-pandemic future.

The Irish Society of Performance Designers (ISPD) is a professional organisation offering unique opportunities to Irish and Ireland based designers to showcase their work on a major international platform. The society (formerly the Irish Society of Stage & Screen Designers, ISSSD) represented Ireland in PQ 2019 with the VR exhibition, Design & Destroy, curated by Jo Mangan and produced by Tríona Ní Dhuibhir.

Chair of ISPD, Catherine Fay, said “ISPD is delighted to present The Next Four Years in association with Once Off Productions as part of Prague Quadrennial 2023. Tom Creed’s vision for the exhibition brings insightful interrogation of how the world of performance design is progressing and the place of Irish designers in this ever evolving artform. The participation of these leading designers showcases our professional excellence and creates an opportunity to extend knowledge and collaboration with other international designers on the world stage. The following national exhibition will be used to promote and interact with designers at home and expand the conversations begun in Prague to the whole performance designer community on the island of Ireland.”

Curator, Tom Creed, saidIt’s an enormous privilege to be invited by ISPD to curate Ireland’s representation at PQ 2023. Previous exhibits at PQ have cast a retrospective look at the past, but this time we’re turning to the future to tackle head-on the opportunities and challenges presented by the next four years and imagining how we might look back on them in 2027. We invite our international colleagues to come and join in the process with us in Prague in June, and we look forward to bringing the conversation home later in the year.

Arts Council Director, Maureen Kennelly, said, “The Arts Council congratulates and is delighted to support ISPD in its plans for this internationally prestigious event. It’s an opportunity for Irish performance design to be recognised and celebrated in an international context, and for Irish design to be showcased at the highest level. We are also excited that Irish performance practitioners and the wider public will be able to engage with this great work at a later point in the year as part of its national tour.”

Culture Ireland Director, Sharon Barry, saidCulture Ireland has been supporting an Irish presence at the Prague Quadrennial since 2007 and is pleased to continue this for the 2023 edition. We believe that Irish performance designers have made a vital contribution to the excellent reputation for Irish performing arts globally and their presence at Prague is both a celebration of their achievements and a welcome opportunity to engage with international colleagues.”

In parallel with The Next Four Years, Irish performance and design students will participate in the PQ 2023 Student Exhibition with the project Beyond the Barricades: A Rare Story of a Unique Island, curated by Niall Rea and taking an all-island approach with student groups from institutions in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.



Curator: Tom Creed

Participating Designers: Ciaran Bagnall, Lian Bell, Katie Davenport, Mel Mercier, Rob Moloney, Eimer Murphy, Jack Phelan and Sinéad Wallace.

Filming and Editing: Michael-David McKernan

Publication Design: Niall Sweeney / Pony Ltd.

Line Producer: Grace Morgan

Executive Producers: Maura O’Keeffe and Orla Flanagan

Technical Director: Ronan O’Shea

ISPD Committee: Catherine Fay (Chair), Katie Davenport (Vice-Chair), Laura Fajardo (Secretary), Jack Scullion (Treasurer), Ciaran Bagnall, Valentina Gambardella, John Gunning, Lisa Krugel, Patrick Molloy, Molly O’Cathain, Niall Rea and Conleth White.

ISPD Creative Producer and Communications Manager: Noelia Ruiz

ISPD PQ 2023 Subcommittee: Deirdre Dwyer (Chair), Sarah Jane Shiels (Secretary), Owen Boss, Liam Doona, Sinéad O’Donnell-Carey, Pai Rathaya and Kata Rozvadska.



Tom Creed is one of Ireland’s leading opera and theatre directors, with a particular focus on new plays and operas by emerging and established writers and composers. His productions have been seen at all the major Irish theatres and festivals, and internationally in over 30 cities on three continents. He was previously Festival Director of Cork Midsummer Festival, Theatre and Dance Curator of Kilkenny Arts Festival and Associate Director of Rough Magic Theatre Company. He is a member of the Expert Advisory Committee of Culture Ireland and a board member of Theatre Forum and GAZE Film Festival, and was a member of the steering committee of the National Campaign for the Arts from 2016 to 2022. He recently completed an MFA in Art in the Contemporary World at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and is Curator for Ireland’s representation at the 2023 Prague Quadrennial.

Ciaran Bagnall is the Creative Director for Prime Cut Productions, Belfast. He trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff and was made a fellow of the College in 2017. He is an international award-winning Lighting and Set Designer with over 25 years experience in Theatre Design.

Lian Bell works as an artist, set designer, arts manager, and artist coach. For over 25 years she has worked with some of the most significant arts organisations and contemporary performance makers in Ireland.  She was Campaign Director of #WakingTheFeminists, the industry-changing grassroots campaign calling for equality for women artists in Irish theatre. 

Aedín Cosgrove is co-artistic director of Pan Pan Theatre Company and as a set and lighting designer has worked extensively in Ireland and internationally. Working with lighting and minimal structure and materials, Aedín is interested in finding new and sustainable ways to create exciting and surprising contemporary scenography.

Mel Mercier is a multi-disciplinary, award-winning, Tony-nominated artist with an international reputation as a performer, composer and sound designer. Renowned as an innovative musician, rooted in traditional music, he is committed to collaborating across artforms, music genres and traditions. He is director of the Irish Gamelan Orchestra, MÓNCKK new music ensemble and PULSUS, the first Irish traditional percussion ensemble. Mel was Lecturer/Professor of Music at UCC from 1992 to 2016, and inaugural Chair of Performing Arts at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, from 2016 to 2022.

Rob Moloney is a composer and sound designer based in Dublin. He has collaborated with many independent performance artists and theatre companies in Ireland including the Abbey Theatre, Luke Murphy – Attic Projects, THEATREclub, Ballet Ireland, and Painted Bird. He studied music in University College Cork and pursued further studies in Orchestration and Advanced Mixing Techniques in Berklee. He has been nominated twice for Best Soundscape at the Irish Theatre Awards. 

Eimer Murphy is the Prop Master at The Abbey Theatre, Dublin.  Prior to joining The Abbey,  Eimer was a freelance prop maker and stage manager, working with Irish theatre companies such as Barabbas…The Company, CoisCéim, and Landmark.  In 2017 Eimer completed a Masters Degree in Material Culture Design History,  the resulting thesis applies material culture and behavioural psychology theories to examine how props are used onstage. Since completing the MA she has presented original research papers, notably for the Irish Society for Theatre Research, and at the European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies “Stage Irish” conference in 2019.

Jack Phelan is a video artist and filmmaker with many years’ experience producing moving images for stage, screen and beyond. His background in computer science and general ease with technology has helped him navigate / ignore the promise / threat of the singularity; and make fun stuff along the way too of course.

Sinéad Wallace works as a lighting designer for theatre, opera and dance throughout Ireland. She has received Irish Times Theatre Awards for Best Lighting three times between 2007 and 2010.

Sinéad’s recent lighting designs include Tartuffe & iGirl (Abbey Theatre), The Lighthouse & Least Like The Other (Irish National Opera) and In Middletown (Gate Theatre). She has worked extensively for the Abbey Theatre, Corn Exchange and Irish National Opera, as well as for The Gate Theatre, Liz Roche Company and The Emergency Room. Sinéad is resident Lighting Designer at The Lir Academy leading the Lighting Design module on the Masters in Stage Design.


The Irish Society of Performance Designers is the representative body of scenographers in Ireland, a professional organisation run by designers for designers. The society celebrates, showcases, promotes, and supports Ireland’s scenographers at all stages of their careers by acting as an advocating entity, a national and international networking hub, and a resource hub. As an advocating entity, ISPD fosters designers’ visibility as vital key players in the theatre and arts ecosystem, while championing diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility.


ISPD would like to acknowledge the team behind the PQ 2023 Curator Open Call; field:arts for managing the process, and the independent panel that reviewed and assessed the submissions: Niamh O’Donnell (Irish Theatre Institute, Director), Cian O’Brien (Project Arts Centre, Artistic Director & CEO), Caoileann Curry-Thompson (Arts Council Northern Ireland, Development Officer for Theatre and Dance), Helen Carey (Independent Visual Arts Curator at Mockingbird Arts & Member of Expert Advisory Committee, Culture Ireland) and Deirdre Dwyer (ISPD PQ 2023 Subcommittee, Chair).

ISPD is a member of the Design & Crafts Council Ireland.


Once Off Productions is an independent producing platform established in 2004 by Maura O’Keeffe to provide creative and flexible producing supports for independent performing artists.  Currently funded under a new Creative Production Services pilot scheme by the Arts Council of Ireland, Once Off is led by a small team of experienced cultural sector professionals.  Once Off enables some of the most brilliant and exciting artists based in Ireland today to develop, create and present new work for us all.


About PQ 2023

The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space was established in 1967 to bring the best of design for performance, scenography, and theatre architecture to the front line of cultural activities to be experienced by professional and emerging artists as well as the general public. Every four years, PQ’s central curatorial concept shapes the festival and offers its participants a fresh look at the artistic reflection of our times in performance designs and scenographies.

Prague Quadrennial is initiated by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and organized by the Arts and Theatre Institute.  With the support of: Prague 7 City District  In cooperation with: the Holešovice Market, National Gallery Prague, the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Centers, Art&Digital Lab – H40, Máš umělecké střevo Partners: Volkswagen Czech Republic, Mama Shelter Prague

Main media partner: Czech Radio


For further information contact: Grace Morgan:

The Next Four Years is funded by the Arts Council and Culture Ireland.

PQ 2023 officially opens on 8th June and runs until 18th June 2023.

Locations: The Holešovice Market, the National Gallery in the Trade Fair Palace and the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.