Galway Theatre Festival weekend highlights

THE GALWAY Theatre Festival is in full swing and there are some fine plays for audiences to enjoy over the course of the weekend.

A winner of the Samuel Beckett Theatre Award, Clare McIntyre’s Low Level Panic portrays three young women’s very different approaches to survival within a world defined by pornographic media. There is Jo who ponders the sexual power she could wield if she were only a little taller; Mary who has recently endured a sexual assault; and hygiene freak Celia. Foul-mouthed and funny, the three housemates debate body image, sexuality, porn, and fantasies, while also bickering over access to the bathroom in which much of the play’s action is set.

Anam Theatre’s production of Low Level Panic updates the play’s themes to take in modern technology. “The play was written in the late eighties and we felt we couldn’t play the script as was because the issues the play explores manifest themselves differently today,” says Sarah O’Toole who plays Mary. “There is now that sense of anonymity of the internet which allows for vicious attacks on women, as in the recent ‘Twitter Trolls’ case where prominent UK women were submitted to online abuse and threats. We’ve worked in projections of Twitter feeds in the productions and references to things like camera phones.”

The director is Justin Martin. Low Level Panic runs at Nuns Island Theatre tomorrow at 8pm and Saturday at 1pm and 8pm.

David Harrower’s Blackbird also addresses issues of sexual morality. It depicts the charged meeting between Una (Emma O’Grady ), a woman in her twenties, and Ray (Ian Watt ), a man in his mid-fifties. Years earlier, when Una was 12 they had a sexual relationship for which Ray was subsequently gaoled and which still scars and haunts them both.

Una has tracked Ray down to confront him over the circumstances of their relationship and its reverberating fallout. Harrower is not afraid to invest the piece with unsettling emotional complexities - the 12-year-old Una was a willing participant in the relationship at the time. As the two characters edgily confront each other, they gradually peel back painful layers of guilt, shame, anger, hurt, and love of a transgressive and inappropriate kind.

One of the most controversial plays of the last 10 years, Blackbird is directed by Mark Westbrook and is on in An Taibhdhearc tomorrow at 7pm and Saturday at 1pm and 7pm.

Cork’s Broken Crow present Hang Up, the debut play from acclaimed poet Adam Wyeth which is directed by Gavin McEntee and performed by Tadhg Hickey. A phone rings. We do not hear the voice at the other end of the line. We just hear William. William taking the call. William pouring a drink. William making a noose. William walking the lines between life and death, between reality and the absurd depths of his consciousness.

Just as Low Level Panic references the internet and camera phones, Hang Up also features modern-day modes of communication as we see William contending with automated answering services and the play reflects on how we connect with each other via phone and text.

Irish Theatre Magazine called Hang Up “thoughtful and compelling” and declared “this short piece of work is not one that allows you off the hook”. See it at the Town Hall studio tomorrow and Saturday at 9pm.

Tomorrow also sees NUI Galway’s Jerome Hynes Award Winning Production, Killing Jack Murphy, written by Niamh Dennis and directed by Kori Kilduff, presented in Druid Lane Theatre for one night only at 6pm.

The play introduces us to Anna Rowe, an aspiring playwright with a 15-minute deadline, a bad case of writer’s block, and no idea who killed Jack Murphy! Can her Muses help her finish the play in time? Come along to find out more.

Further details of the above shows and other festival events can be obtained at www.galwaytheatrefestival.com while bookings can be made via the Town Hall at 091-569777 or www.tht.ie

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