AS IT has done for the past couple of years, Galway Youth Theatre and Galway Community Theatre again team up for the Galway International Arts Festival with their staging of Midsummer by Scottish author David Greig.
Greig is one of Scotland’s foremost playwrights and his work has featured in previous Galway festivals - in 2010, GYT presented Yellow Moon at Cúirt while the National Theatre of Scotland graced the 2012 arts festival with The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.
So what of this year’s Greig offering? Midsummer is a quirky and charming love story set over a rainy midsummer’s weekend in Edinburgh. Two 30-somethings are sitting in a New Town bar waiting for something to turn up. Bob is a failing car salesman on the fringes of the city’s underworld. Helena’s a high powered divorce lawyer with a taste for other people’s husbands. They absolutely should not sleep together - but they do - ushering in a great lost weekend of bridge burning, car chases, wedding bust-ups, bondage, and horrible hungover self loathing.
“It’s a fantastic play, it was first done in Edinburgh in 2008 and since then it has toured the world,” director Andrew Flynn tells me. “I’ve been trying to do it for a number of years but couldn’t get the rights until this year. Right now we’re bang in the middle of rehearsals and it’s going really well, it’s great fun. It’s a very funny play, there is a lot of humour in it and yet there is sadness there too.”
Greig’s principal characters, Bob and Helena, are in their 30s, older than the GYT talent pool from which Flynn takes his lead actors.
“The actors we’ve cast are younger but we’re playing the characters in their mid-30s as they’re written,” he replies. “We have two very good young actors, Jarlath Tivnan and Eilish McCarthy, to do the roles. The play was originally written as a two-hander but our production has a cast of 20, there was a lot of narration in the play which we’ve re-worked, as we did when we presented Yellow Moon.
“The two characters in the play, Bob and Helena, would have carried all the narrative in the original production but we’ve created a chorus of narrators who also bring to life all the colourful characters that they meet on their journey. It’s a completely different production than when the play was first done at the Traverse in Edinburgh, in 2008.
“They’re both from very different worlds. Helena is a very successful divorce lawyer, a wealthy, high-class woman whereas Bob is a petty thief and down on his luck. They’re in no way a ‘fit’ for each other. This particular night they both happen to be in the same bar, they meet and go home and have sex on the assumption they will never see each other again but of course they do.
“When they do it is from that moment that they go on an adventure together. It’s loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and is essentially a love story between these two people. Music is also a big element, Greig described it as ‘a play with songs’ and there is a whole score of songs throughout the piece which were composed by Gordon McIntyre.”
Flynn expands on the musical and sound elements of the production.
“Carl Kennedy is our music director. We also have a fantastic young band from east Galway called The Screaming Bats who played live in a show we did last year. They are still in their teens but they are very accomplished musicians. The songs are a mix, some are duets between the two principal characters, some are choral numbers, and with some the band take them themselves and Carl has re-arranged some to fit the change in staging.
“The music is fantastic - we have double-bass, banjo, violin, guitar, fiddle - each of the musicians play about four instruments so there is a massive amount of music running right throughout the show, there are instrumentals as well as songs that Carl has brought to underscore some scenes. We’re trying to do as much of the sound and music live as we can, even with the sound effects the musicians are doing a lot of those live themselves.”
Midsummer will run at Nuns Island Theatre at 8pm from Monday July 15 to Saturday 24t at 8pm. There will be two Saturday matinees on July 19 and 26 at 3pm. There is no show on Sunday 20. For bookings see www.giaf.ie