Despite an official start date of Monday July 11, the Galway International Arts Festival is actually getting under way this weekend, with preview shows for three of its highest profile plays, while street spectacle, Insects, takes place on Sunday.
Enda Walsh's Arlington [A Love Story] and Druid's production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, both start tomorrow, while Invitation To A Journey, dance show inspired by the life and work of Irish architect and designer Eileen Gray, begins on Saturday. Speaking to the Galway Advertiser, last night, festival managing director John Crumlish, said: "There's a lot of building and rehearsals going on, we're happy with the progress, and so far so good."
The term 'building' is appropriate as at least two venues are being transformed in order to make them ready for the shows they have to accommodate.
"Leisureland is being completely transformed for Arlington," says Mr Crumlish. "It will be different from what people are used to there. Jamie Vardon, who was the set designer for Enda's previous plays, Ballyturk and Mister Man, is the designer for this show as well. He and his crew are building the set on the floor of the hall in Leisureland. The play will be performed on the set which will be in front of the actual Leisureland stage itself, and the seating will be tiered and retractable."
The Festival Gallery, which is located in the Connacht Printworks, Middle Street, is also undergoing transformation ahead of Hughie O'Donoghue's One Hundred Years and Four Quarters.
"We've changed the gallery from what people would have seen last year and it looks fantastic," says Mr Crumlish. "There will be just one exhibition here, and the gallery will be divided in two, but it will still be more opened up."
Mr Crumlish believes the exhibition "will be a huge hit", saying: "It's a 'Wow!' It's looking at 1916, but in a different way from what we're used to. The works are quite large scale, one of the paintings is 25 feet long."
Waiting For Godot's run is completely sold out, while only a small number of tickets remains for Arlington and Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour. "I think this is the strongest theatre programme we've ever had," says Mr Crumlish, who is also encouraging the public not to miss Song From Far Away and A Simple Space.
"Song From Far Away is directed by Ivo van Hove, who directed David Bowie's play Lazarus, and who recently won a Tony Award. A Simple Space was one of the big hits at Edinburgh last year. All the reviews were five star."
For the Big Top concerts, The Gloaming's concert is sold out, but Mr Crumlish is also recommending the concert by Elvis Costello. "He'll be joined by most of The Attractions and support is from the Undertones, it's going to be a night of hits. Another great one will be towards the end of festival, with Suede, supported by The Frank and Walters.