New Galway theatre festival showcases local talent

IN RECENT years Galway’s theatre scene has witnessed the emergence of a raft of enterprising, talented, new companies such as Moonfish, Mephisto, Zelig and Selkie, who are doing much to carve out a niche for themselves with a series of strong productions.

Now the Galway Arts Centre is showcasing these companies in the inaugural Galway Theatre Festival which takes place in the Nuns Island Theatre from Wednesday October 22 to Sunday 26.

The festival features six Galway-based professional theatre companies; Zelig, Dragonfly, Fregoli, Mephisto, Selkie, and Moonfish who are coming together to provide a feast of new theatre. The festival will run over five days and include more than 20 performances.

Festival highlights include Zelig Theatre’s world premiere of Birds Birds Birds by Cathal Cleary. Jack has a fulfilling life. He works from home. He tends to his plant and he listens to his radio. His secluded life is interrupted when his typewriter is mysteriously replaced by a laptop. This begins a series of horrible events, leading Jack to destroy the one person in the world he cares for.

Mephisto Theatre’s production of The Worlds Wife by Carol Ann Duffy deals with female figures from the worlds of myths, fairytales and history. This is a sharp comedy featuring characters such as Mrs Freud, Medusa, and Queen Kong.

In Dragonfly Theatre’s production of Reptilian by Shona McCarthy, Dorothy believes her 53rd birthday will mirror every other day - cleaning the house and reciting poetry to her beloved turtles while her husband works late with his young secretary. Past and present events however collide with catastrophic consequences for everyone: even the turtles.

Moonfish Theatre’s production After The End by Dennis Kelly is a raw gripping thriller that probes people's responses to the threat of terror and the reality of violence. After The End is an unnerving and powerful piece of drama by one of Britain’s foremost young playwrights.

Selkie Theatre present Patrick Collins’s Goodwill set in a small Galway town on the day of the 1988 All-Ireland hurling final. A family assemble for the reading of their late father’s will but nothing is as it seems as the delicate mysteries of family, love, and loss are explored.

Fregoli Theatre are staging two short plays; Joseph Chaikin’s Savage Love, which deals with real and imaginary moments in a love affair, and Shane McDermott’s Producing Playmates, a play about frustration, fantasy, and fiction.

Completing the festival line-up is Aindrias De Staic with his one-man show The Year I Got Younger about the boozy, rambling, adventures of an Irish fiddler.

The festival will also include masterclasses, workshops, rehearsed readings and a festival club.

Galway Arts Centre director Paraic Breathnach explained the impetus behind the festival.

“This is a new development, there’s an energy around at the moment which we saw in the Project 06 festival and which has been enhanced and galvanised by the MA courses in writing and theatre at NUIG,” he said. “It’s also enhanced by the reputation of Galway for the arts. There were about 120 young people who came along to the festival launch and most of them I didn’t know – it was great to see such a turn-out.

“Now you have 30, 40 young people - maybe more - actively involved in professional theatre here, but with no support whatsoever. The Arts Council foster this atmosphere of competitiveness and seem to think companies have to endure five years of pain before they have any chance of securing support. We’re just trying to ease the pain a bit by giving these young companies a platform, rehearsal space, technical back-up, publicity, and so on.”

Breathnach asserts that the festival will be an annual fixture and initial response has been hugely enthusiastic. A fund-raising drive asking donors for €150, in return for which they receive a hand-printed copy of the festival poster – by local artist Róisín Coyle - is already well on the way to meeting its revenue target.

Galway’s newest addition to its lively festival circuit seems all set for an auspicious debut.

Booking for events in the festival can be made at the Town Hall, 091-569777.

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