THIS EVENING at 8pm in Massimo on William Street West, will see the launch of this year’s Galway Theatre Festival which runs from Monday October 1 to Sunday 7.
The full programme of events will be available along with refreshments and everyone is welcome. This year, the festival’s fifth, will see it spread throughout the city with the inclusion of more venues than before; the soon-to-be-reopened An Taibhdhearc will host two shows, as will Druid Lane Theatre, the Town Hall Theatre, and of course, the Nuns Island Theatre.
Galway companies feature heavily in the programme with Blue Teapot, Mephisto, Fregoli, Moonfish, and Vagabond all flying the local flag and they will be joined by top-notch productions from Dublin and Cork.
Ahead of the official launch, festival director Roisin Stack outlined some of the many attractions on offer in this year’s programme but first she began by reflecting on how Galway Theatre Festival has developed over its first five years.
“In our first year it was back-to-back performances in Nuns Island and it was all Galway-based companies which was a brilliant reflection of what was happening at the time,” she says. “It had a great energy, but it was also very restricted by funding and was difficult for the technical staff to put on that many plays in just five days.
“Since then we’ve tried to broaden the range of groups by bringing in companies from outside Galway while still showcasing what is happening here. Over the years we’ve built up relationships with different venues and companies. Year on year we’ve been trying different things and we’ve brought groups up from Clare, the UK, Dublin, Cork, etc, so overall I think the festival has expanded in terms of its vision and logistically in terms of its venues. It’s become more professional year on year and that’s what we’re striving for.”
What to see at the festival
Moving on to the line-up of this year’s festival, and there is no shortage of shows to whet the appetite. Blue Teapot, Fregoli, and Vagabond are all presenting new plays while Mephisto stage a welcome revival of Rita Ann Higgins’ Facelicker Come Home.
Moonfish take a familiar classic and give it a distinctive new twist with their production of Pinocchio - A Nightmare/Tromluí Phinocchio, at An Taibhdhearc.
“Moonfish staged it earlier this year here in Nuns Island and they’ve developed it further in the meantime,” Stack informs me. “It’s a really fun, interesting, piece. There is a lot of physical theatre in it and they use a lot of masks, there is a pared-back set but they use it very inventively with shadow-puppetry and music. They create this very dark world which lifts it from being a kids’ story into being a really magical and inventive piece of theatre.”
Another classic text gets an imaginative reworking in one of the visiting shows, Talking Shop Ensemble’s Death of the Tradesmen. Performed by writer/actor Shaun Dunne and Lauren Larkin, the play merges Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman with an account of Dunne’s own father’s attempts to cope with unemployment.
Stack tells me why she was so keen to take this show to Galway; “Myself and Katie, the festival assistant director, and Mike, our production manager, first saw Tradesman in Cork when it was still in development and we absolutely loved it and were all agreed it was a really strong piece and that we should bring it up to Galway.
“It’s a very intelligent piece. The way that they used the text of Death of a Salesman is very clever. It’s not overly sentimental but it is still very clearly talking about the recession. It’s about Shaun Dunne’s dad who is a carpetfitter and has been out of work. It veers between him talking as himself, the performer and creator of the piece, and then him being the dad and he talks about his relationship with the Arthur Miller text and he weaves it all very cleverly together, and it’s also very funny, it strikes a really good balance between all its elements.”
Another striking show Stack first saw in Cork is Lady Grew’s Sweet Pang is Innocent.
“I think that piece is going to be very interesting,” she opines. “When it was on in Cork it was packed out and it got a very different crowd to the regular theatre-going audience. It was a late night show and we’re programming it pretty late ourselves.
“It’s somewhere between cabaret and performance art, it veers toward striptease; this girl is a really talented pole-dancer, tap dancer, and rap artist, and there is a live DJ on set with her. In the show, the audience becomes part of the action – they’re sort of the jury in this trial that her character is put on. It’s very entertaining.”
Aficionados of Samuel Beckett will look forward to seeing Mouth on Fire, the much-praised company who specialise in performing his shorter works. They are at An Taibhdhearc where they will present Ohio Impromptu, Footfalls, That Time, and Come and Go, which they will also perform in a new Irish translation by Gabriel Rosenstock, titled Teacht is Imeacht.
“We’re delighted to have them on board,” Stack enthuses. This is a really interesting time for Beckett; we’ve just had the Happy Days Festival in Enniskillen, and we had Watt here during the Arts Festival.
“Mouth on Fire have been getting fantastic reviews and we’re hoping they will appeal to a wider theatre audience as a lot of our featured companies are quite young and there’s a lot of new writing so it’s great to balance that with a company producing classic texts.”
Alongside the featured plays, Galway Theatre Festival also includes events like the StageWrite rehearsed reading showcase, the Parley hosting of visiting theatre artists and, new for this year, 24 Hour Theatre, where the visitors from the Parley initiative team up with Galway theatre makers to write, cast, direct and perform four plays over the space of 24 hours.
Stack explains the thinking behind the Parley programme strand; “This is an initiative where we’ve invited theatre artists here from Cork, Dublin, and elsewhere. The idea behind it is that artists themselves aren’t always able to afford to go and see plays and stay over, it’s usually festival producers and so on who get to do that.
“We set up that pilot last year and it went really well so we decided this year as a way of furthering the process that the Parley participants could become involved in our 24 hour theatre event which would give them the opportunity of working with Galway performers and build up a different kind of bond rather than just meeting and talking, that they would actually create something together.
“That’ll be on in Druid and we’re very excited about it, it’s an event with its own momentum and energy and I think people appreciate that this is an event that has been put together in just 24 hours.”
For full details of the Galway Theatre Festival programme see www.galwaytheatrefestival.com Tickets for the featured plays are €12/10 and are available from tomorrow via the Town Hall Theatre on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie