New writing to the fore in first Galway Theatre Festival

The inaugural Galway Theatre Festival takes place over five days next week from Wednesday October 22 to Sunday 26 at the Galway Arts Centre’s Nuns Island Theatre.

The festival showcases the work of six exciting, upcoming local companies. While the festival affords welcome recognition to the endeavours of enterprising young ensembles like Mephisto, Dragonfly, and Moonfish, it is particularly pleasing to note that four of the programme’s eight productions are new, locally-written, plays.

Dragonfly Theatre Co’s Reptilian, written and directed by Shona McCarthy, is sure to attract plenty of interest after the critical and popular success of Married to the Sea – also written and directed by McCarthy - which the company staged last year.

In Reptilian, housewife Dorothy believes her 63rd 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.

“This play is very different to Married to the Sea,” says author McCarthy. “I did that purposely as I didn’t want to just be repeating myself. So this play is written in verse, for instance. It’s also much darker than Married to the Sea. Reptilians is essentially a black comedy about this family collapsing in on itself on the day of the mother’s birthday.”

Reptilians has already been staged at the Dublin Fringe Festival where it gained glowing reviews suggesting that, even as it marks a stylistic departure from McCarthy’s fine debut, it still affirms her pedigree as a young writer of real skill and originality.

Reptilians features Fiachra Ó Dubhghaill, Siobhán Donnellan, Carla Bredin, and Paul Nolan. The play is on Thursday October 23 at 8pm and Friday 24 at 1pm.

Blue Selkie Theatre Co have been among the busiest bees in the local theatrical hive, with four productions this year already. One of those was Patrick Collins’ debut play, Goodwill, which premiered in July and now gets a welcome revival for the festival.

The play is set in 1988, as the Galway hurling team are fighting for their third All-Ireland of the decade. As the match plays out, in a small south Galway town, a family gathers round for their own showdown, an afternoon when memories and ghosts will compete with the living for pride of place.

The O’Connell clan have just laid their publican father to rest, and are gathered to discuss the reading of his will. Nothing is what it seems to be as memories are compared and the delicate mysteries of family, love, and loss are explored.

With a confident and intimate style, Patrick Collins has created a family of beautifully drawn, deeply human characters that cannot fail to remind us all of our own family journeys.

“As a writer, Patrick has a real creative force behind his characters which is something I always look for,” says Selkie director George Miller. “The people in his play are vivid and believable. There’s also a certain distinctive style to his words that is very original. The play got a great response from audiences when we did it last so we’re looking forward to bringing it back again.”

Goodwill is staged on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 at 4pm.

The two remaining new plays are both premiere productions.

Zelig Theatre present Cathal Cleary’s Birds Birds Birds. Its central character, Jack (played by Brendan Ryan ), 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.

“It’s a humorous take on an Orwellian 1984-kind of world,” says author Cleary of the play. “It’s about this one man questioning his place in the larger scheme of things. Jack is the only live character onstage but the play also employs video projections, TV, and so on with which he interacts. To that extent you could say it’s quite experimental but I think that’s one of the good things about an event like this theatre festival – it gives you the scope to do that.”

Birds Birds Birds is directed by Ronnie Quinlan and is staged on Wednesday 23 at 8pm and Thursday 24 at 1pm.

Completing the new play line-up is Shane McDermott’s one-act, Producing Playmates, which is being produced by Fregoli Theatre as part of a double-bill with Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard’s Savage Love.

“It’s my first time writing a play on my own,” reveals McDermott. “It’s about a writer who’s trying to write a play and he invents this character who’s essentially his alter-ego. So it’s like there’s this debate or tussle between the author and his imagination, because he finds himself being prodded toward writing about things he feels uneasy about facing up to.

“We’re really looking forward to doing the play at the festival. We’ve already played at the Edinburgh Fringe and Electric Picnic and this is the first piece of new writing we’ve done, which is another step forward.”

Producing Playmates is directed by Tracey Bruen and its cast features Shane McDermott himself, Maria Tivnan, and Daragh Finn. It’s on Wednesday 23 at 10.30pm and Thursday 24 at 4pm.

Alongside this exciting roster of new plays, the Galway Theatre Festival also features strong productions from Mephisto (Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife ) and Moonfish (Dennis Kelly’s After the End ) as well as musician/performer’s Aindrias de Staic’s rollicking solo show, The Year I Got Younger.

Full programme details can be obtained from Galway Arts Centre (091 - 65886 ) while bookings for festival events can be made at the Town Hall Theatre (091 - 569777 ).


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