A LARGE crowd turned out for the launch of the programme for the Galway Theatre Festival 2013 at Massimo last Friday evening.
Professor Patrick Lonergan of NUI Galway officially launched the programme and saluted the diversity and quality of work that will be on display from September 30 to October 6.
Participating companies in this year’s event include Fregoli, Mephisto, and Anam Theatre from Galway and visiting ensembles like Stone’s Crow, Dradin, and Broken Crow. As well as an array of challenging and exciting plays, the festival also includes workshops, talks, improv and much else besides.
Plays at the festival
Mephisto, fresh from their recent acclaimed staging of Eclipsed, present David Harrower’s Blackbird, which centres on the meeting between a young woman, Una, and a middle-aged man, Ray, 15 years after they had a sexual relationship when Una was only 12. A powerful, unsettling play, Blackbird has received more than 40 productions around the world since its 2005 premiere in Edinburgh.
Fregoli Theatre present a new play, Dorset Street Toys, written by Rory O’Sullivan in collaboration with the company. In the play we encounter a child prophet taken from a basket drifting down the Liffey; a young girl clutching a dolly who is taken from her home; a man in a superhero cloak hiding from the streets he once thought to save; and a woman who steps out into onto the street to sell the only thing she thinks she can. Dorset Street Toys is a provocative, harsh but ultimately moving exploration of love, lost childhood and the Dublin streets.
Another new play is Hang Up from Cork’s Broken Crow Theatre Company. Written by poet Adam Wyeth, this is a one-man dark, surreal comedy. A phone rings. We never hear the voice on the other end of the line. We just hear William - taking the call, pouring a drink, making a noose, walking the lines between life and death, between reality and the absurd depths of his consciousness.
Stone’s Throw Theatre, from Dublin, bring Broken Promise Land, Mirjana Rendulic’s partly autobiographical account of a young East European woman’s experiences as an exotic dancer. The play comes here garlanded with glowing reviews and it can also boast a Galway connection as it is directed by NUIG graduate Aoife Spillane Hinks.
Tribe Theatre, who, like Broken Crow, hail from Cork, brings its production of Dradin, in Love, a twisted tale by Jeff VanderMeer, 12-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award.
Dradin is a young missionary who has returned to the fictional city of Ambergris after a long and disastrous sojourn in the jungles. He finds himself alone, penniless and in the depths of despair, when he suddenly falls in love with the silhouette of an unknown woman in a window.
Aided by a devious and untrustworthy thief named Dvorak, he attempts to woo the strange woman – but it is the night of the festival of the Freshwater Squid, when the city traditionally erupts in a paroxysm of violence, murder and mayhem – and Dradin’s search for love leads him into a fight for his life, and a final confrontation with his illusions.
Other plays to look forward to include John Roger’s Decision Problem, a solo show about the origin, rise, and possible future of computers; Anam Theatre’s staging of Clare McIntyre’s Low Level Panic about sex and pornography; John Walsh’s Brechtian drama Some Baffling Monster, and Devious Theatre’s dark comedic thriller, War Of Attrition.
Festival director Kate Costello
This is a strong line-up that attests to the programming skills of the festival’s incoming director, Kate Costello. From near Athenry, Costello has an impressive CV. She completed an MA in theatre directing in London which included an internship with the Royal Shakespeare Company while she also spent time in Moscow studying the works of Meyerhold and Chekhov.
Returning to Ireland, she worked as part of the programming team for the Dublin Fringe Festival, then came back to Galway where she worked with the arts office of Galway City Council and organised the events for Galway Culture Night.
The day after the Galway Theatre Festival launch she took some time to talk about her vision for the festival, but began with a few words of praise for her predecessor as director, Roisin Stack.
“The festival wouldn’t exist without Roisin Stack and her dedication and hard work,” Costello declares. “She got it to the stage where it is already quite polished and is a recognised brand name.
“I have a few different aims of what I want to achieve with it and how to take it forward. Firstly I want it to be a platform for emerging artists, artists that are making work in Galway, GTF can give them a professional platform and create the opportunity for people to come and see the work. It can be difficult sometimes making work outside of Dublin, we don’t get the same level of funding here or maybe the work isn’t acknowledged as much but I do think we can compete with other festivals.
“The talent is there and I think we can match that level of professionalism and that standard. I also believe that as well as doing it for the artists, we’re also doing it for the audiences and the people of Galway and I want to bring work to Galway from other places.
“This year I wanted the programme to be ‘half and half’ so the programme has two companies from Cork, a company from Kilkenny, and a show coming down from Dublin. It was important for me that audiences at the same time as seeing work made in Galway are also seeing work from emerging artists elsewhere.”
“There’s great variety in the programme. Blackbird and Low Level Panic are well established plays whereas Decision Problem is a piece that is being devised at the moment. So the programme caters for all tastes, from well-made plays to work that is more experimental and avant-garde.”
Given the recent public debate and controversy over ‘Slane Girl’, the unfortunate young woman who was photographed performing a sex act in public at Eminem’s concert, it is interesting that several of the plays in this year’s festival address issues of sexual morality and two - Blackbird and Broken Promise Land - from female perspectives.
“When I was looking through the applications for shows wanting to be in the festival, there were applications from women and female artists working with companies,” Costello explains. “The plays and applications were dealing with these topics related to sexual mores. As a young woman myself and looking to develop a voice for myself within the arts I think it’s important to showcase that work. It’s important that the female voice is heard more in theatre.”
One of the initiatives introduced this year is the award of a touring grant to one production from the festival enabling it to go to other venues in the county.
“We came up with the idea of touring grant with Galway County Council so I pitched ideas to people as to how they would like to get involved in terms of funding and sponsorship,” Costello tells me.
“The county council said that within the county there weren’t enough touring professional theatre shows, people were doing shows in the Town Hall but these weren’t making it out to places like Portumna or Tuam or Clifden, so this year one of the Galway-based companies will be given funding which will allow them to tour their production from GTF to venues in the county.”
Full details of the GTF programme can be found at www.galwaytheatrefestival.com
Bring it on!