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7 days + nights: 15th - 21st April

There is something rather special about Galway's Cuirt International Festival of Literature. Maybe it's because it's not in Dublin or maybe it's because it embraces Irish writing, or maybe it's because some of the best and brightest international names line up to feature in the programme.

Whatever the reason, Cuirt is always one of the highlights of the world's literary calendar and this year is no exception. Today's highlights include the launch of Kevin Barry's much-hyped debut novel, City of Bohane; Nigerian poet and prose fiction writer Helon Habila reading from his latest novel based on the oil industry in the Niger Delta; and Sean Tyrell's latest show Who Killed James Joyce.



Lykke Li, Tripod, Dublin 2

A chilly nordic pop babe straight out of central casting, for Lykke Li cult adoration and critical kudos aren't so much prizes to be chased as crosses to be stoically borne. Somewhere between fellow Swedish chart diva Robyn and Lisbeth Salander from the Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, Lykke combines an ear for fantastic hooks with the personality of a tortured introvert, forever shrinking from the limelight. A throwaway remark early in her career about wanting to be bigger than Madonna has seen the Stockholm singer tagged repeatedly as a Madge wannabe, no matter that she cannot recall ever actually making such a statement. But she lays the comparison emphatically to rest with this year's Wounded Rhymes LP, a dark pop odyssey recorded in the trippy reaches of the California desert, wherein she appears like a sort of American gothic Florence and the Machine, with songs managing to be both ridiculously catchy and scary as hell.



Meek's Cutoff, General Release

In what could perhaps be best described as an anti-western, American independent filmmaker Kelly Reichardt gives a fascinating insight into the experiences and hardships of the hardy immigrants who settled in the American west. Michelle Williams stars as one of a small group of settlers who get lost in the unexplored wilderness of Oregon after their guide, Stephen Meek, turns out to be a spoofer. When they catch a Native American they find snooping around their camp, Meek is all for killing him, but for the Christian settlers this is a step too far. The Indian speaks no English but soon becomes the group's only chance of finding water, and surviving. The film's slow pace will not be for everyone, but it memorably dramatises one of America's great founding myths.


Noctu, Civic Theatre, Tallaght

As we all know, there's nothing wrong with baring all, with stripping off all outer coverings to reveal our true selves. Well this new dance show promises to pare away all superficial layers and to push the boundaries of traditional Irish dance further than they've ever been pushed before. Bringing together top Irish dancers from around the world, Noctu tells the story of Irish dance from the viewpoint of the dancer using movement, narrative, parody, comedy and pathos. And you will recognise at least one of the leading dancers, Breandán de Gallaí, as he formerly stepped into Michael Flatley's shoes as principal Riverdance dancer. De Gallaí is also responsible for the direction and choreography of this intriguing new show, which is heading off on a nationwide tour to Letterkenny, Limerick, Tralee and Galway.



The Last Days, Workman's Club, Dublin 2

There are few Dublin images more iconic than the Pigeon House Towers. Flying in to Dublin from Europe, one glimpse of those candyfloss stacks and you know you're home. Shocking as it might seem, there has recently been some talk of their demolition. Prepare to protest should that become a reality, but, in the meantime, celebrate the inner workings of the station in a fascinating photographic exhibition by Hazel Coonagh. Coonagh's dad worked as a fitter in this landmark and she has obtained rare access to the inner workings of the station in its final working days.



Moment, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Co Meath

What happens when a child is killed and how does it feel when your child does the killing? This devastating question is the pivot for Deirdre Kinahan's latest play. The story opens on a seemingly ordinary evening when an Irish family sit down to supper. But it's different tonight ... Niall is home, back from prison having committed a dark crime many years earlier with a conscience to clear. Does one person's guilt involve the whole family? Directed by David Horan and starring Ronan Leahy, Maeve Fitzgerald, Will O'Connell and Karl Quinn, this Tall Tales Theatre production is on a national tour and will travel on to Galway, Cork and Limerick.



The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly, Peacock Theatre, Dublin 1

This is the story of Peggy O'Hegarty. And the packing. And the blizzard. And the boat. Peggy's parents were packers, 'I want 17 foxes in boxes by breakfast', until one day the recession hits. Opening up like a Russian doll, this tale is brought to life by the gloriously exuberant Louis Lovett, who is aided by the most ingenious set by Paul O'Mahony. Directed by Lynne Parker, Finegan Kruckemeyer's play received its world premiere in The Ark last October and has been described as suitable for everyone aged 7-plus. And this is by no means a piece to be enjoyed just by the little folk (and by that, we mean children as well as fairies).


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