Galway and Kilkenny arts festivals Various venues
The Galway and Kilkenny arts festivals have dominated the midsummer artistic schedules for more than a few years. But despite brave efforts, sitting gloomily in front of a computer screen was no substitute in the last couple of years.
Now both festivals are back with an almost atomic explosion rather than a bang, with lists that show intensive planning, ambitious budgeting and high ambition that the artistic directors can be proud of.
Galway opens on Monday week and runs until July 24. As usual it encompasses most art forms, but for my purposes here are the theatrical highlights.
Novelist Donal Ryan has adapted his award-winning From a Low and Quiet Sea for the Decadent Theatre company playing at Nun’s Island Theatre. It will be directed by Andrew Flynn to tell personal stories that range through the quivering emotions of despair and fearful hope in a time of turmoil. The cast will feature two of our most accomplished actors in Lorcan Cranitch and Maeve Fitzgerald.
The quirkily lopsided view of Sonya Kelly’s take on life will once again feature in a Druid production of her new play The Last Return, as five assorted people queue for the final return ticket of a sell-out production. It will be directed by Sara Joyce at the Mick Lally Theatre.
The First Child, Enda Walsh and Donnacha Dennehy’s final opera for their Irish trilogy, will play at NUI Galway, with the score performed by Crash Ensemble. Also, the ninth in Walsh’s performance series Rooms will be Middle Bedroom at the Columban Hall (daily every 30 minutes), with Rory Nolan as the voice of a man glumly surveying the world outside his bedroom as he cares for his elderly father.
After a 15-year gap (startling in itself) Chicago’s Steppenwolf company returns to Galway with a new production of Sam Shepard’s True West, wherein two hostile brothers meet in their mother’s neat house, only to have the wildness of the neighbouring desert impinge on and infect them as their innate antagonisms surface. Indeed, the much-lauded play is a supreme example of the macho culture that dominated American arts in the 1980s, from visual art through literature and theatre.
Philip Doherty will present Muc Rí, based on a myth uncovered by Lady Gregory and adapted by Doherty into Irish (with English subtitles). It will play outdoors at Father Burke Park.
The Kilkenny Arts Festival will run from August 4 to 14. The programming shows echoes of Eugene Downes’ tenure as artistic director some years ago, with a welcome abundance of classical music events, as well as the usual complement of intriguing literary occasions, and a solid share of “straight” theatre.
Prime in the last category will be Rough Magic’s The Tempest, outdoors at the Castle Parklands, with intriguing cross-gender casting of Eleanor Methven as Prospero. That element dominated A Midsummer Night’s Dream some years ago, which was probably the best staging of a Shakespeare comedy I have ever seen, anywhere.
As part of the year-long celebration of Ulysses, programmed by ANU, Landmark and MoLI, poet Paula Meehan will “perform” a number of her elegy, mourning, and recovery poems in the Parade Tower, to the accompaniment of David Power on pipes. Physically tiny, Meehan packs a devastating punch in performance, giving extraordinary life to work that is already so impressive on the page.
Opera Collective will be back, with Patrick Mason once again on board as director for Handel’s Semele. Christian Curnyn will conduct the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, completing a line-up that walked away with huge acclaim several years ago for Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses. It will be at the Watergate.
Two not to be missed events will be soprano Ailish Tynan and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, with a selection of favourite arias in St Canice’s Cathedral. Joyous in itself, it could be a perfect introduction to the world of opera to those not yet familiar with it.
And mezzo Tara Erraught, perhaps our favourite international operatic star, will perform at St Canice’s with the Irish Baroque Orchestra conducted by Peter Whelan, in The Trials of Tenducci.
Giusto Tenducci was a castrato favourite of Dublin audiences in the 18th century with, as was often the case for his unfortunate kind, a scandalous private life – although it was not exactly shocking by our modern standards.