Monday 20 November 2017

No need to reinvent wheel with high rollers' revolutionary ideas

Edel Coffey

FOR the Galway Arts Festival faithful, the good weather was just the icing on the cake.

"We look forward to these two weeks for the whole year," says Galwegian mother Ger Maher. "It's the highlight of the summer."

The sunshine has transformed Eyre Square into a thronging mass of laid-back summer living, and babies in buggies are placated with ice creams while bare-chested men find the same solace in plastic cups of Guinness.

A murmur goes up from the crowd as two tattooed men in vintage-style trapeze trousers complete with corsets make their way through the crowd.

There is silence as France's acrobatic duo, Les Philebulistes, perform stunning feats on a giant 20-foot wheel. The crowd gasps collectively at a daring move before dissolving into applause when the moment of terror passes.

Afterwards well-wishers shake their hands and Maxim Bourdon, one half of the duo, says in his French accent that he became a trapeze artist after his parents brought him to see the circus. A word of caution to parents everywhere, perhaps.

The festival has been running since 1978 and every year has its star attraction. This year, 'Misterman', the Cillian Murphy-Enda Walsh play about psychosis is the show that festivalgoers would have to "spill blood" to get a ticket to.

In the Meyrick Hotel, playwright Enda Walsh sips on a cup of coffee and ponders the popularity of this very limited-run play.

"There's this terrible thing about making something really nice because then it's over -- and you're just so depressed that it's over."

Walsh is by now a regular at Galway -- this is his fifth festival -- and he says he loves the "itinerant nature" of it.

"I feel you can take greater risk in a festival, I feel a bit freer. Galway is just the perfect size so you feel as if the festival is everywhere. I don't get the same kick out of the Dublin Theatre Festival, it's a bit bigger and more disparate."

Part of the appeal of the festival, says chief executive John Crumlish, is the opportunity for everyone to see different types of art.

"You know when you go abroad you'll eat food that you wouldn't normally. I think people are going on holidays in their own heads and a big part is they don't have to go to traditional arts spaces to see things because we're plonking a 20-foot high wheel in the middle of Eyre Square."

Hughie O'Donoghue, one of Ireland's leading international artists, is debuting his show 'The Road' at the festival and says one of the most important things about it is its potential ability to inspire a new generation of artists.

"When I came here as a child there was no access to visual arts. One of the legacies of the Celtic Tiger in places like Carlow and Ballina is they've got these centres where they can mount exhibitions.

"People can come in and say, 'I could do that' or 'I'd like to try that' and that's a fantastic legacy. It changes people's lives."

Irish Independent

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