The Galway Arts Festival Box Office opens today. We at NUI Galway have a lot of dealings with GAF, both formal and informal. Many of our students volunteer with the Festival every year, and we also run an internship programme called SELECTED, which involves our students getting access to many of the producers and artists who help to make the Festival happen.
This year’s programme is strong in many art-forms, and as ever the problem won’t be deciding what to see so much as working out what I’ll have to miss. But here’s what I’m looking forward to most, in no particular order.
Rite of Spring and Petrushka – we saw a dress rehearsal of these shows in Galway a couple of months ago, just before Fabulous Beast brought them to London. They are beautiful – anyone who remembers the final act of this company’s Giselle will know what to expect. I’ve heard a lot of friends saying that they look forward to catching this show when it gets to Dublin – but I’m told it’s not going to be on there as part of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. So if you want to see it, now’s your chance.
Grizzly Bear – last year lots of people were kicking themselves for missing Chic at the Big Top, which was described by those who saw it as the best gig of the year (one person told me it was the best gig she’d been to ever). I suspect Grizzly Bear will be the same this year. Lots of people ask me what Grizzly Bear are like, and it’s actually quite hard to say. If you like Foals or Modest Mouse or Alt-J or the National, you will probably like Grizzly Bear – but they are nothing like any of those other bands and in fact are unlike anyone else at all. Their music is ambitious and often comes with a sense of fun – they seem ideally suited to the Big Top and the Big Top ideally suited to them. They are playing in Dublin also, but I think the intimacy of the Galway venue – and the festive mood in the city – will make this the show to see this summer.
Howie the Rookie – unlike the Fabulous Beast show, this is on in Dublin now and will also tour on to Cork and Edinburgh. But I’m looking forward to seeing it in the rebuilt Taibhdhearc, an intimate venue that should allow for a strong rapport between the audience and Tom Vaughan Lawlor, who is playing both roles in this 1999 Mark O’Rowe play. It’s produced by Anne Clarke’s Landmark, a company that always produces excellent work. I have to admire Anne Clarke’s skill as a producer: she has cut her acting bill in two and in doing so has made Howie seem like one of the year’s most exciting prospects. Lawlor is a brilliant actor who is not always well cast – he gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in Jimmy Fay’s Arturo Ui at the Abbey a few years ago, but was jarringly out of place in Friel’s adaptation of Three Sisters in the same theatre. Both roles in Howie will suit him well. Reports from Dublin are already very positive about this, and tickets there are going fast. Would assume this will be one of the first Festival shows to sell out.
Mies Julie – I have seen Miss Julie a few times and never warmed to it – in the productions I saw, Julie’s trangression of class and gender boundaries didn’t resonate much, and I could never determine whether this was a problem with the script, the performances, the direction or the context. But Yael Farber, who is adapting and directing this South African production, has a very strong track record – and friends who have seen this in Edinburgh and New York raved about it.
Riverrun We’ve seen quite a few Joyce adaptations since his work was freed from copyright. Some have been very good (most of Corn Exchange’s Dubliners and most of the Joe Dowling/Frank McGuinness The Dead for example), and some have received a more mixed reaction. This adaptation by Olwen Fouere of the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter from Finnegans Wake is likely to be very strong. Again, friends who have seen rehearsed readings of this have been very positive about it.
The Adventures of Shay Mouse – every year, Andrew Flynn produces a show in the Festival with an amateur cast. In the past he did so with Galway Youth Theatre but this year it’s Galway Community Theatre. As anyone who knows Andrew’s work will attest, he has a (genuinely) unique ability to inspire professional-level performances from amateur actors – something I’ve seen a few times in the work he’s done with our Drama students at NUI Galway. This is a family play by Patrick McCabe, and while that might sound like a contradiction in terms, this should be a lot of mischievous fun.
Other things to enjoy – Enda Walsh in conversation, Hyperactive by John Scott, and another very strong visual arts programme. I don’t know much about Stella and Lou but its author Bruce Graham was in Galway last year with his play The Outgoing Tide. He’s a former stand-up comedian, and that is evident from his writing, which is very funny – but also very emotional too. At the Taibhdhearc they are staging an adaptation of Tom Murphy’s Last Days of a Reluctant Tyrant and that too should be very interesting…
Overall it looks set to be a great couple of weeks… Full programme is on www.galwayartsfestival.com