The weeks leading up to the Galway International Arts Festival are some of the most exciting for the festival team as productions start to take shape and come to life.
Major theatre productions
Rehearsals for two major productions began last week. ‘Woyzeck in Winter’ starring Patrick O’Kane and Camille O’Sullivan and a cast of extraordinary Irish actors including the legendary Rosaleen Linehan and Peter Coonan, who will be instantly recognisable as Fran from RTE’s ‘Love/Hate’. The play will have its world premiere at the festival.
Druid has also begun rehearsals for ‘Crestfall’, written by Mark O’Rowe. This looks at the stories of three women who converge in one place, on one evening, under an unforgiving sky. Told in O’Rowe’s unique rhythmic style, Crestfall is a play about love in a dog-eat-dog world.
Festival Artistic Director Paul Fahy says, “We’ve had a very good week. It is great to have all the team coming together. I love this time of year when things really start to happen on the ground.”
Paul explains that ‘Woyzeck in Winter’ is a work that has been up to two years in the making. “It will be great to see it come to fruition at the festival.” The show is a fusion of two masterpieces: Büchner’s Woyzeck and Schubert’s Die Winterreise. “Over the next few weeks our team will be getting bigger and bigger. The wheel is rolling and there is no stopping it!”
The festival begins on Monday 17 July and runs until Sunday 30 July.
The wow factor
This year, the festival gallery is being re-imagined and reconfigured in order to host impressive sculptures from Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco, who was the first female artist in residence in the National Art Gallery of Great Britain in London. ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ will be a massive build and is set to capture people’s imaginations. Each of the pieces will have multiple figures, with one of the sculptures having 19 figures and measuring four metres high. Ana Maria’s work encourages the viewer to get closer and really engage with each piece.
“This is very significant work. It is also very accessible. For non-traditional arts lovers, this show will be something they will get a lot out of. It has an immediate wow factor,” adds Paul.
The festival will also premiere four new works from internationally acclaimed artist John Gerrard. This commission is a collaboration between the festival, a UK gallery and a gallery in New York. It will be hosted in the The O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, the newly opened arts space in NUI Galway. “We are building a room within a room to host the four portraits that will form part of this exhibition,” explains Paul.
The Bailey Allen Hall at NUI Galway will also be transformed into a 600 seater theatre this year. The theatre will have seating arranged on three sides and “will be re-imagined like never before”, says Paul. This is where Casus Circus, one of Australia’s prominent contemporary circus companies, will host their show ‘Driftwood’. Here the company will take the circus skills art form to a whole new level.
First Thought Talks
One of the significant developments within the festival programme in recent years has been the First Thought Talks series. This year’s theme is power. Paul explains that this section of the programme was something that the festival team had always wanted to expand and grow. Now in its fourth year, the festival has an impressive list of talks this year.
‘The Power of Home’ is a talk with 35-year-old Syrian architect and mother of two Marwa Al-Sabouni. This will be a memorable event in the series this year. Despite the devastation of large parts of her home city, she has remained in Homs in Syria with her family. Her memoir ‘The Battle of Home’ garnered international attention. Paul says, “She writes about how her society is falling apart but she holds onto hope for Syria and for a future there. She has done a series of drawings about how homes could be re-imagined and rebuilt. She is one of the most inspiring women I’ve come across. A bright light of humanity.”
One of the festival’s quirkier First Thought highlights is ‘The Power Ballad’, which is set to be a fun sing along night where the audience is free to sing along to power ballads. Expect to be singing along to ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and ‘All Out of Love’. “This will be a good fun night and a sing along type of social,” says Paul.
Also as part of First Thought talks, Tom Tomorrow aka acclaimed US cartoonist Dan Perkins will be in conversation with comedian Deirdre O’Kane. His weekly political cartoon has appeared in 80 newspapers and for the past 18 months his cartoons have focused on US President Donald Trump. There will be a slideshow of his cartoons as part of this talk.
A feast for music lovers
For music lovers, legendary hit maker Bryan Wilson of the Beach Boys is sure to be one of the memorable events in the Big Top. The Coronas make a welcome return and have already sold out, as have Gavin James and Jenny Greene and the RTE Concert Orchestra. But there is plenty more to enjoy in the music line-up, adds Paul.
As the team gets busier as the weeks tick down, Galwegians will be keeping an eye out for one thing – the rising to the sky of the Big Top, a sign that the festival is well and truly on.
Galway International Arts Festival runs from 17-30 July. See www.giaf.ie for tickets and full programme details.