Dragons run wild in Galway

Huge, fire-wielding dragons will invade Galway city during this year’s Galway Arts Festival. The Barcelona-based street theatre company Sarruga will bring the mythological reptiles to the festival. Expect lots of shrieking from the public as they scuttle along Shop Street with alarming speed.

“The dragons are terrifying and delightful at the same time. They’re going to cause mayhem down the streets of Galway,” says Paul Fahy, artistic director, Galway Arts Festival.

“We’ve a great outdoor programme, all free to the public. On the middle weekend of the festival, we’re taking over Eyre Square with a French company called Les Pepones. It’s a big outdoor acrobatic trapeze show performed on a circus rig that’s 35ft above the ground. It’s highly skilful and is inspired by the silent movies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.”

Two other notable shows from the outdoor strand include The Dream Engine Heliosphere, a lighted, seven-metre-wide hot air balloon with a suspended acrobatic dancer, and, undoubtedly, one of the most amusing pieces of the festival will be Max Calaf Seve’s show, Any Day, about a nomadic traveller who sets up his house on a trampoline.

For gripping, visual extravagance indoors, the double production by the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre of Petrushka and The Rite of Spring is a particular highlight.

“It’s unlike any other dance show we’ve done before,” says Fahy. “The production values are spectacular. It’s going to be one of the talking points from the festival.”

After a successful outing last year, the playwright Bruce Graham and Chicago’s Northlight Theatre Company return to Galway with a bittersweet romantic comedy, Stella & Lou, set in a bar in Philadelphia as three kindred spirits reflect on their lives.

One of the festival’s most ambitious projects will be Olwen Fouéré’s Riverrun, in which the gifted dramatist scripts, directs and acts in a stage adaptation of one of the sections from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

“She takes the voice of Anna Livia Plurabelle, who embodies the Liffey,” says Fahy. “She goes through this never-ending run through the course of the river. It’s going to be very funny. She’s a really captivating performer. The stage is going to be very unusual. She will be standing on this big bed of salt.”

Fahy singles out the RTÉ Concert Orchestra performance as one to watch out for. It will be their first outing in the festival. Their show, A Night at the Proms, will be a run-through of some popular film scores, including favourites from John Williams, Ennio Morricone and John Barry.

Other attractions at the Festival Big Top will be Grizzly Bear, accompanied by new Irish sensation, The Strypes. “It’ll be one of the gigs of the summer,” says Fahy. Tickets are already sold out for Imelda May. Josh Ritter and Mick Flannery also share a bill, as do Dubliners Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey.

The Visual Arts strand, which is also free to the public, includes an exhibition by Howard Hodgkin, “the godfather of British art”; an eye-catching show, Richard Gilligan’s DIY, which is culled from four years of documenting skateboarding subcultures around the world; and Irish artist John Gerrard’s Cuban School, a collage of enormous, 20-metre-wide video screen images.

“He went around Cuba filming these old Soviet-style schools,” says Fahy. “These buildings are now in decay. He took the footage back to his studio and mixed it up with computer-generated software to make what he describes as virtual portraits. So when you look at them, you wonder, is this real or created? They’re really striking.”

* www.galwayartsfestival.com.


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