Galway International Arts Festival reviews include Sonya Kelly, Donal Ryan, Enda Walsh and Sam Shepard

The Galway International Arts Festival, the largest event of its kind in Ireland, is back on schedule after a two-year pandemic hiatus and it once again offers an ambitious programme. Here are four of the standout stages that are thought provoking and entertaining.

WOMEN Last comeback (Mick Lally Theater; until July 23), Sonya Kelly established herself as a major Irish playwright. Her previous plays have been impressive but this new work by Druid takes her career to the next level as she deftly combines political commentary with mock comedy.

The play is set at a box office in an unspecified European city and follows people queuing to be returned for a sold-out Oppenheimer opera. Oppenheimer sounds like he might be an obscure composer, but he’s actually one of the inventors of the atomic bomb.

The Umbrella woman (Fiona Bell) arrives and she is instructed by the Useless Ticket Seller (Anna Healy) to join the exchange line. There, she finds Leopard Man (Bosco Hogan), first in line. They are joined by Woman in Pink (Naima Swaleh), from Somalia, and later Military Man (Fionn Ó Loingsigh), an American soldier.

Each of those in line had a compelling reason to attend this opera. The career position of the Newspaper Man depends on it. Umbrella Lady’s social prospects at work are at stake.

Military Man suffered from post-war stress disorder and was redirected to the opera for medical reasons. And we don’t know Woman in Pink’s story at first because she doesn’t speak English and communicates through a translator app on her phone.


Naima Swaleh as Woman In Pink in Sonya Kelly’s Druid’s The Last Return at the Mick Lally Theater as part of the GIAF. Ste Murray’s photo

The play says extremely clever things about European history; because African and Middle Eastern refugees are coming to our borders, they will also come to our stage. Good plays teach you something very profound; this teaches that forming an ordered queue is an absolute privilege. And while the barbarism on display is above all else, it is not entirely detached from reality.

Irrational action may have style, but it’s always familiar, and Kelly’s comic vision is informed by a principled anger. Director Sara Joyce makes a series of bold decisions, all of which pay off. The performances couldn’t have been better.

The intimate Mick Lally Theater is furnished in a formal proscenium, with drapes, and Francis O’Connor’s sleek playset is like a miniature version of what you’ll find in a large theater. high-class.

The costumes (O’Connor again) are bright and colorful, full of humor and character. Gráinne Coughlan’s makeup deserves a special mention with Ticket Person’s creepy blue eye shadow and a range of striking nail polishes.

This new play could be nothing more than a theater. It absolutely needs the medium to tell its story. I predict it will be a huge hit, and people will line up for the return, hoping not to kill each other in the process.

Video of the day

Novels by Donald Ryan From a low and calm sea (Nun’s Island Theater; until July 24) sensitively adapted during the production of the Decay Theater and the Galway Arts Center. We meet John, an unscrupulous bookkeeper and property speculator, nearing the end of his time, played by Lorcan Cranitch in his thoughtful thug regime.

We meet Farouk, an Irish settled doctor who is a refugee from an area of ​​Syria ravaged by Islamic fundamentalists – Aosaf Afzal emotionally expresses the suffering of this desperate husband and father. Darragh O’Toole plays a young bus driver Lampy and deftly captures the uncontrollable temper of an ostracized 20-year-old man.


Lorcan Cranitch as John in ‘From a Low and Quiet Sea’. Emilija Jefremova’s photo

Maeve Fitzgerald brings clear intelligence to her good-natured portrayal of Florence, Lampy’s mother. She is a woman who lives a quiet, controlled life caring for her son and widowed father. Andrew Flynn’s direction finds subtlety as well as strength in each character.


The adaptation was entrusted to the actors, director, and screenwriter, and was shaped as a series of monologues, each character holding the stage alone for the periods. Ciaran Bagnall’s lighting design and Carl Kennedy’s sound design create a mood swing, blending the pieces together, as they unfold against bare wood panels against an abstract backdrop by Ger Sweeney.

Ryan’s writing is, at its best, filled with insight. Florence’s story seems a bit thinner than that of the three men, in part because she’s been keeping a secret regarding the story.

However, the lack of connection between the characters for most of the show’s duration is somewhat frustrating. When the last pieces of the jigsaw fell into the right place, it felt too late. This works better in the book; the shape of a novel can be much more pervasive. But this lack of structure means that Ryan’s story is, for all its insights and gripping, more of a theatrical novel than a play.

Middle bedroom (Columban Hall; until July 24) is the ninth episode in the Galway International Arts Festival’s theatrical installation series Room, written by Enda Walsh and designed by GIAF art director Paul Fahy. Each year, a 15-minute audiobook is created, placed inside a certain room. This wonderfully dark new episode, directed by Rory Nolan, gives viewers shivers.

A small group of four spectators entered, were instructed to sit where we liked. I took a hard chair, the other sat down on the bed. The first thing that catches your eye is the smell; it’s stuffy, airless, dusty and male. And is that the smell of cat urine? “What’s that awful smell?” ask dad. “That’s us,” came the reply.

The room was a massive pile of clothes, piled high; an overflowing chest of drawers; antique mahogany furniture, inherited from somewhere nicer is offset with an inexpensive pine bed.

Dubbed is a recording made by adult child Richard, who is living a bitter life taking care of his elderly father. Richard looked out disdainfully at the blind people, observing the coming and going of the inhabitants of the cul-de-sac. An old tape recorder lay next to a tangled pile of tapes. Piles of CDs, LPs, and VHS tapes attest to Richard’s undeveloped interests and talents.

“My God! my life!” he lamented. A local cat roams in; Dad liked it and called it Lucky. Richard held it captive for a while, buying it off with fish fingers, until a woman knocked on the door with her three-year-old son and a poster advertising a missing cat.

There’s an echo of Samuel Beckett here but no compassion. A Pinteresque threat prevails in a play about how an underutilized brain can turn into malignancy. Cul-de-sacs, desirable low-traffic suburban layouts, can be sinister confinement places.

Walsh cleverly plays up the scares and makes the audience consider some very bad outcomes. Terrible things don’t happen in stories, but they do happen in the audience’s imagination. This is a wonderfully dramatic maneuver, and Walsh, Fahy, and Nolan create a memorable shadow in the midst of all the summer carnival cheers.

We leave the oppressive atmosphere of this dark middle bedroom to happily escape into the bright Galway air.

Unpredictable violence

True West (City Hall Theater; through July 23)Sam Shepard’s play about brotherhood is not love was first produced in San Francisco in 1980. Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company had initial success with its production in 1982, and now tackle this important American classic for a new generation.

Austin was looking after his mother’s neat suburban home near Los Angeles while working on his screenplay. His brother Lee shows up, a desert-dwelling dropout who has been involved in thefts and often erupts into unpredictable violence.

Austin has a meeting with his producer, and somehow, Lee tries to find a way to dive into the dynamic realm, coming up with his own desert-set idea, which the filmmakers have not been able to find. favorite producer. Lee is a violent bully and his brother fears him, until failure creates recklessness in the weaker brother and things turn rough.

Fight director Ned Mochel choreographs these highly convincing outbursts of malice that contain the poignant ramblings of young boys as well as the terrifying lethal powers of grown men. .

The casting of African-American actors gives a fresh dimension to the two brothers’ parallel urges to conform to or abandon society’s expectations, and these newer complexities are conveyed in great performances: Namir Smallwood is a terrible, scary Lee; Jon Michael Hill’s pacifying Austin is a moving portrait of someone who pleases everyone at the end of his rope; Randall Arney (also director) is a perfectly smooth producer. Ora Jones has a great cameo as the distracted mother returning to her dying house plants.

Todd Rosenthal’s design is dominated by yellow, which seems playful at first, then looks bad. Sound designer Richard Woodbury creates an oppressive soundscape that includes howls of wolves, crickets, and typewriters.

This dense game passes through you like a whirlwind, giving you a lot to think about. Civilization is not a guarantee, no matter how hard we try to conform; home life can be a total minefield; we’re all just a few crazy events out of chaos. Galway International Arts Festival reviews include Sonya Kelly, Donal Ryan, Enda Walsh and Sam Shepard

Fry Electronics Team

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