Books in the bath, dancing from Dusk till dawn and other Kilkenny attractions
The Taming of the Shrew is a ghastly play but, like much else at Kilkenny Arts Festival, it’s handled with wit and made wonderful
Sunday: music has charms
It’s not possible to be glum in Kilkenny for very long. The city is just too attractive for that; plus, the arts festival is so well integrated that you don’t have a sense of some parallel artsy universe. By lunchtime, the city centre was thronged with happy families, buggies, dogs and tourists. They wandered, shoeless, through the giant Architects of Air “luminarium” in the Castle gardens – think the Starship Enterprise crossed with the sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage – and to enjoy the free clowning and acrobatic events on the Parade. They gazed, goggle-eyed, at the fantastic creations in the Abbey Theatre’s underwear exhibition (a birdseed bra: now there’s a thing you don’t see every day) or Una Burke’s gorgeous leather breastplates and Andreia Chaves’s gold shoes at the National Craft Gallery.
Imbibing a well-earned cup of coffee at Chez Pierre after all that, I overheard two young lads chatting to the French owner as they settled their bill. They were, they said, musicians. “Classique?” asked Pierre. “Baroque,” came the answer. They turned out to be Thomas Dunford and Philippe Grisvard, theorbo player/lutenist and harpsichordist/organist respectively from Ensemble Marsyas, who proceeded to play a spectacularly beguiling selection of music by Handel, his lesser-known compatriot Thomas Fasch, and the English lutenist John Dowland at the Black Abbey.
To round off the day, and the weekend, it seemed appropriate to head to the specially-commissioned contemporary dance piece Dusk Ahead by Junk Ensemble, which will also be performed at Dublin Theatre Festival. A spectacular set – long reams of golden thread strung at angles across the stage – created a woozy nether-world where the dancers explored themes of blindness, invisibility, trust and betrayal. They also played live music, and sang the words of Samuel Beckett: “Any fool can turn a blind eye but who knows what the ostrich sees in the sand”.
The effect was mesmerising though, as so often with contemporary dance, difficult to translate into words. “The murky fading light of dusk, when it is difficult to discern what is real and what is imagined,” is how the programme put it. Not, come to think of it, unlike how you feel after a weekend at Kilkenny Arts Festival.