Feasting on festivals
Laurence Mackin ‘When it clicks on stage, there is nothing like it’
Arminta Wallace: ‘Pick one? Are you kidding?’
Your favourite festival?That would have to be Edinburgh, for the sheer range of stuff on offer. For the playing of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Wagner’s Parsifal, conducted by Claudio Abbado in 2002: five hours that passed in one luminous, unforgettable musical phrase. For the mad venues, the fantastic food and, above all, the glories of the city.
Favourite festival moment?When the Macnas parade kicked off in Galway last year it transformed the city into an alternative universe – and this frazzled fiftysomething first-timer into a wide-eyed child.
Worst festival moment?Walking towards passport control at Zurich airport, having landed en route to an interview with the mezzo Cecilia Bartoli at the Schwarzenberg Schubertiade, in the Austrian Alps, and realising I had no passport. Heck, that was a worst life moment. Swiss efficiency being what it is, my passport was spotted in the seat pocket on the plane and returned to me, so I was able to cross the border into Austria.
What ingredient is common to the best festivals?Good organisation and a great programme, for starters. But a strongly rooted sense of place is what makes a festival special. If the place is small enough to walk around all the venues, and has a river and/or bridges and/or uplifting architecture and lots of great cafes, vital for recharging the critical batteries at all sorts of odd hours, so much the better.
One thing you’d be glad to see the back of Parking meters. Nothing kills the festival spirit quite so smartly or so disastrously. Cover them up.
If you’d recommend one festival this summer, it would be . . .Just one? Are you kidding? West Cork Literary Festival, where I’m heading this very day. Kilkenny is always wonderful. How about the New Ross Piano Festival in September, as recommended by BBC Music magazine last year? Or any good festival. Just go.
Peter Crawley: ‘Galway Arts Festival is a constant hum of activity and interplay’
Your favourite festival?Tough call. The timing of Dublin Theatre Festival and the Absolut Fringe may have slipped – they used to be concurrent, now they’re consecutive – but in recent years their aesthetic differences have narrowed dramatically. For rough fun with a considered design, it has to be the fringe festival. For constant stimulation, Irish and international congruence and high production values, it’s DTF. Both have spilled performance beyond traditional confines, with an electronic light show on Liffey Hall or a Monopoly-inspired installation on the river turning the entire city into a site-specific venue.
Your favourite festival moment?Coming out of Anu’s head-spinning fringe production of World End’s Lane, in 2010, in which reality mingled with performance, and not being able to tell for 40 minutes if the show had finished or if all Dublin was in on the act.
Your worst festival moment?Maybe getting thrown out of a drag-show cabaret at Galway Arts Festival because the performer had taken exception to a previous review of mine. We worked it out the next year at the Macnas parade. I was wearing a lot of make-up at the time.
What ingredient is common to the best festivals?An appreciation of time and place. Cork Midsummer benefits from the kinetic surge and social juxtapositions of its city, and this year’s programme responded to them thematically and physically. Nowhere is prettier than Kilkenny Arts Festival in the sun, but the city’s Gothic architecture also lends resonance to music, discussion and performance. And Galway Arts Festival is a constant hum of activity and interplay in a place as compact as it is beautiful. A festival’s programme needn’t be strictly tailored, though: Brokentalkers’ The Blue Boy, Thisispopbaby’s Trade and Anu’s Laundry had immediate resonance during DTF, but so did international works such as Black Watch, Small Metal Objects and Once and for All. The best festivals put the right shows in the right place at the right time.
One thing you’d be glad to see the back ofRepetition. Okay, festivals sharing productions may be great for local audiences, theatre-makers, the life span of productions and culture in general. But with Corcadorca’s Request Programme, Fishamble’s Silent and Druid’s everything touring from festival to festival, such foresight and economy deprive hard-working theatre critics of employment. What are we supposed to do now? QA features?
If you’d recommend one festival this summer, it would be . . .With holidays thrumming with mirth, freedom and ice cream, why not escape it all for the apocalyptic existentialist world view of Samuel Beckett? The inaugural Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, next month, celebrates the great writer with a mix of music, sports, puppetry and performance, including the legendary Robert Wilson in Happy Days and Pan Pan’s excellent – and already reviewed – All That Fall.
Donald Clarke‘Part of history’