Arts festival comes with fringe benefits


WHEN THE Big Top marks the skyline over the river Corrib and the salmon anglers are out in waders below, it is the seasonal signal for showtime in Galway.

This year, the city hosts not one, but two arts festivals, with a full fringe programme running parallel to the established fortnight of fun.

Festival managing director John Crumlish said his programme, with 160 shows, exhibitions and talks in 27 venues over 14 days, was “one of our most ambitious yet”, and he estimated some 170,000 bums on seats.

“The economic impact on the local economy in 2011 was €17.5 million and we would hope to build on this figure in 2012,” Crumlish said, while his artistic director Paul Fahy described the line-up as “our most exciting” in the festival’s 35-year history.

Speaking at last night’s opening, American actor and honorary festival patron John Mahoney said that whenever he took on a new play, he didn’t wish for a Broadway transfer, but for an invitation to Galway.

“I have been fortunate to participate five times in the festival over the years, and the joy never palls,” the former Frasier star said.

Rondi Reed, Mahoney’s opposite number in Northlight Theatre’s production of The Outgoing Tide this week, also expressed her delight at returning to Galway after a break of 12 years.

Druid Theatre’s celebration of playwright Tom Murphy, along with two Shakespeare productions by Ed Hall’s Propeller Theatre and work by Scottish artist David Mach, are among programme highlights.

The festival’s co-production of Julian Gough’s “acerbic take on the property boom,” The Great Goat Bubble, opened last night, and has already sold out its run.

The ever-challenging Galway Youth Theatre are also programmed, while the extensive visual arts dimension had its first unveiling on Sunday, with Mach’s new exhibition Precious Light.

The Gate Theatre is a first timer to Galway, with Watt by Samuel Beckett. By coincidence, a John Coll bust of Beckett will be presented by Agnes Tuohy to Carraroe library, Co Galway, on Thursday.

Music will range from the Coronas, Chic, Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott in the Big Top to West Cork Ukulele Orchestra, the Henry Girls and Singapore’s T’ang Quartet.

The new Galway Fringe has secured the G Hotel as a venue for Italian composer, pianist and world musician Antonio O’Breschi, who adapted his name to reflect his love for Ireland.

The fringe programme’s more than 100 events include performances by the Deans, Eamonn Dowd and the Racketeers, Athenry Music School Guitar Orchestra, the Galway Sinfonietta, Les Hot Culottes and Crowbar Comedy.

The fringe will present work by 12 dance companies, and has billed 30 theatre productions, along with comedy, performance and installation art, sculpture, storytelling, puppetry, craft and children’s activities.

The arts festival and fringe run until July 29th and details are available on galwayartsfestival.comand