Three successive festivals exploring three of the biggest literary figures on the island of Ireland make for unmissable summer of arts.
Re-imagining Beckett, talking Wilde, freeing Friel – the Arts Over Borders festivals are two weeks of sublime artistic performances and incisive critiques of the legacy of three giants of Irish literature.
Running from 25 July to 18 August, the three festivals will take place in unique and unusual locations – some of them secret until the last minute – across the border counties of the island of Ireland, dubbed the northern literary lands.
The seventh Happy Days: Enniskillen International Beckett Festival (July 25–28), centred in the County Fermanagh lakelands and its island-town of Enniskillen, kicks off the trio with a programme on the theme of ‘late creativity’ celebrating the plays and prose from the last 30 years of Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett’s life.
Among the many highlights there will be a world premiere of three Beckett short plays, choreographed by world-renowned New York choreographer Mark Morris, and a performance of Cascando by internationally acclaimed Pan Pan Theatre, both in the grounds of Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, which Beckett attended.
Festival favourite Ohio Impromptu, directed by high-profile actor Adrian Dunbar, an Enniskillen native, will be played out amid the atmospheric ninth-century monastic ruins on one of the lakelands’ history-rich islands, Devenish. Other venues will include Enniskillen Castle and St Macartin’s Cathedral.
Happy Days will also include a unique event titled ALL MANKIND IS US: Walking for Waiting for Godot, to be staged in the stunning setting of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, home of some of the finest landscapes on the island of Ireland as well as one of Europe’s finest show caves. Three performances will take place under Cuilcach Mountain on the border between County Fermanagh and County Cavan.
From 2–5 August the focus switches to Oscar Wilde with A Wilde Weekend: Wildetown, Home of the Happy Prince.
Excerpts of Wilde’s plays will be performed at Portora, which he also attended, and there will be readings of two of his best loved works, The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant. A number of WildeTalks and musical performances will present new perspectives on the writer’s genius.
The third festival is the 2019 Lughnasa FrielFest: Derry-Donegal Here I Come! running from 5–18
August. It will present performances of a number of Friel’s works including The Enemy Within, which will have an all-female cast, and Freedom of the City to take place in the historic Guildhall in Derry-Londonderry.
Celebrating the relationship between Brian Friel and the Greek poet Homer, there will also be readings of Odyssey by acclaimed actors on beaches in County Donegal and along Northern Ireland’s spectacular Causeway Coast.