We are well-served by many smaller, more localised festivals, but there are two cities that will play host to a pair of renowned events, each of which lasts for a fortnight.
Galway starts the ball rolling for the next two weeks, and then, with a seven-day interval, aficionados can move eastwards and enjoy a fortnight of activities in the marble city, Kilkenny.
Theatre, music, visual art, literature and more will be on offer, and the breadth of choice in both venues is quite staggering. Picking highlights is almost impossible, but there are some theatre staging’s that are especially well worth checking out.
One of the world’s most celebrated theatre ensembles, Chicago’s Steppenwolf, are back in Galway for the first time in 15 years, bringing to life a classic - Sam Shepard’s True West - at the Town Hall Theatre.
Their production of this work is legendary, and in Namir Smallwood and Jon Michael Hill they have a dynamic duo whose chemistry on stage is a tour de force. There will be few better ways to spend two hours this summer.
The Tin Soldier moves from a highly-successful recent run in Dublin to Galway’s Black Box Theatre, and is inimitably narrated by Louis Lovett.
One of Ireland’s greatest literary talents, Donal Ryan, has adapted his novel From a Low and Quiet Sea for stage, and presents a world premiere of his output at the Nun’s Island Theatre.
The moving novel tells of the lives of a Syrian refugee, a heartbroken carer and a crooked, and penitent, moneyman. This promises to be a delight.
A theatre jewel of a different kind is sure to be delivered by the acclaimed Rough Magic Company. Pre-COVID they staged breathless and timeless treats at the Kilkenny Arts Festival, A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2018 and Much Ado About Nothing the following year.
Now, under the eye of director Lynne Parker, the company present a fresh take on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
A dark comedy, The Tempest is believed to have been written in 1610 or 1611, and is thought to be one of the last plays that Shakespeare wrote alone.
After the first scene, which takes place on a ship at sea during a storm, hence the title, the rest of the story is set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, a complex and contradictory character, lives with his daughter Miranda, and two servants; Caliban, a savage monster figure, and Ariel, an airy spirit.
The play contains music and songs that evoke the spirit of enchantment on the island. It explores many themes, including magic, betrayal, revenge, and family. Though written by Shakespeare as a male character, Prospero is played by one of Ireland’s most celebrated actresses, Eleanor Methven.
She follows in the footsteps of such great actresses as Helen Mirren who have done likewise.
The supporting cast of equally talented actors make this an unmissable event, and it will be staged outdoors in the parklands of Kilkenny Castle.