The Brian Friel International Festival will return to Donegal and Derry with a five-day programme of music, theatre, readings and outdoor events, from August 24th-28th, celebrating the life and work of the late playwright.
FrielFest is part of Arts Over Borders, a new cross-border arts initiative and the brainchild of Derry-born artistic directors Sean Doran and Liam Browne that builds on the success of the Beckett Festival and A Wilde Weekend in Enniskillen. FrielFest is run in association with the Nerve Centre.
In this first year, Arts Over Borders will celebrate the relationship between Brian Friel and Homer; it is said that each year Friel would read one of Homer’s two epics.
Irish actor and director Adrian Dunbar will direct a special site-specific adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, presented episodically with food and music on five of Donegal’s beautiful beaches.
The Odyssey will be recited by actor Niall Cusack and take place on the beaches of Tullan Strand Bundoran (24th August); Narin (25th August), Carrickfinn (26th August), Marble Hill (27th August) and Fahan, Inishowen (28th August).
In Derry’s Guildhall Square, Odysseus’s cunning idea of The Trojan Horse will stand under the walls of Derry, evoking both the Troy and Derry sieges. Over 10 days, sports of fencing, martial arts and archery will take place in the area, along with storytelling for children from beneath the belly of the horse.
Frielfest 2017 will also feature performed readings of three great plays by Friel in unique locations across the region: The festival’s signature play, Making History, directed by former Royal National Theatre Associate Mick Gordon will be at An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny on August 25th and The Guildhall in Derry on August 26th; The Enemy Within, with 10 actors from Kabosh, will be at St. Mary’s Church, in Friel’s birthplace of Knockmoyle, on August 25th, and at St. Columba’s Church, Long Tower, Derry, on August 26th; and a promenade Faith Healer in community halls in Glenties, Portnoo and Ardara, ending up at the Highlands Hotel in Glenties, from August 25th-27th.
Christopher Logue’s unfinished epic War Music, an account of Homer’s Iliad written over 30 years, will be directed by Conall Morrison in five indoor locations along the walls of Derry from August 24th-28th. This production comes hot on the heels of the Guardian newspaper’s recent five-star review for his Galway International Arts Festival hit, Woyzeck in Winter.
Prior to the reading in the Guildhall of Making History, Dr. Malachy O’Neill, provost of the Ulster University, Magee campus, will give an introductory talk on the place of the play in Friel’s work and earlier that afternoon Malachi O’Doherty and Brian Feeney will debate how history is made and the role of traditional and social media in this.
All these events aim to highlight the relationship between artists and the island of Ireland, crossing borders and histories. The initiative is supported by a set of Irish Artist Patrons including Colm Toibin, Fiona Shaw, Eimear McBride, Kevin Barry, Ciaran Carson, John Banville, Lisa Dwan, Lisa McInerney, Nick Laird, Roy Foster and Adrian Dunbar.
“Brian Friel, I believe, would be excited to hear of our plans to read Homer’s Odyssey on the beaches of Donegal,” Adrian Dunbar said. “It was here after all that he imagined them first, lost among the islands or marching purposefully like Spartans to hold the Gap at Barnes Mór. Niall Cusack will be our Rhapsode in the Tent, telling the story - there will of course be music and wine and fires lit. Theatre governed by the tides. I can’t wait.”
The Brian Friel International Festival is funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Donegal County Council, Tourism NI, Fáilte Ireland, An Grianán Theatre, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.