The 35th Galway Arts Festival was officially opened on Monday, 16 July at the Radisson Blu Hotel by two of America’s finest stage actors and tv stars John Mahoney (of Frasier fame) and Rondi Reed (Mike’s mother in tv show Mike and Molly). Mahoney and Reed, friends for over 30 years, are both in Galway for the Festival where they perform in the European premiere of The Outgoing Tide by Bruce Graham which opens at the Town Hall Theatre on Tuesday evening.
The cast and crew from Northlight Theatre including director BJ Jones and producer Tim Evans who had arrived in Galway over the weekend were catching up with old theatre friends who have travelled from all over America for the opening of The Outgoing Tide. The National Theatre of Scotland had just arrived from a hugely successful tour of North America with The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart which also opens Tuesday at the Radisson Blu Hotel. NTS Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone who is soon to depart for London’s Royal Court was delighted to be back in Galway for the opening. Musician Daniel Figgis and Jack L, artists Brian Maguire, Joe Comerford and Jennifer Cunningham and the new Director of the Arts Council Orlaith McBride also attended alongside a number of international festival directors visiting the Festival.
An array of guests enjoyed the opening party including Festival artist David Mach, whose spectacular exhibition Precious Light opened on Sunday at the Absolut Festival Gallery, and who was chatting to Absolut’s Richard Brickley and playwright Julian Gough who had opened the Mach exhibition. Gough’s play The Great Goat Bubble, a Fishamble: The New Play Company and Galway Arts Festival co-production, opened on Monday night at Druid Theatre. The plays director Mikel Murfi and actor Wil Johnson (from Cracker) and Ciarán O’Brien popped into the party to wish the Festival well before returning to take to the stage at Druid.
Colleagues from Druid sent good wishes from New York just before they boarded flights from JFK Airport to return to Galway for performances of DruidMurphy next week at the Town Hall Theatre. DruidMurphy celebrating the work of Tom Murphy closed at the Lincoln Centre in New York last Saturday evening. Murphy and his wife the actor Jane Brennan were looking forward to the Classicallinks concert celebrating Tom in his hometown of Tuam this coming Thursday and to seeing DruidMurphy again next week.
Speaking at the opening, Festival Chief Executive John Crumlish commented, “The Festival Programme in 2012 is one of our most ambitious yet and we are projecting an attendance figure of 170,000 approximately. The economic impact on the local economy in 2011 was €17.5 million and we would hope to build on this figure in 2012. There are 160 shows, exhibitions and talks in 27 venues over 14 days from the 16th – 29th July and we believe there is something in this programme for everyone to enjoy.”
The Festival’s Artistic Director, Paul Fahy added, “This day has always been one of my favourite days of the year, a day when artists from all over the world arrive in Galway to join forces with Irish artists as we offer to you our audience what we believe is our most exciting programme in the 35-year history of the Festival. We are delighted to have old friends John Mahoney and Rondi Reed here as our special guests to open Festival 2012. This year’s programme features an international programme of artists from America, Asia and Europe, with a strong focus on Irish work and home-grown productions at the heart of this year’s Festival. The Festival offers the very best of international performing and visual arts for two fantastic weeks this July.”
Actor and Honorary Patron of the Festival, John Mahoney commented, “Whenever I do a new play, I don’t wish for a Broadway transfer, I wish for an invitation to take it to Galway Arts Festival. I have been fortunate to participate five times in the festival over the years, and the joy never palls. Galway is such a beautiful city and to be there during the Arts Festival is sheer magic.” Rondi Reed who won her Tony Award in 2008 for her performance in August: Osage County recalled her first visit to Galway in 2000, the fun she had at the Festival that year and her desire to return to perform at the Festival. She also spoke of keeping in touch with the Festival over the years through her friendship with Mahoney and Paul Fahy with whom she has kept in touch since 2000.
French acrobatic stars Compagnie IETO from France enjoyed the party prior to their opening at the Black Box Theatre and UK artist Ray Lee, whose extraordinary installation and theatrical performance Siren begins later this week, was enjoying the company of Macnas’ Noeline Kavanagh and Sharon O’Grady. The Macnas Festival Parade This Thunderous Heart takes place throughout the streets of Galway on Sunday evening July 22nd.
There was great anticipation at the party about the Festival Big Top. The roof of the iconic Big Top had just appeared on the Galway skyline by the city’s cathedral at the Fisheries Field and will feature an amazing line-up of Irish and international musicians including a double-bill with James Vincent McMorrow and Lisa Hannigan, the legendary Christy Moore with Declan Sinnott, and the enigmatic Nile Rodgers from Chic who arrives in Galway on Tuesday for a few days relaxation prior to his performance at the Festival Big Top on Thursday in what promises to be the absolute party night of the year with support from French New Wave group Nouvelle Vague.