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Andrea aims to strike gold with human rights drama

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Andrea Kelly putting up posters for her Theatre Festival show, Witness.

She may live in Wicklow these days but actor Andrea Kelly cut her teeth on the Galway theatre scene with the City’s vibrant Youth Theatre.

Now, the Corofin native, who has worked with local companies Theatrecorp and Druid and with Dublin’s Abbey and Gate, has returned to her old stomping ground with the Swedish play, Witness, which she has directed and will be performing for this year’s Galway Theatre Festival.

The one-woman play, being presented by Andrea’s company, Ór Productions, will appeal to people who are into theatre, people with an interest in human rights and those who are working in therapy or attending as clients, she says.

Witness is set in Sweden after the Yugoslav war and features an Interpreter who translates survivors’ accounts for a therapist as part of a treatment programme. The play examines crimes against humanity and also the personal struggles of those involved in helping the survivors.

“The interpreter becomes too involved with one of the clients,” says Andrea, adding that “this is also a play about listening and what we hear”,

Witness explores the fine line between client and professional but Andrea stresses that while it deals with serious issues, it’s not about war and is a play that “has a lot of laughs”.

There are so many images in the play, and these allow members of the audience to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, she observes.

Andrea, who has a degree in acting from Trinity College, Dublin, performed Witness recently at the Human Rights Centre at NUIG, as part of her attempts to open up a relationship between the arts and human rights.

The role of arts in exploring human rights is something she has long supported through her work.  In 2013, shortly after returning from London where she had lived for six years, Andrea organised a reading of Patricia Burke Brogan’s groundbreaking play Eclipsed about Ireland’s Magdalen laundries. That took place at Druid Theatre on International Women’s Day.  Andrea produced and directed that reading, and also played the character of Brigit while heavily pregnant with her second child.

Now based in Wicklow with her husband and two children, she is currently appearing in Madam de Markievicz on Trial at Dublin’s New Theatre. Written by Ann Matthews who wrote the sell-out show, Lockout, Madame de Markievicz on Trial is a drama about Constance Markievicz exploring an event in Dublin at Easter in 1916 when a policeman was fatally shot. It is set in a courtroom and a prison cell during the autumn of 1917 and the dialogue is largely based on speeches made by Markievicz during this time.

Andrea will go straight from that to the Galway Theatre Festival with Witness, which she is performing with Ór. Andrea is looking forward to exploring the style of play she will stage with her new company.

“It won’t always be heavy,” she says but adds, “Witness was there and it’s wonderful and relevant”.

Witness, written by Swedish playwright Cecilia Parkert and translated by Kevin Haliwell, will be staged at An Taibhdhearc next Monday and Tuesday, May 4 and 5 as part of Galway Theatre Festival. Booking at An Taibhdhearc Box Office, 091-563600 or at www.galwaytheatrefestival.ie.

Connacht Tribune

Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops

Judy Murphy

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Elaine Feeney....debut novel.

“I hated school so much I thought if I could be a teacher, I could make it a bit better,” says novelist and poet Elaine Feeney about her day-job as an English and History teacher at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam.

The Athenry woman certainly has made it livelier and more relevant. Her students who were studying Hamlet for this year’s Leaving Cert departed from the text to give the troubled prince psychotherapy sessions, with different boys taking on the roles of Hamlet and the therapist as they explored the plot. Elaine laughs as she recalls how they got totally caught up in it. There’s always an entry point to good writing, she says, adding that she loves Shakespeare – in part because of the soap opera element to his drama.

“You can compare it to the latest episode of EastEnders”.

The Handmaid’s Tale by contemporary Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is also on the curriculum. Her novel might seem more relevant to the boys, especially given its global success since being adapted for television. When Elaine learned that Atwood would be visiting Galway in early March this year for a Galway 2020 event, she asked the organisers if it would be possible for the class to meet her and discuss her work. That’s what happened and 25 young men in their school blazers spent three hours discussing the novel with Atwood.

Elaine lectures in Creative Writing at NUIG and has been involved in the university’s project archiving the stories of the survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home. So, watching her students engage with a woman whose books deal with the misuse of power and oppression of women was a great moment.

It’s an example of how far she’ll go to give the students the best preparation for exams and for life. Elaine has a great relationship with them, something she’ll miss next year as she takes a career break to promote her own novel, As You Were, published by UK company Harvill Secker.

Read the full interview with Elaine Feeney in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Arts Festival is still giving it socks!

Judy Murphy

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Galway International Arts Festival Chief Executive John Crumlish and Artistic Director Paul Fahy, sporting their Irish Socksciety GIAF socks outside the Festival Gallery at William Street as details were announced of the Festival’s Autumn Edition. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

“This is not a July festival as people know it, moved forward. It’s a different creature” says Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival Paul Fahy about the organisation’s ‘Autumn Edition’ which is being held in reality and virtually in September and October following the cancellation of the July 2020 Festival due to Covid-19.

The aim is to bring live audiences into performances in a safe way, “to re-ignite that spark between live art and audience”, while also using digital platforms to reach those who might not be able to attend live events due to Covid-19.

He’s understandably excited about Mirror Pavilion, a major installation by artist John Gerrard commissioned by the Festival for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.

It will launch in Galway City’s Claddagh Quay on September 3, and will also be in Derrigimlagh Bog in North Connemara for October.

Gerrard is known for spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in California’s Coachella Desert and this work will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever in Ireland.

It will consist of three walls and a roof made of reflective glass while the fourth wall is an LED screen.

Two new artworks will be presented in the Pavilion; Corn Work at Claddagh Quay and Leaf Work at Derrigimlagh.

These connect with their specific setting, with Corn Work reflecting the power of the River Corrib and the many mills and industries it powered in bygone days.

Leaf Work, in the vast spaces of Derrigimlagh is a lament for the environmental damage that’s been caused to the world in the past century.

See full line-up and story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

‘Home’ is theme of diverse Clifden Arts Festival

Judy Murphy

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‘Home’ is the theme of year’s annual Clifden Arts Festival, which runs from September 12-23.
The event will explore the concept of home, as well as showcasing Ireland’s diverse arts community with a wide variety of shows and performances,
“The physical place of birth holds a special place within us, while for others it isn’t physical but rather the feelings, the emotion, the character, the people and the culture, that shape it and make it,” explains Festival Director Brendan Flynn of the decision to focus on home. “We hope to capture that feeling and explore a sense of home and how it is unique for each of us.”
The strong line-up at this year’s Festival includes headline names, some familiar and others new to Clifden.
The RTÉ Concert Orchestra and RTÉs ConTempo Quartet will both make the journey West, as will other big names in Irish music including Aslan, Máirtín O’Connor, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Martin Hayes, Bill Whelan, Lisa Hannigan, Declan Nerney, Frankie Gavin and Fiachra O’Regan, Seán Keane, Charlie McGettigan, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin.
Poets and Aosdána members, Paul Durcan and Rita Ann Higgins will also take part, while Mayo novelist, EM Reapy, whose novel Red Dirt, set in Australia, which won the 2017 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, will read with Sligo-born Galway-based poet, Michael Gorman.
There’s a one-man play, Padraig Potts, by Séamus O’Rourke and a drama about Constance Markievicz, written by journalist Mary Kenny and performed by Jeananne Crowley.
On the comedy front, award-winning Danny O’Brien will bring brings his Lock In show fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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