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Surreal drama shows death in a new light

Judy Murphy

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Raymond Scannell and Olwen Fouéré in Death at Intervals.

Arts Week  with Judy Murphy

It’s dark and light and quite funny,” says actress Olwen Fouéré about Death at Intervals, which is being staged this month at Galway International Arts Festival.

This two-hander with Olwen and Raymond Scannell is based on the surreal novel of the same name by Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago, which explores what happens when death decides to take a holiday.

The piece, which combines drama, music and original song, is the brainchild of director and actor Kellie Hughes, who also directs. Kellie previously worked with Olwen on the one-woman shows Lessness and Riverrun, which also premiered at GIAF.

Those were devised by Olwen, but this one is different. The Galway-born actress emphasises that “this is Kellie’s project, although I have been with her every step of the way”.

In Death at Intervals, death takes a holiday so that people can realise how necessary she is.  And yes, that’s ‘she’. The Portuguese word for death is feminine, explains Olwen, adding that in Celtic mythology, too, death takes on a female form with The Morrigan being the Celtic goddess of birth, war and death.

When death resumes her duties in Death at Intervals, she decides it’s not fair to take people without warning. So she decides to send letters to people who are due to die, giving them a week’s notice that their time is up.

She duly sends on a letter to a musician but he doesn’t receive it. So she decides to deliver it in person, adopting a human form to do so.

“It’s a very free adaptation of the book,” Olwen explains of the production. “The conversations between the musician and death are the same, but a lot of the other stuff has been changed by us, or not included.”

The aim is to give the audience enough information so they can follow the story, while allowing the stage adaptation to develop its own life, free of and separate from the book, she feels.

But the original message about “the necessity of death in our lives” remains central to the piece.

In the book, Saramago links the energy of death with the energy of art and music and sexuality, Olwen observes. First published in 2005, in Portuguese, it also saw him face the prospect of facing his own mortality – he died in 2010.

Olwen first learned about Saramago’s work when Kellie Hughes suggested the project and it’s been a few years in gestation – they did two weeks’ development on it in 2014 and had another period last year before presenting it as a work-in-progress during the Arts Festival.

A dancer, actor and director, Kellie was intrigued by Saramago’s theory that many people in the modern world run away from the idea of death. That’s not so true of Ireland, but it’s common in much of the developed world Olwen feels.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island

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Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.

Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.

It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.

Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash

Enda Cunningham

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A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.

At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.

The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Salthill Garda Station (091) 514 720 the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.

Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.

It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.

In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”

It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.

“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.

“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”

Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.

The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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