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Surreal drama shows death in a new light

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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

Swimmer James clocks up one million metres in year

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From the Galway City Tribune – A keen swimmer in Galway has clocked up an astonishing one million metres in a year as part of his gruelling exercise schedule.

James Brennan reached the impressive milestone over 400 swims last years,  which were split between the sea in Salthill and across the road early-morning sessions at Leisureland pool.

He would count the lengths in his head or on his watch, regularly swimming up to 240 lengths over 90 minutes in the pool and up to 2km off the beach for a half-hour. On a regular week he would swim the equivalent of 20km.

When James realised he was at 800,000 metres last November, he decided to go all-out to pass the one-million mark by the end of 2022.

So he concentrated on swimming for at least ten hours a week leading up to Christmas and celebrated passing his goal before breaking up for the festivities.

“I’ve always done a lot of swimming. I’ve competed for my local swimming club in Claremorris, County Mayo, and was involved in the Corrib Polo Water Club races. I won the Heskin League, which is a combination of the 14 different open water races in Salthill. I also won the league in Claremorris,” he reveals.

The software engineer has been living in Galway for  13 years and has been a member of Leisureland for four years.

“It’s a really great pool, it has nice facilities, the staff are all very nice,” he reflects.

Facilities Manager of the Council-owned premises, Ian Brennan, said the phenomenal distance was the equivalent of swimming from Galway to Amsterdam.

He heard about James’s achievement from Green Party Councillor and Leisureland board member Niall Murphy, who happened to be swimming in the lane beside James when the Mayo man reached the goal.

“I felt that this is a hugely worthy event and fills me with amazement that we have a superhero in our midst. The future is bright.”

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CITY TRIBUNE

Ó Tuathail not interested in Galway City Council co-option

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From the Galway City Tribune – A two-time general election candidate for the Social Democrats in Galway West has ruled out filling the party’s vacant seat on Galway City Council.

Niall Ó Tuathail, a health reform advisor, has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that he will not be co-opted to the City Council seat vacated by the shock resignation of Councillor Owen Hanley in January.

“I’m not going to be put forward for co-option,” said Mr Ó Tuathail.

The father-of-two has lived abroad for a time since taking a step back from electoral politics in the wake of his 2020 General Election defeat.

He confirmed this week he has not reconsidered his decision to take a long break from frontline politics.

“I’m still a Soc Dem member and we’re in a process looking for someone strong to represent the values of the people who voted for us in 2019,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.

He polled 3,653 first preference votes in 2020 in Galway West and was only eliminated after the 12th count in the five-seat constituency.

That was an increase on the 3,455 number ones he received in his first Dáil election in 2016, when he also bowed out on the 12th count.

Mr Ó Tuathail was synonymous with the Social Democrats’ brand in Galway, and was heavily involved with the local referenda campaigns for marriage equality and to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

It surprised many political observers when he opted not to fight a local election for the party in 2019.

That was a breakthrough election for the Soc Dems, when Owen Hanley became the party’s first ever Galway City councillor by winning a seat in Galway City East. Sharon Nolan narrowly missed out on a seat in City Central during the same election.

Mr Hanley cited allegations made against him when he announced in January that he was resigning his position.

He said that the matters were “very serious” and would take a considerable amount of time for the authorities to investigate.

The resignation of Mr Hanley left a vacancy on the City Council.

It is the prerogative of the Social Democrats to nominate a person who will be co-opted to replace him as a councillor at City Hall.

A spokesperson for the party told the Tribune last week that it has not yet chosen a successor.

“We don’t have any update in relation to the co-option. I will let you know when we have a candidate,” the spokesperson said.

One problem faced by the party is that a number of possible replacements for Mr Hanley have left the Soc Dems over policy and other issues.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cigarettes, drugs and cash seized in Galway

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Officers from the Divisional Drugs Unit seized more than €73,000 worth of cigarettes, cash and drugs after a car and residence were searched in Galway today.
As part of Operation Tara – which is targeting the sale and supply of drugs and related criminal activity in the Galway area – Gardaí  searched a car in the Knocknacarra area. Cash and cannabis were seized.

A follow up search was carried out at a residence in Salthill, where cigarettes worth €70,000, along with €3,100 in cash and a small quantity of suspected amphetamine were recovered.

No arrests were made, but Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.

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