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.
Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road
Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.
This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.
It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.
During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.
Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.
While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.
Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.
Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.
In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.
Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.
“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.
“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.
“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.
The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.
Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.
(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)
New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval
Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.
The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.
“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.
“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.
The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.
Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.
The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.
Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.
“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.
Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.
Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure
Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.
Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.
During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.
A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.
He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.
The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.