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Arts Over Borders presents an amazing line-up across two festivals!


“Arts Over Borders celebrates Beckett and Friel this August”

  • Arts Over Borders presents an unprecedented line-up of film, TV and stage actors across two festivals including Maxine Peake, Imogen Stubbs, Tamsin Greig, Rory Kinnear, Natascha McElhone, Alex Jennings, Frances Barber, Ian McElhinney, cast members of ‘Derry Girls’, Adrian Dunbar, Ciaran McMenamin, Colin Salmon, Sean McGinley and Patrick Bergin
  • Three full new Beckett productions:  The Old Tune with iconic Irish actors Barry McGovern and Eamon Morrissey,  What Where from Kabosh Theatre Company directed by Paula McFetridge and Not I & Pas Moi, an extraordinary tour de force from actress Clara Simpson 
  • Two Brexit Border projects: Three (or more) Billboards Outside Enniskillen & Sligo and Purgatorio: Walking for Waiting for Godot


The first three weeks in August will see events taking place across six counties on both sides of the border – from Antrim to Donegal, Tyrone to Derry~Londonderry, Fermanagh to Cavan – to celebrate the work and socio-political themes of Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett and playwright Brian Friel.

Presented by Arts Over Borders, the 6th Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival takes place in Fermanagh, Omagh and Cavan from 2 – 5 August, while the 3rd Lughnasa FrielFest: Brian Friel International Festival returns to Derry~Londonderry, Omagh, Donegal and comes to the Causeway Coast for the first time, from 9 – 19 August.

Each festival will present events inspired by their respective writer at a range of unusual venues including underground caves, an island on a lake, beaches, the Derry Walls, village halls, a crypt, a roadside, a pier, a PSNI station and the top of a mountain!

Festival curator Sean Doran from DoranBrowne explains the reasoning behind this novel approach:

“Our bio-festival model takes its inspiration from the genius of an artist – in this case Samuel Beckett and Brian Friel – and is curated with a strong sense of place, both rural and urban, to create unique site-specific experiences which enable audiences to explore the artist’s work in new ways.”

The Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival will be the final edition in the border county of Fermanagh ahead of Brexit so programmers have created as the festival centrepiece two experiential Beckett Border projects which audiences will experience in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Three (or more) Billboards Outside Enniskillen & Sligo (25 July – 25 August) is a collaboration with the W.B. Yeats Tread Softly festival which will see works by the two Nobel Laureates – an extract from The Tower by Yeats and neither by Beckett – exhibited on specially commissioned billboards on either side of the border, to be experienced by audiences from their cars travelling at 60mph!

Purgatorio: Walking for Waiting for Godot (4-5, 18-19 August) sees one of Beckett’s most famous works being performed as a reading in the transnational Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.  In this unique production, produced with theatre companies from both sides of the border, half the audience will sit in Northern Ireland and half in the Republic of Ireland.  Actors will approach from either side of the border and the set will feature ‘Tree for Waiting for Godot’, created by Turner Prize winner Sir Antony Gormley.

The 2018 Beckett Reader in Residence at the festival is stage and screen actor Colin Salmon, while Enniskillen natives Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar and actor and author Ciaran McMenamin will offer rare readings of some of Beckett’s short prose works at St. Michael’s Crypt (3-5 August).

Theatrical performances of Beckett’s work include the powerfully insinuated political drama What Where (2-5 August), The Old Tune (1, 3, 4 and 5 August) exploring two men living on the margins of society and Not I & Pas Moi (4-5 August) in which an unnamed woman, visible only by her mouth, reflects on her life in a torrent of words.

Samuel Beckett’s love for music is acknowledged with mezzo soprano Christianna Stottijn performing the traditionally male role of Winterreise (5 August) by Franz Schubert, a French Song Recital with a programme including Ravel and Debussy on 4 August and internationally acclaimed cabaret and vaudeville artist Camille O’Sullivan performing in English and French on 3 August.

The 3rd Lughnasa FrielFest: Brian Friel International Festival – 9-19 August

This year’s Lughnasa FrielFest explores Friel’s love of Homer, the ancient Greek poet, with two special dramatic readings of his epic poems The Odyssey and The Iliad.  Festival curator Liam Browne from Arts Over Borders explains:

“Brian Friel was a great admirer of Homer’s work, reading either The Odyssey or The Iliad each year, so we will be presenting dramatic readings of The Odyssey – a great epic of voyage, shipwreck and homecoming – across beaches in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and The Iliad – the story of the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms – on the Walls of Derry, the city with the longest siege in British and Irish history.”

The festival’s presentation of The Odyssey (9 – 19 August) will take place in a pitched tent on beaches from Ballycastle in Co. Antrim to Narin in Co. Donegal.  It will feature highly acclaimed stage and screen actors including Maxine Peake, Natascha McElhone, Imogen Stubbs and Frances Barber reading from Emily Wilson’s new translation of Homer’s poem (the first in English by a woman), accompanied by Greek food, live Greek music and the crashing of the Atlantic waves.

In Derry~Londonderry from 10-12 August, actor and master linguist Niall Cusack will read five episodes from The Iliad in a military-style tent on a grassy knoll outside the Walls overlooking the Bogside and on different bastions around the Walls, surrounded on the Saturday by the dramatic soundscape of the Apprentice Boys’ marching bands.  The event will conclude on 12 August with a day of community martial sports on the Derry Walls and a soothing concert of spirituals and songs by opera and gospel singer Ruby Philogene MBE, a first prize winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Award.

The festival’s appetite for innovation continues with Friel’s Faith Healer (10–12 and 17–19 August), a daring four-act monologue masterpiece, which explores truth, lies and the mystery of inspiration.  The play will be presented with no director and no rehearsals by sensational West End stage and screen actors including Tamsin Greig, Rory Kinnear, Alex Jennings and Laura Donnelly. The audience will travel by bus to a different venue for each act of the play and will stop for an interval barbecue on Portnoo Pier.

Friel was also a great admirer of Russian culture and the festival acknowledges this with presentations of four plays connected to Anton Chekhov.  Friel’s translation of Three Sisters (18-19 August) will bring together fourteen actors (including Jamie Lee O’Donnell, Saoirse-Monica Jackson and Terry Keeley from Channel 4’s Derry Girls) for a rehearsed reading of this world of deception, disaster and self-sacrifice, directed by Paula McFetridge from Kabosh Theatre Company.

Derry Girls  and Game of Thrones star Ian McElhinney also features in a rehearsed reading of Friel’s Living Quarters (10-11 August), Friel’s first Chekhovian play, directed by former Associate Director of the National Theatre, Mick Gordon.  The play is a family drama about an Irish commandant who returns home to Donegal a hero after a successful UN mission in the Middle East and the scene will be set for the performance by musicians from Turkey and Iran, the Coskun Karademir Quartet.

Based on a theme from a Chekhov short story, The Yalta Game (10-12 August), with Stanley Townsend and Orla Charlton, tells the story of an accountant who has an affair on holiday, while Afterplay (17 August) revisits the lives of two characters from Chekhov plays, Andrey Prozorov and Sonya Serebriakova, who had a fictional existence twenty years previously and features Donna Dent and Richard Henders.

Two of the most exciting contemporary writers for stage and screen – Lisa McGee (writer of Derry Girls – 17 August) and Jez Butterworth (writer of Jerusalem and The Ferryman – 18 August) – will join the festival programme to discuss their admiration for Friel’s work.

The closing recital of the festival (19 August) is a homage to the late Russian operatic baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky by his former pupil from the Ukraine, Andrei Bondarenko, who has been described by The Guardian as “…an astonishingly beautiful voice…on his way to greatness.”


Tickets for the 6th Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival and The Lughnasa FrielFest: Brian Friel International Festival are on sale now and can be booked online at www.artsoverborders.com

The festivals are supported by TS Eliot Foundation and Tourism Northern Ireland, with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, The Department of Foreign Affairs, Derry City & Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council and Community Partners the Nerve Centre, An Grianan Theatre, Fermanagh Herald and Ulster University.


For further information and interview requests, please contact Sarah Hughes, Ava Creative Consulting, tel. 07905 276399, email sarahhughesbelfast@gmail.com