Surprise venues for some memorable performances

Adrian Dunbar brings back his acclaimed site-specific productions of Ohio Impromptu on Devenish Island

The Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival returns this year with a wonderful mixture of old favourites alongside new and exciting approaches to celebrating Beckett’s life and work.  
Festival Associate Adrian Dunbar brings back his acclaimed site-specific productions of Ohio Impromptu on Devenish Island from tonight (Thursday) to Sunday and Catastrophe this Friday at 7pm with Frank McCusker and Orla Charlton. 
The Dutch Masters were very much an inspiration for Beckett’s images in Ohio Impromptu and Adrian Dunbar has captured this beautifully in his staging of the work.
Director and filmmaker Alan Gilsenan, who has made such acclaimed documentaries as The Hospice and The Yellow Bittern: the Life and Times of Liam Clancy, has devised a brand-new performance piece based on some of Beckett’s poems on Friday, September 2 at 8pm in the Ardhowen Theatre. The festival will also include a special screening of Alan’s film, Samuel Beckett’s Eh Joe with Siobhan McKenna and Tom Hickey (Saturday at 11am in the Ardhowen) to mark its 30th anniversary and the screening will be followed with a Q&A involving Alan and Tom Hickey,. 
Another Festival Associate, Netia Jones, brings a brand-new staging of Beckett’s short prose piece, From An Abandoned Work, to the festival on Saturday at 4pm and 5pm. Jones, a director/designer and video artist whose work takes her around the world, including the Barbican, the Los Angeles Opera and the Lincoln Centre, New York, will bring her brilliantly imaginative approach to the piece. 
 It will be performed by the Irish actor, Ned Dennehy, who television credits include Peaky Blinders, Luther and Parade’s End and in film he played Tommy in Tyrannosaur and Alderton in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1).
This year’s festival offers the rare opportunity to see Beckett’s only piece inspired by dance. Quad will be performed by Pan Pan Theatre Company in association with Irish Modern Dance Theatre (Sunday at 6pm). Featuring five dancers in a performance that lasts 75 minutes, Quad is as mysterious as anything written by Beckett and the performance will be followed by a lecture demonstration of the piece by Bristol University mathematician Conor Houghton.
As every year, the Happy Days programme includes Schubert’s Winterreise, Beckett’s favourite classical work (Saturday at 6pm at St Macartin’s Cathedral). It will be performed by rising star, German baritone Benjamin Appl (who won Gramaphone Young Artist of the Year award in 2016) and he will be accompanied by the pianist Julius Drake. 
St Macartin’s is the venue also for more Schubert, in the instance his final collection of songs, Swan Song, performed by acclaimed young tenor, Nick Spence and accompanied also by Julius Drake on Sunday at 4pm. 
The free short concert, Precious Little, is back again this year (and the recital will be given by the mezzo-soprano, Ruby Philogene, who will be singing an all-French Gustav Faure programme in acknowledgement of our sister Beckett festival in Paris on Saturday at 1.10pm in St Macartin’s. Ruby has recently been appointed Professor of Voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and will be holding a 90-minute singing workshop (for which there are a limited number of places available) at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School on Friday at 7pm.
The talks programme opens with an introductory talk on Friday at 5.30pm in Enniskillen Town Hall by Kathryn White, a Lecturer in English in the School of Arts and Humanities at Ulster University. She also reveals some details on research she is currently undertaking on the ‘festivalizing’ of Irish writers, of which Happy Days is of course an example.
The talks programme also explores two very topical subjects. With Brexit never out of the news, we explore the importance of borders, the role they play in Ireland and elsewhere. Garrett Carr walked the Irish border and he charts the experience in The Rule of the Land. Kapka Kassabova’s Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe looks at the border experience of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Together, Garrett and Kapka give their thoughts on the future of borders on Saturday at 2pm in Enniskillen Royal Grammar School.
Death and dying were obviously obsessions of Beckett’s but what if you could live on beyond your mortal years?  Writer and philosopher Raymond Tallis considers his own mortality in The Black Mirror: Fragments from an Obituary of Life while Mark O’Connell by contrast looks at humans research into cryonics and cyborgs to achieve immortality on Sunday at 2pm in Enniskillen Royal Grammar School.
The early morning boat rides to islands on Lough Erne on Saturday and Sunday at 8am, where you can listen to an actor reading some Beckett prose, is one of the most popular events in the festival, and it’s back again this year.  

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