Brian Friel and Samuel Beckett festivals bring Hollywood stars to the north and border

Ennisillen native Adrian Dunbar is returning for the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival. Picture by Paul Faith
Ennisillen native Adrian Dunbar is returning for the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival. Picture by Paul Faith

AN unprecedented line-up of Hollywood stars and actors of TV and stage are to converge on six border counties in August for two festivals.

Arts Over Borders are curating the sixth Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival in Fermanagh, Omagh and Cavan from August 2-5 and the third Lughnasa FrielFest: Brian Friel International Festival across Derry, Omagh, Donegal and, for the fist time, the Causeway Coast, from August 9-19.

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.

Featured are actors 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.

Among the highlights is `Three (or more) Billboards Outside Enniskillen & Sligo', 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 from July 25 - August 25)

Festival curator Sean Doran said the festivals will evoke "a strong sense of place, both rural and urban, to create unique site-specific experiences which enable audiences to explore the artists' work in new ways".

The Beckett Festival will be the final one in Fermanagh ahead of Brexit, so programmers have created, as the centrepiece, two experiential `Beckett Border' projects which audiences will experience in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

`Purgatorio: Walking for Waiting for Godot' sees one of the writer's most famous works performed as a reading in the transnational Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.

Half the audience will sit in the north and half in the south, while actors approach from either side of the border with a set featuring `Tree for Waiting for Godot', created by Turner Prize winner Sir Antony Gormley.

Enniskillen natives `Line of Duty' star Adrian Dunbar and actor/author Ciaran McMenamin will offer rare readings of some of Beckett's short prose works at St. Michael's Crypt.

Meanwhile, the Lughnasa FrielFest explores the writer's love of Homer, the ancient Greek poet, with two special dramatic readings of his epic poems The Odyssey and The Iliad.

Curator Liam Browne said The Odyssey's "great epic of voyage, shipwreck and homecoming" will be presented across beaches in Northern Ireland and the Republic, while The Iliad, the story of the ten-year siege of Troy will take place the Walls of Derry with "the dramatic soundscape of the Apprentice Boys' marching band"s

The full programme is available at