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Brian Friel International Festival Returns to Derry & Donegal this Month


The life and work of the late playwright will be celebrated with five days of music, theatre, readings and outdoor events

The Brian Friel International Festival will return to Derry~Londonderry and Donegal with a five-day programme of music, theatre, readings and outdoor events, from August 24-28, celebrating the life and work of the late playwright.

FrielFest is part of Arts Over Borders, a new cross-border arts initiative for Ireland – a concept from Derry-born artistic directors Sean Doran and Liam Browne that builds on the success of the Beckett Festival and A Wilde Weekend in Enniskillen. It is run in association with the Nerve Centre.

In this first year, Arts Over Borders will celebrate the relationship between Brian Friel and Homer; it is said that each year Friel would read one or other of the two Homer epics.

Acclaimed Irish actor/director, Adrian Dunbar, will direct a special site-specific adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, presented episodically with food and music on five of the most beautiful beaches in Donegal.

The Odyssey will be recited by actor Niall Cusack and take place on the beaches of Tullan Strand Bundoran (24 August); Narin (25 August), Carrickfin (26 August), Marble Hill (27 August) and Fahan, Inishowen (28 August) whilst in Derry’s Guildhall Square will stand Odysseus’s cunning idea of The Trojan Horse under the Walls of Derry evoking both the Troy and Derry sieges. Over 10 days, sports of fencing, martial arts and archery will take place in the vicinity along with storytelling for children from under the belly of the horse.

Frielfest 2017 will also have performed readings of three great plays by Friel in unique locations across the region: the festival’s signature play, Making History, directed by former Royal National Theatre Associate Mick Gordon (An Grianan Theatre Letterkenny & The Guildhall Derry, 25 & 26 August), The Enemy Within with 10 actors from Kabosh (St. Mary’s Church Knockmoyle where Friel was born, and St Columba’s Church, Long Tower Derry, 25 and 26 August) and a promenade Faith Healer in community halls in Glenties, Portnoo and Ardara ending up at the Highlands Hotel in Glenties, the location of Brian Friel’s grave (August 25-27).

Christopher Logue’s unfinished epic War Music, an account of Homer’s Iliad written over 30 years, will be directed by Conall Morrison (hot on the heels of his recent 5-star Guardian review for his Galway International Arts Festival hit Woyzeck in Winter) in five indoor locations along the magnificent Walls of Derry and involving three actors (24-28 August).

Prior to the reading of Making History in the Guildhall, Dr. Malachy O’Neill, Provost of the Ulster University Magee campus, will give an introductory talk on the place of the play in Friel’s work and earlier that afternoon Malachi O’Doherty and Brian Feeney debate how history is made and the role of traditional and social media in this.

All these events aim to highlight the relationship between artists and the island of Ireland, crossing borders and histories. The initiative is supported by a set of Irish Artist Patrons including Colm Toibin, Fiona Shaw, Eimear McBride, Kevin Barry, Ciaran Carson, John Banville, Lisa Dwan, Lisa McInerney, Nick Laird, Roy Foster and Adrian Dunbar.

Speaking about the plans for Arts Over Borders, Artistic Directors Seán Doran and Liam Browne of DoranBrowne said: 'Now, more than ever, we believe we need to celebrate the great literary heritage of Ireland, which has no boundaries. Over the coming years, we hope to create a major international platform for Ireland to speak to the world, built on the foundations of its writers: a roll call of some of the greatest in the English language.'

Adrian Dunbar said 'Brian Friel, I believe, would be excited to hear of our plans to read Homer’s Odyssey on the beaches of Donegal. It was here after all that he imagined them first, lost among the islands or marching purposefully like Spartans to hold the Gap at Barnes Mor. Niall Cusack will be our Rhapsode in the Tent telling the story, there will of course be music and wine and fires lit. Theatre governed by the tides. I can't wait.'

The Brian Friel International Festival is funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Tourism NI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Donegal County Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, An Grianan Theatre and Failte Ireland.

For full programme visit