Galway International Arts Festival, where dragons roam the streets

22 July 2014

The Galway International Arts Festival is full of surprises. On Sunday night I was returning from a late supper down by the docks and was walking down a darkened street when I felt I was being followed.

I quickened my pace and looked nervously round to discover my steps being dogged by a dragon. This motorised, scaly monster was the property of a French company called Malabar and for two nights had made its way through Galway's thronged streets in the manner of The Sultan's Elephant. I was catching it on its return to its lair and, for the first time in my life, exited pursued by a dragon.

But this most imaginative of festivals is filled with the unexpected. The previous day I had sat in a reconstructed hotel bedroom at the Absolut festival gallery, created from a converted printworks, listening to the disembodied voice of the Irish actor Niall Buggy. The piece, a mixture of monologue and art installation, is called Room 303 and written and directed by Enda Walsh. It confirms, like Ballyturk, Walsh's preoccupation with hermetic solitude and, over the space of 15 minutes, tells the story of a travelling religious salesman confronted by the futility of his existence. I detected a faint echo of Brian Friel's Faith Healer. But, in its haunting power, the piece proved that Beckett is Walsh's ultimate inspiration and that, like his mentor, he is a poet of terminal stages.

Read Michael Billington's fantastic review of his Festival experience here.

This week boasts an amazing lineup of shows and events, for full details click here.