“You coming? They’re doing Brian Friel on the beach”.
It’s too good an invitation to refuse. A fine afternoon, the tide is out, even from afar you can hear Jim McGrath on guitar and Annette Durien on violin.
The audience, many from Northern Ireland, are gathering in an open sided tent, the sand is dry and the mood is buoyant. This really is taking the arts to the people and the way forward, this is Frielfest, part of a festival of works by Irish authors, Beckett in Enniskillen and Friel in Derry and Donegal.
So here we are on Narin Strand in Portnoo Co. Donegal to hear The Odyssey by Homer. There are 24 books in this ‘epic’, our story comes from Book 9.
We settle, a gentle warm breeze and sunshine. A wide and beautiful beach stretching down to Inniskeel Island to the Wild Atlantic beyond. In strides our narrator in a purple Roman toga, on his head a laurel wreath in gold. This is actor Niall Cusack who as usual performs in his bare feet, a grounded man with a rich, expressive voice. He explains that we are going to hear Homer’s words in an adaptation by Stephen Mitchell, one favoured by Friel because Michell ‘got on with it’.
And so did Cusack.
He read the opening in Greek, then in Munster Irish, then in Ulster Irish and then began to read the amazing vivid story of Odysseus and his marauding crew. Zeus blows up a storm so the ships are blown from island to island, to the land of seductive Lotus Eaters, eventually ending up beached amidst the Cyclopes, a rough and uncivilised race of one-eyed giants and their gigantic and blood curdling man-eating leader Polyphemus.
In this rehearsed reading actor Cusack was a delight, his strong powerful voice both storyteller and characters in turn, sending shivers at the fight between Odysseus and Polyphemus.
The Odyssey visited five beaches in Donegal during the run, now it’s the turn of the Fermanagh Beckett Festival which runs over this weekend until 3rd September 2017.