Beckett link brings 'Happy Days' back to Northern Irish town

Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:22am EDT
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By Conor Humphries

ENNISKILLEN Northern Ireland (Reuters) - The man who brought an opera to Britain's biggest rock festival is using the enigmatic plays of Samuel Beckett to lure tourists back to a town better known for one of Northern Ireland's worst 'Troubles'.

Sean Doran, who arranged for the English National Opera to play "Ride of the Valkyries" from Wagner's Ring Cycle at Glastonbury a decade ago, is using everything from rugby to readings in caves to try to engage the people of Enniskillen, where Beckett went to boarding school a century ago.

A native of Londonderry, Doran hopes the "Happy Days" festival - named after a Beckett play - will help Enniskillen revive the tourist ambience shattered in a 1987 bombing.

He wants to fill Enniskillen's schools, bars and halls with the avant-garde prose of a playwright and novelist who made his best-known play "Waiting for Godot" doubly obscure by writing it not in English but in French

"Beckett's work has become niche," Doran said. "We want to show his work is much more inclusive, embracing than it's given credit for," he said of the Dubliner widely seen as one of the leading playwrights of the 20th century.

Doran wants to challenge the idea that the plays are overly intellectual and inaccessible. "We are little more laconic up here and understand Beckett's dark humor," he said. "Words have hidden weight - as they do in troubled places."

Hundreds of Beckett devotees from around the world are expected to descend on the waterside town for its third annual festival, joining thousands more from around Ireland. But Doran hopes that at least 40 percent of the audience will be locals.

To broaden the appeal, the festival embraces music, lectures and visual arts that inspired Beckett or were inspired by his work.   Continued...