Beyond the Pale: Kilkenny Arts Festival X

Each week, Stage Door Live’s Associate Producer Janice de Bróithe takes a look at theatre Beyond The Pale. Fresh home from a staycation in Cork, Janice looks at The Kilkenny Arts Festival 2020.
Kilkenny Arts Festival 2019

Each week, Stage Door Live’s Associate Producer Janice de Bróithe takes a look at theatre Beyond The Pale.

I come to you this week, dear readers, fresh from my ‘staycation’ to my second home, the People’s Republic of Cork. It was definitely a different kind of a holiday, but an enjoyable nonetheless.


Visiting Cork Opera House

I would highly recommend a trip out to Spike Island for any of you history nerds out there. I did also visit the Cork Opera House, just to, you know, stand outside it and make sure the building was still there.

On returning home, I was incredibly excited to delve into the subject of this week’s blog: Kilkenny Arts Festival X.


Like everything else, the Kilkenny Arts Festival was put on indefinite hold earlier in the year, but in July,  the incredible team in the Marble City announced a brilliant programme of events. With a good mix of live and digital happenings, the programme has something for everyone. Here are my personal highlights.

Kilkenny Arts Festival X


This is a real play, happening in a real theatre. That alone, to an extent, makes it quite exciting, but of course there is more to it than that. The festival in association with Rough Magic and in association with the Watergate Theatre bring Mike McCormack’s stunning novel to the stage in a new adaptation by Michael West. The story follows Marcus Conway (Stanley Townsend) as he returns home to his kitchen in Louisburgh Co. Mayo. Though everything seems normal, he is haunted by the feeling that nothing is quite right.

Directed by Lynne Parker, Solar Bones runs from Thursday 13th – Sunday 16th August (previews 11th & 12th). Due to current restrictions, the numbers are strictly limited and all performances are currently sold out, (I myself was not organised enough to bag a ticket for this) however there is a waiting list in operation. For more information, click HERE.




The Return Of Ulysses

Now this event is something of a throwback, having originally been performed in The Watergate Theatre back in 2018. (Oh, a simpler time!). Opera Collective Ireland and Kilkenny Arts Festival are delighted to (re) present The Return of Ulysses online for all to enjoy throughout the festival until the 16th August.  Based on Homer’s epic, this story takes place ten years later as Ulysses makes his way home to his wife Penelope. This production was the first ever staging in Ireland of Monteverdi’s operatic masterpiece. It was directed by Tony Award-winning Patrick Mason and featured one of the world’s most acclaimed early music ensembles, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, conducted by Christian Curnyn. For more information, click HERE.



I have always been a fan of Crash Ensemble so I am incredibly excited for this collaboration with Sam Perkins. Sam is one of Ireland’s most exciting young composers who happens to also love skateboarding. For this project, he has fused both his passions together to create a mesmerising film, following a skateboarder on his urban exploration in the dark of the night. The film was shot and edited by skate photographer and videographers Niall O’Byrne and Sam Curtain, while Crash Ensemble perform Sam Perkin’s original score. The film is being shown throughout the festival in The Butler Gallery. It is free, but due to restrictions, ticketed. You can find more information HERE.


Secret Music Series

Another wonderfully free and accessible to all online event. The Secret Garden Music Series is one of the most popular events of the festival every year. This year, it returns in a new guise, with leading Irish musicians performing short concerts in stunning locations all across Kilkenny. They are being filmed, and released online every day across the festival. Performers include Siobhan Armstrong, Mick McAuley, Laoise O’Brien and Malcom Proud. What a lovely interlude for your day. You can find everything you need HERE.


There is so much packed into this festival, it was hard to pick my highlights, so here are my honourable mentions:

THE BLOODS – Leading photographer Amelia Stein presents this exhibition of stunning black and white images representing the men and women based in James Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny. More information HERE.

CONNECTED –  A unique outdoor exhibition experience and sculpture trail featuring 30 works by over 20 artists, designers and craftspeople. Beginning at the National Design & Craft Gallery, the trail leads you through the city’s key cultural and historic sites along Kilkenny’s Medieval mile. More information HERE.

COVID-19 APRIL DIARY – Presented by artist Helen Comerford, this is a series of artworks created throughout April, charting the progress of the virus. More information HERE.

I take my hat off to Olga Barry and the rest of the Kilkenny Arts Festival team. They have managed to create a brilliant and engaging festival which more than honours the festival’s reputation as one of the best in the country. You can find the full programme of events HERE.

I am so lucky to live so close that I will be able to get to some of the events myself, but if you don’t, there’s plenty of online content to feast your eyes on, or you could always consider your own ‘staycation’ in Kilkenny.

Now, how much do you think I’d need to bribe someone for their ticket to Solar Bones?





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