Trevor Conway – Preview of the second Oscar Wilde Festival, Galway (September 5th-7th)

Preview of the second Oscar Wilde Festival, Galway (September 5th-7th)

By Trevor Conway

oscar-wilde-statueOscar Wilde, Lady Gaga and David Bowie – what’s the connection? Well, there could be many, you might say. But, in terms of this year’s Oscar Wilde Festival in Galway (September 5th-7th), the main connection is dress. Like Wilde, the two musicians (I use the term loosely in Gaga’s case) enlisted a flamboyant dress sense to promote themselves, and by extension, their careers. At 4pm in An Taibhdhearc theatre on Saturday the 6th, John Cooper explores Wilde’s use of dress and its parallels with modern celebrities. The talk is entitled Dressing Wilde: Wilde on Dress.

Other events that feature in this year’s festival include a talk about Eva O’Flaherty, an Achill Island resident who claimed to be Wilde’s cousin, and included amongst her friends WB Yeats, Paul Henry, George Moore and Douglas Hyde. The free talk, Eva O’Flaherty: “My Cousin Oscar”, by Mary J Murphy, will be preceded by a short talk from a distant relation of O’Flaherty. Interestingly, the woman giving this talk has appeared in the acclaimed US TV show Breaking Bad.

The first of the Saturday events (all of which are located in An Taibhdhearc) is a panel discussion considering Wilde’s reputation today, more than a century after his death in badly-wallpapered Paris hotel room. The more intriguing aspect of Wilde Today: a panel discussion is whether Wilde’s life has affected his legacy. It could be argued that Wilde’s life overshadowed his work, but some might also argue that his work is read today mainly because of his dramatic life story. Either way, sounds interesting…

A dramatic performance, Lady Wilde, is staged on Saturday 6th September in An Taibhdhearc at 8pm. The focus of this performance is one of the most colourful characters surrounding Wilde, his mother Lady Jane Wilde (aka “Speranza”). A staunch nationalist and poet, Speranza’s close bond with her son influenced him throughout his tumultuous life. Another dramatic piece closes the festival on Sunday 7th at 1pm in the Harbour Hotel by the docks. Kicking Oscar’s Corpse is a recently written piece by established performer/poet Brendan Murphy, and is potentially the event to look forward to most. It concerns the 1918 trial of Maud Allen, who staged a supposedly scandalous play based on Wilde’s play Salome. Allen’s own trial echoes that of Wilde remarkably, with even Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas (aka “Bosie”) making an appearance.

All in all, a wide range of ideas and tastes are catered for in the second year of the Oscar Wilde Festival, Galway. It’s also good to see Wilde’s homosexuality being addressed to some degree by the inclusion of fashion stylist, and Ireland’s first openly gay TV presenter, Brendan Courtney, who will launch the festival. Of course, Courtney’s appearance is also apt considering the focus on dress. As Wilde’s sexuality was obviously very influential on his life and work, it would be good to see it addressed more directly in future editions of the festival. For now, though, the Oscar Wilde Festival, Galway is going from strength to strength.

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