Galway venue fills living rooms with the magic of theatre

By Caroline Spencer

Galway’s Town Hall Theatre is tackling Covid-19 head on and beaming plays and events right into people’s living rooms.

In November 2020, the theatre sold 450 tickets for the stream of the play Tom Crean – 50 more seats than the capacity of the theatre itself.

Venue Manager Fergal McGrath said that although online streaming had its challenges, the team has worked hard to overcome them.

“We had to pivot to the use of digital streaming, to engage our audience and create work opportunities for artists, we are unashamed about that” Mr. McGrath said.

“It was not our first love, but we knew we had to do something…it made us more confident, capable and ambitious” he said.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Slevin

The theatre is currently in the process of securing funding from the Arts Council. The funding will go towards attaining equipment for the recording and streaming of shows and events.

The theatre made a series of videos in partnership with RTÉ Creative Ireland.

The videos tell the stories of nursing home residents in Galway and Longford, reminiscing on the bygone days.

Their stories are narrated by younger artists and reflect on the universal themes of life, time, and ageing. One storyteller was 89-year-old Galway nun Sr Madeline Houlihan. She tells of the time she secretly taught herself how to paint in Achill Island.

Photo courtesy of Fergal McGrath

The production shows how the Irish theatre community are reaching out to people during the pandemic. With all the closures and cancellations, this pivot to streaming and video will offer great support to theatre companies and artists. It is a growing change that Galway Town Hall Theatre, in the words of Mr McGrath, has “become a vanguard”.

The Cúirt International Festival of Literature is the next large-scale event to be held virtually by the theatre. The upcoming literary festival will see author panels held online.

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