The Ulster Bank Festival at Queen’s is going for gold this year with a marathon arts and entertainment package of Olympian stature.
Held over 16 days from October 17 to November 1, with more than 60 events and 500 participants, the recently-saved festival promises the best of theatre, dance, opera, comedy, rock and the visual arts.
Film legend Ennio Morricone will open this year’s event on October 17 at the Waterfront Hall. The Italian maestro behind some of the most instantly recognisable film music of the last 40 years will also play on Saturday, October 18.
Other highlights include Cherie Blair, Footsbarn Theatre with a riotous production of A Midsummer Night Dream, 70s superstar Gilbert O’Sullivan, brilliant reworkings of Antigone by Owen McCafferty for Prime Cut and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof by the Corn Exchange, premier visits by choreographers Michael Clark and Wayne McGregor, top class music, jazz, comedy, literature and folk.
The closing concert will be performed by Broadway diva Barbara Cook, who has delighted audiences around the world for over 50 years. Barbara made her debut in 1951 and has played just about every leading lady role from Anna in the King and I to Magnolia in Showboat.
The popular Spiegeltent returns this year, taking guests back to the heyday of cabaret. Situated at Custom House Square, highlights will include the Festival party with Glitter and Sparkle on Saturday, October 25 and Sunday, October 27, where you can dance the night away to music from the 1940s to 1960s.
Carnival, a new work by acclaimed playwright Lucy Caldwell, presented by Kabosh, will captivate the audience as they witness the unravelling events that occur when a member of the carnival troupe tries to escape the Life of Sin.
Fans of theatre are in for a treat with a packed programme. As well as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night Dream, Antigone and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, French company Au Col Du Loup will present their production Score, while 1927 present Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
Dance is well represented with Michael Clark in Mmm... Stravinsky Project Part 2, Wayne McGregor and Random Dance teaming up to present Entity and Paco Pena and his Flamenco Dance Company’s ‘To The Rhythm’.
There’s plenty of music to suit all tastes, including Orchestra Baobab (Sunday, October 19), Elbow (Sunday, October 26), Seasick Steve (Monday, October 27), Martha Wainwright (Friday, October 31) and The Swell Season (Saturday, November 1).
Other performances include Gilbert O’Sullivan, Sean Kane and Urban Hymns.
For fans of opera there’s Debussy’s compelling opera Pelleas and Melisande, presented by the Opera Theatre Company and a wide range of classical shows including the Ulster Orchestra and the Clonard Concert as well as a variety of other shows.
As usual the Magners Comedy package will be well attended with performances by Dylan Moran and Ed Byrne to name but a few.
Among the guests who will be giving talks this year are former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair, Sheila Hancock and the first woman President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.
The Spiegeltent will host a line-up of cabaret acts including Tina May in her tribute to Edith Piaf, while Barb Jungr will sing Nina Simone.
To coincide with Ennio Morricone’s visit to Belfast, the Queen’s Film Theatre will host a Morricone Season, featuring movies such as A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Speaking at the festival’s programme launch, Graeme Farrow, Festival Director, said: “We’re raising our game this year and beyond thanks to welcome increased investment. We aim to provide the best total arts experience in Ireland.
“When you read through the programme ask yourself where else you might find such an incredible array of local, national and international talent. Edinburgh maybe, but where else? This festival is an annual arts and entertainment Olympics. There is so much to enjoy and I would urge audiences to try on something new for size alongside the household names.”
Earlier this year Ulster Bank announced a new three-year sponsorship deal worth over £1m following a campaign by the Belfast Telegraph to save the cash-strapped festival.