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One of the most prolific British screen actors is looking forward to swapping the studio for one of the most unique performances of his career.
Toby Jones has brought to life characters as diverse as Dobby the house elf in Harry Potter and fictional 1970s spy Percy Alleline, and is recently best known for his role in Detectorists.
But, this weekend, he will perform on a boat drifting in the reeds on Lough Erne to read excerpts from one of his favourite playwrights.
Jones will be one of the headline stars of the Happy Days Enniskillen Beckett Festival, which returns to the Co Fermanagh town for the first time since 2019.
The five-day international multi-arts festival runs from Thursday and will also feature Dame Sarah Connolly, Fleur Barron, Tadhg Murphy, Liam Ó Maonlaí and Adrian Dunbar.
Jones will perform readings in the Breandrum Chapel of Rest in Enniskillen on Saturday, and on Sunday morning he will go out on the Kestrel ferry to near Devenish island and drift among the reeds as he reads two sections from the end of Krapp’s Last Tape.
He told the PA news agency he is looking forward to his first visit to the west of Northern Ireland and being immersed in Beckett.
“I’m familiar with working on that kind of programme but what’s fantastic is that it’s Beckett, one of the first writers I ever as a teenager got really into,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to acquaint myself with literature in an extraordinary situation.
“At school I loved literature and acting gives you this great opportunity to experience literature in three dimensions and often to experience pieces repeatedly and to explore them repeatedly in performance.
“That’s one of the privileges of the job – you get to immerse yourself in stuff that you were first enthusiastic about at school, like Beckett, and then you come as an adult, you get to revisit Beckett three dimensionally in movement on stage or here on a boat … who is going to turn that down? What a fantastic opportunity.”
Beckett was born in Dublin but spent several years in Enniskillen as a pupil at Portora Royal School before he went on to study at Trinity College.
The festival is the largest global celebration of the Irish Nobel Laureate, with a plethora of Beckett-inspired performances.
It is celebrating its 10th anniversary and returning for the first time since the pandemic.
Jones urged hearing the author’s work spoke rather than simply reading it.
“All his writing is, in a sense, very direct even if it’s enigmatic, and at time apparently very austere and strange on the page. As soon as you start saying it, it has a chattiness and a directness and often a humour and certainly a humanity. Hearing it often makes it more accessible than sitting down and reading it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jones is set to film a one-off extended episode of Detectorists next month.
Festival founder and artistic director Sean Doran said he is delighted to be returning to Enniskillen after the pandemic.
“After a three-year enforced silence by Covid, we are delighted to be bringing back to Enniskillen its unique and only international festival, Happy Days,” he said.
“It is a truly special festival, attracting not only international names and faces to perform but also attracting audiences from across the globe.
“We are particularly thrilled to be remounting for our 10th anniversary three ‘Made in Fermanagh’ classics of the last 10 years: Walking For Waiting For Godot, Ohio Impromptu and Inferno-Not I.
“These bespoke productions define this destination festival from other summer festivals.
“Not only are they are site specific to Fermanagh – using the beautiful Fermanagh landscapes to heighten the experience of Beckett’s plays – but they involve experiential travelling to the event by audiences whether it is on foot for Waiting For Godot, by boat for Ohio Impromptu and Inferno-Not I is truly unique.”
Bookings can be made at www.ardhowen.com, with most tickets priced from £5-£15.
For more information and the full programme of events, see www.artsoverborders.com.