Spraoi is in the Air!

Eoghan Dalton Reports

It’s time for Spraoi and next Friday the 26th annual spectacular takes to the streets of Waterford for what promises to be another action packed, entertainment filled weekend. With some 200 costumed performers set to be scattered across the city centre for the August Bank Holiday weekend, this year’s Spraoi is going to be one of the busiest Waterford has seen to date.
This year it’s all about BUGS and Mike Leahy, Spraoi’s Artistic Director says that this year’s theme “lets the imagination run wild”
One of the joyful tasks the Spraoi team has had with this year’s theme is how to make the puppetry work, so that the performers can represent insects. “For instance,” says Mike, “The ladybird is a great image but it doesn’t really do a lot [in terms of movement]. So, that’s going to be a band cover and it’ll have this Latin vibe.”
Costume designer Clare Horgan has been similarly excited by getting to work with all sorts of creepy crawlies. “It’s something a little bit freaky perhaps. They’re going to be wild and wacky this year,” she says.
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But it will still be a family event – less the stuff of nightmares, more the stuff of slight disturbance as she tells it. As for just why she’s been so content working with spiders: “They have all sorts of connotations – they inspire fear but they keep down the flies as well. They straddle the pleasant and unpleasant divide.”
There will be plenty of elegance on display too. “I have a very small black widow section, they’re ladies in almost couture outfits. They’re my favourites, I think.”
Miriam Dunne manages the programme for Spraoi and has lined up offerings from nine countries. A debut among these is Slovenia, with a collective called LJUD hitting Waterford for the long weekend. They’ll be performing the Streetwalker Gallery, something Miriam describes as an artistic tour of the city. (According to the festival programme, this will cost €0 to partake in while students and pensioners can avail of a 50 per cent discount)
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One key location for Spraoi will be The Mall, which will host various shows, including acrobats inTarsi on the Friday and Saturday night, a Catalonia-based outfit promising “power games, seductions and manipulations”. “We’ve seen The Mall become more of a centrepiece for it” says Miriam, “It’s such a beautiful space and you don’t realise how big it is until it’s closed off to traffic, and people can stand up at Bishop’s Palace, there’s great sight lines, plus there’s room for four or five things to be happening at once without any sound spill. For street theatre, it’s a fantastic space.”
The organisers and countless volunteers are all hoping for three days that celebrate our interaction with nature. For Mick Leahy, he doesn’t think the core tenets have altered too much in the past 26 years of Spraoi.

“I think the recipe is very similar. You just pack the city with really good music, with really good street acts and energy, then you build it all up to the Sunday night where you do this massive, great parade that’s a celebration of ourselves. We’ve been entertained by people from all over the world for the previous three days, and then on that last night it’s our turn.”

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