Arts enthusiasts from near and far travelled to Enniskillen to celebrate the life and work of Samuel Beckett, the esteemed Irish novelist and playwright who graced the hallways of Portora Royal School in his youth.

This year’s Happy Days Beckett Festival, returning for its 7th year, once again welcomed world class performers to the island town from July 25 to 28 and showcased a variety of productions inspired by the highly influential writer.

Opening the festival on Thursday evening was the world premiere of New York choreographer Mark Morris’ production of three short plays by Beckett, entitled ‘Come & Go,’ ‘Catastrophe’ and ‘Quad.’

Set in the Steele Hall of the former Portora Royal School (now Enniskillen Royal Grammar School) the audience were submerged into darkness as the first play ‘Come & Go’ began.

Three female characters dressed in long overcoats, one red, one navy and one black, each wearing a straw hat that partially covered their face, walked onto the stage and sat down on a bench. The dialogue was minimal, like the staging, with the movements and actions of the characters portraying the narrative. During the play, a character would walk off-stage, leaving the two remaining characters to interact. On return to the stage, the character would take a different position on the bench. This was repeated for each character, with the changing combination of coloured coats creating a striking visual. The final movement involved all three characters sitting back on the bench as the play had began, but with their arms interlinked as they held hands. As with much of Beckett’s work, the play caused great debate as audience members discussed it’s meaning, each with a different yet interesting interpretation.

Describing the play in his own words, Morris said: “’Come & Go’ is perfect in that the structure of it is like the infinity sign, and the piece, although its very brief, could be repeated infinitely.”

He continued: “It’s very much like the other pieces that I’m presenting, ‘Quad’ and ‘Catastrophe,’ there’s a sort of an infinity that’s implied by the situations of all three of those pieces.”

Over the weekend there was the opportunity to experience the three short plays in different Enniskillen environments including The Regal and Cherry Island.

On Friday night, Portora Chapel, a small attic room hidden deep inside Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, was filled to capacity by fans of both Samuel Beckett and Adrian Dunbar. On old school chairs emblazoned with former pupils’ names, audience members sat in awed silence as Dunbar took centre stage to read ‘Assumption,’ Beckett’s first published story. A single spotlight focussed on Dunbar as he read, highlighting his varying hand movements from clenched fists to open palms, illustrating significant lines of Beckett’s words. Change of pace and dramatic pauses kept the audience hooked on every line of the prose.

Throughout the festival, music played an important role.

Saturday began with a morning piano recital in St. Macartin’s Cathedral by Saskia Giorgini, the winner of the 2016 Salzburg Mozart Piano Competition. During the 90 minute recital, Giorgini performed a number of late works by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and Scriabin in honour of the 30th anniversary of Beckett.

Clad in black hooded cloaks, audience members lined up in single file to take part in Dublin based Pan Pan Theatre company’s site specific, promenade production directed by Gavin Quinn.

With Beckett’s radio play ‘Cascando’ playing through their headphones, the audience were led on a walk through the grounds and surroundings of Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, formerly Portora Royal School. Following the towpath on the edge of Lough Erne, the parade of cloaked figures created a rather haunting visual for those who viewed it from afar. Leading through the trees and foliage towards Portora Castle, the sounds of nature added to the darkly atmospheric music that cut through the lines of the play. Ending back up at the school, audience members removed their headphones and cloaks in silence, still deep in thought as they contemplated what they had just experienced.

Cleverly curated by Sean Doran and Liam Browne of Arts Over Borders, this year's eclectic Happy Days Beckett Festival offered a series of great experiences for Beckett enthusiasts and novices alike.