Wow! What a week it has been for the theatre scene in Belfast. I have been treated to the joy of cabaret in the MAC, been through an out of body experience with Archy in the Grand Opera House and my passion for the power of NI music and arts has been reborn at the Lyric. I have been in awe of the amazing homegrown talent,those born and bred in this small island and those who have adopted us for now, somehow I’m going to sum this all up in one blog post for you dear reader, wish me luck?!
Archy in Manhattan
Let’s start with Archy in Manhattan at the Grand Opera House. A new write by Marie Jones and directed by Ian McElhinney. Archy tells the story of a poet who is reincarnated into the body of a cockroach. It is a play which is one that needs to be seen to be believed! It’s a stripped back production with minimal lighting, projection and levelled staging being the only tools available to the actors. There is nowhere to hide and the direction is clear, the actors literally jump into your imagination. After a few minutes the audience are transported to the New York gutters and high rise buildings in this very intimate playing space. The story is hard to pinpoint a simple plot, it is about Life/death struggles, transcending, broadway rats, baby spiders, a flirty ladybird and so much more. Bonkers, humourous and bizarre but in a really good way! A very talented cast made up of some of NIs best known actors; Dan Gordon, Tara Lynne O’Neill, Abi McGibbon,Michael Condron, Katie Tumelty are lead by the talented and very energetic Matthew McElhinney. This show was only on a short run in the Baby Grand Studio but I’m sure I can see it being reincarnated very soon.
The World Goes ‘Round
My love affair of Blunt Fringe Productions continues!! If you don’t know who these guys are you are missing out. They springboard actors and musicians into fully immersive and quality productions, The World Goes ‘Round is no exception. The audience is welcomed into the Luminaire Club, a cabaret style theatre where drinks are flowing as well as dry ice and twinkling lights. The production itself is a mixture of melancholic moods, complete merriment and frivolous joy with marvellous musicals numbers! Full of memorable music, a few jazz hands and tap steps plus fantastic vocals. It filled me with pure joy! Under Rachel Logan Fee’s expert eye the fantastic cast including Aveen Biddle and Conor McFarlane from Derry and Stephanie McConville from Lurgan throughly entertain. The audience is transported to Broadway via the songs of Kander and Ebb. Highlights; the amazing vocals by Will Arundell on Kiss of the Spider Woman and the ensembles acrobatic performance on roller skates to The Rink. Catch it while you can at The MAC until 15 September.
Based on the BAFTA winning film Good Vibrations (by Colin Carberry and Glen Patterson). This production tells the real life story of Terri Hooley, affectionately known as the godfather of punk in Northern Ireland. It’s the story of a punk music revolution in the midst of the troubles and the stage production in the Lyric is entertaining, thought-provoking and poignant. I’m a little biased when it comes to this production knowing the fabulous director Des Kennedy since uni days but also having had a little bit of extras fun on the film, add to that I’m a punk loving girl from the Northwest so of course this was going to hit the spot. But I wasn’t expecting it to blow the socks off me!
Aaron McCusker excels at portraying Terri with empathy and passion. Accompained by Niamh Perry as Ruth, their love story reduced me to tears at points. This is a casting made in heaven, the relationship of Hooley and his muse is full of ups and downs and this pair have that magic touch to recreate that special spark on stage. Add to this the fantastic multi-talented Christina Nelson, Sean Kearns (amazing portrayal of Peel), Goldie Fawn, Dylan Reid, Jolene O Hara, Nial McNamee and my personal favourite Gavin Peden (I love how quickly he transforms from sneed bank manager to punk) and we have a show easily guaranteed Westend/Broadway success.
A fantastic atmosphere and set, I felt like we re-lived the 70s movement. Rudi, The Outcasts and the Undertones are all represented with pride! And what a homage to the punk legend of Belfast the one and only Terri Hooley!! As the great man says NI is full of talent and potential we just need to remind the rest of the world.
And I think this week in terms of theatre there is no place I’d rather be than home.
Emer D xx