The Baird, the Brave and the 39 Steps in-between!
Theatre in Northern Ireland can be so varied and have so many different purposes and the shows I have seen this week are just scratching the surface, they have been entertaining, cathartic, educational and mood-enhancing so where to start!
Here are my thoughts on Derry Playhouse production of Blood Red Lines, the National Theatres production of Macbeth and Bruiser theatre co-production with the Lyric Theatres The 39 Steps.
Blood Red Lines
“It’s a hard road but we keep on keeping on, The love you gave will never be gone, A hard hard road and there’s young ones coming on, We’ll give them your love to remember.”
Lyrics from Hard Hard Road by Tommy Sands which concludes the emotional haunting but hopefully healing production Blood Red Lines.
This production is part of the Playhouse Theatre & Peace-building Academy, through the creation of this piece participants and the audience are giving a vehicle to reflect on the impact of conflict and engage in memories both good and bad.
The production opens with no set so to speak of but 11 cast members seated in formation, the message is delivered through storytelling and mime, anger, sadness as well as a pinch of humour. We are brought into the normality of life and living in Northern Ireland through the troubles, drinking in bars, getting ready for a wedding, the schoolmaster, the solider, being married and bringing up young children. Punctuated with song, rhyme and a slideshow, memories are discussed and relived. The cast are not actors these are their stories and their tragedies. The message is clear everyone has suffered and is still suffering but the fight for life goes on. Congratulations to all the brave victims and survivors.
The Scottish play has haunted me since being a GCSE student, one of those productions which sparked my love of theatre but not of gore. I suppose that statement comes from watching Roman Polanski’s gory 1970s adaptation through my fingers in my English classroom in the 90’s. But it also grew my love of theatre as I also saw a physical theatre company production of this in the school hall, a large metal pyramid which allowed the players to rise and fall (I wish I could remember the theatre company!) Having this as my only experience of Macbeth I was excited to experience National Theatres production on Tuesday night.
Scottish,dark and brooding NT’s production is a revelation! It brought me back to the Polanski screening with body parts in bags and gruesome beheadings right from the start. A very clever set made of levels, poles and plastic, a modern day apocalyptic feel with an obvious nod to the destruction plastic is causing on the modern world. The witches are weird in description and in sight with almost rhythmic speech and giggles that runs up your spine.
What is that saying behind every good man stands a murderous woman? Kirsty Besterman plays Lady Macbeth with resolve but her sleep-walking monologue is compelling, she is a pale anguished suffering Sprite her murderous alter-ego no more. Michael Nardones Macbeth is a modern action man, who wants it all, his dagger soliloquy is memorable but the relationship between the power-driven couple is a highlight, the relationship is touching and sexually charged in equal measure.
Ross Waitons Macduff brings humanity back to piece through despair for his lost family a beautifully choreographed piece of emotion and Deka Walmsleys porter brings a little light relief with kilt lifting humour. Overall I was enthralled with this production it kept my attention for all of the two and a half hours running time however I thought the conclusion was a little lacklustre but if you are a Shakespeare fan I don’t think you will be disappointed.
The 39 Steps
From tragedy to rolling in the aisles with laughter. Bruiser Theatre Companies The 39 Steps is the perfect anecdote to the howling winds and rain outside, it is a non-prescription mood enhancer, you cannot leave this production without a smile on your face. The cast of four; Hannah Brackstone-Brown, Michael Condron, Michael Johnston and Benjamin Stratton are a finely tuned ensemble, they have perfect comedy timing in this slapstick laugh a minute production.
Johnston as Richard Hannay charms the audience with his good looks, devilish asides and nifty dance steps. Hannah Brackstone-Brown plays all three femme fatales with ease, I particularly loved her Annabelle the sultry spy but couldn’t help but chuckle as she tried to remove her stockings as the blonde bombshell Pamela. However the spotlight should firmly stay on the double act between Michael Condron and Benjamin Stratton, wearing multiple hats literally and playing various characters between a farmer watching his “caws” and a B&B landlady who sounds a little like me on a can of red bull I literally couldn’t catch my breathe between giggles. I don’t want to give too much away as mystery is a key to the humour in this one but if you have a bad day this week book a ticket for the weekend and give yourself a treat!
Find out more about productions at tickets below: