Who needs the Westend when we have all this!! (September Theatre Reviews)

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

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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.

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The World Goes ‘Round

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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.

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Good Vibrations

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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!

 

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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

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Theatre Review: The diary of Adrian Mole 13 ¾ at The MAC Belfast

Adrian Mole has opened his diary once again at The MAC  Belfast, as Bruiser Theatre Company celebrate their 20th Anniversary. Sue Townsend’s adaptation with the company is a remount, as the company first performed this tale in 2005 . But Adrian Mole 2017 is fresh and bouncing off the stage full of vitality. Being an eighties child (I was born in 84) I was familiar with some of the book but have to admit I’ve never read the full text but I’m very intrigued to do so now.

The production begins with a fabulous ensemble piece, a song full of 80s flashbacks it’s quick in pace and full of iconic references from the Iron Lady to Meg and Mog. It comes in converbelt form almost like the generation game but minus the cuddly toy. The cast sing with such energy I struggle to see how they are still breathing. The song sets the mood of the tale which is to unfold before us, this is a young family in the 80s on the brink, there are strikes and cuts. Times are hard but people are still plodding on. Women want more than a part-time job and making their husbands tea. The storybook set opens and we are introduced to the main character Adrian who has taken refuge from a New Year’s Eve party in the safety of his bedroom.

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Adrian Mole is a teenager with big plans he is going to be an intellect. He doesn’t understand the fuss and commotion in life, he’s not a fan of school discos or punk but he is a big fan of Pandora. Adrian played by Adam Dougal is an annoying know-it-all, at the start of the production I felt little to no endearment for the character but as the production progressed I found he carved his way into my heart. Adam’s performance of the awkward teenager overcoming life’s challenges, spots and all captures a bit of everyone’s youth, that first school disco, that first kiss, the anticipation and want to be a grown up. He transforms on stage from a grown man to the teenager with ease and gives a heartfelt performance.

 

Speaking of heart, love is a central theme to this production, from the innocent first love of Adrian and Pandora (hearts and all) to the illicit affair with the sex god next door neighbour, which included quite a few flashes of Orla Mullans ample bosom. The five cast members (Adam Dougal,Gerard McCabe,Orla Mullan,Keith Lynch and Collette Lennon) are pitch perfect throughout and full of energy. They play a number of roles to perfection but I was particularly entertained by there backing dancer performances.

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The background of some of the musical numbers contained some hilarious go go dancers, cupids and neighbours twitching at the net curtains to name a few. This is where Bruiser excels in there own form of physical humour no script needed just knowing looks and groovy moves.

Overall the cast are entertaining, enlightening and engaging. The audience lapped up the innuendos and even the substandard poetry and if you don’t fall in a little bit in love with Adrian Mole then you have a heart of stone .

Emer D xx

Ps Congratulations to Adam and Collette (Adrian and Pandora) who get married shortly after finishing the production.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Aged 13 3/4) runs until 7th Oct 2017 get tickets at http://www.themaclive.com.

Then it will be touring across Ireland from the 10th-15th October visiting Ballina,Mullingar,Lisburn,Dublin,Armagh and Derry.

 

 

Theatre Review: Jane Eyre at the Grand Opera House

A classic tale of love, tragedy injustice and poverty retold with some very clever casting, staging and modern twists. Jane Eyre a re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece  a collaboration between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic is breathtaking and inspiring. It capture my mind,body and soul. I weeped, I rejoiced I was on the edge of my seat and I want to see more.

With an almost pounding heart beat  from the start to the end of this production, the modern soundscape (including songs such as Mad About the Boy and Crazy) mixed with a modern multi-leveled  playground set meant that the reverberations of sound coming from the stage  almost become another character in the performance.

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It was visually stunning with great tableau’s and movement pieces embodying every part of Jane’s story. Nadia Clifford maybe smalls in statute but she delivers a performance full of passion and fire. She shows Jane to be inspiring bold and a freedom fighter.

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Tim Delap whom I interviewed earlier in the month  played the perfect handsome rugged but mysterious Rochester. Troubled from the moment you meet him ,I wanted to cry out in frustration at various points of the production just wanting him to breakdown the barrier between Rochester and Jane. Delap for my brought character from the book to the stage with a new level of sincerity, showing Rochesters flaws and his hope.

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Local actor Paul Mundell brought much needed comic relief with his portrayal of Pilot the dog (which almost stole the show with the Belfast audience ) and I couldn’t help but think of a few MLAs in his other role as a fir branded preacher.

Overall this a tight cast, backed by fabulous musicians, the company have put a breathe of fresh air into a classic tale and I adored it.

Got tickets now at http://www.goh.co.uk

Emer D xx

 

Q and A with Tim Delap

Last week I sent out a call on my social media channels for questions to be posed to Tim Delap. Tim will be visiting Belfast next week to reprise his role of Rochester in the National Theatres critically acclaimed production of Jane Eyre.

 Tim has a background in TV popping up in productions including Casanova, Poldark, Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror and has also a varied and vast experience of treading the boards including his performance in my all time favourite  The History Boys for the National. 

I love the questions you sent in I boiled them down to just six. So here are the answers, some made me smile but all have made me want to see this performer at work.

Enjoy….

Q1. What attracted you to the role of Rochester?

Troubled, complex characters are always the most fun to play. Also the chance to be involved in this particular production and to work with Sally Cookson (director) was hugely exciting.

Q2.Rochester is a brooding character with lots of hidden depth. What are you bringing to the character?

A well cultivated scruffiness.

Q3.Jane Eyre is a classic in many readers eyes, what is your favourite piece of literature and why?

I genuinely do think Jane Eyre is one of the greatest. It was so revolutionary and is still such a powerful rallying cry for equal rights. Not only is it a wonderful page turning piece of literature but it actually had a profound political effect…changing societies attitudes to gender. I’ve just finished a brilliant novel called The Power by Naomi Alderman. It’s the Jane Eyre of our times.

Q4. Describe yourself in three words?

Love to snooze.

Q5. What are your essentials to pack when you are on tour?

Good book, laptop, earplugs

 Q6. How would you describe the production to a potential audience member?

Energetic, unconventional and thrilling.

 

Jane Eyre opens in the Grand Opera House Belfast on Monday 21st August-Saturday 26th August. The classic story of the trailblazing Jane is as inspiring as ever. This bold and dynamic production uncovers one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfillment on her own terms.

For further information on the production and to book tickets visit http://www.goh.co.uk.