Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Planet Belfast at the MAC REVIEW

Given the amount of money I seem to spend on theatre tickets, I thought I'd have to miss out on this show by Tinderbox.  However every time I opened my facebook profile, someone had posted a photo of Tara Lynne O'Neill on the phone and peering through what looked like fishing line.

Other production shots shimmered with lights and projections and at last, just a few nights before it closed, I bit the bullet and booked a ticket.

Not knowing what the show as actually about stood me in good stead, as a story about a Green politician in Northern Ireland wouldn't really have attracted me.  However I'm glad I booked something I wouldn't usually have attended, as otherwise I would have missed out on what was a really strong show.

Abigail McGibbon played Alice, a Green party MLA who is confident and ballsy, opinionated and volatile. These traits do not make her a likable character and she certainly didn't seem the maternal type despite her impatience to be a mother.  Her husband Martin, played by Paul Kennedy is hiding in the sidelines of her success. He is given a job solely so his employer, Danny from the victim support centre can get her to attend his event.  He is on the wrong end of her short temper on many occasions and when he commits adultery, I guiltily thought she deserved it. I really enjoyed the chemistry between these two actors.  The scenes of closeness always had a hint of restraint about them, normal in this kind of relationship where one partner is always watching for a mood swing or violence.

Conor Grimes as Danny, from victim support, was a revelation.  I think I expected a 'Grimes and McKee' type performance but what we got was a straight-faced character, played with a hint of lunatic. Claire, played by Tara Lynne O'Neill is the beautiful blast from the past who encourages Alice's emasculated and bullied husband into an 'almost affair'.  As with Martin's employer, the only reason why he is picked out for special attention is because he is an easy route to Alice.

The show has a lot to say about our local politicians and their inability to look beyond the small things, and highlights the enhancement and perpetuation of our victim status in NI.  However the thing that works best about this script is that at no point did I actually like any of the characters, but somehow I still cared.  The relationships between a violent bully, an ex-paramilitary/ victim, a feeble husband and a manipulative bitch should not make for a touching story.  It's testament to Rosemary Jenkinson's characterisation that each of these relationships has something to offer the audience. Despite their faults we all recognise ourselves or our family on the stage.  A minor annoyance was that some of the dialogue jarred a little and seemed unnatural coming from a Belfast mouth, but it was only a minor thing that didn't detract at all from the script.  A dark Belfast humour is present throughout and for someone who never laughs out loud at theatre shows, the script made even me let out a few guilty guffaws. For the most part I enjoyed the more naturalistic way the characters' conversed, at times talking over one another, or answering simply with a laugh as they would in real life.

I can't sign off without mention of the set by Ciaran Bagnall.  Beautiful and different, it gave the whole piece a futuristic science-fiction feel which only added to the production.  I would really like to borrow it for the backdrop to my wedding renewal ceremony, if anyone from Tinderbox is reading!




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