Monday, 27 May 2013

Can't Forget About You at the Lyric Theatre Review

It was with some trepidation that I reserved my ticket for Can't Forget About You at the Lyric Theatre. With an 18 certificate, a statement advising of 'scenes of a sexual nature' and half naked photos of Declan Rodgers plastered all over Facebook, it was a show I had to carefully choose a companion to go with.

David Ireland developed this script in his year as Artist in Residence at the Lyric.  My top two shows since the Lyric reopened 2 years ago are 'Brendan at the Chelsea' and 'Molly Wobbly's Tit Factory', both of which opened on the Naughton Studio stage, so Can't Forget About You had a lot to live up to.

In the first few scenes my heart sank as the Troubles were referred to and the stereotypical Ulster mother appeared.  I'm not a lover of 'troubles plays', but I don't think we should rewrite history either.  A story which ignores our troubled society is as misguided as one which showcases it.  With this play however, David Ireland shines a light on just enough of our cultural differences to provide a believable backdrop to his modern day love story.

Declan Rodgers does a fine job of portraying Stevie, a young man of Protestant upbringing who has broken up with his Catholic girlfriend much to the delight of his religious mother (Carol Moore) and bigoted Ulster-Scots loving sister (Abigail McGibbon).  When Stevie finds a new female companion in Martha (Karen Dunbar), his sister is delighted as Martha's background, perceived religion and heritage seem a perfect fit.  That is until she finds out what age she is...

While his God-fearing mother believes in traditional ideas such as marriage before children and staying with your husband no matter what, Stevie is concerned with more relaxed ideas.  Religion is not important, after all he defines himself as Buddhist; you don't have to be in a relationship to have sex, never mind married; and being unemployed is as good a job as any. Stevie doesn't want the traditional way of doing things and his family don't want to consider more modern ideas about relationships and religious tolerance.  But of course his family eventually accept Stevie's choice and he finally realises that he wants the traditional way of living after all.  

This is what the play does best. Yes the script is really very funny, there is partial nudity and bad language and it's lovely to see an audience leave the theatre with huge grins on their faces, but to say that's all this play is about is to do it a disservice.  The tension between traditional and more modern ways of thinking is reflective of contemporary society in NI.   While one section of our community looks forward to a future of tolerance and a less judgemental society, another section looks back to our troubled past and wonders how we can ever move on.

The idea that tradition may in fact have something to offer is served up in a witty way by David Ireland, as is the idea that tradition is not everything. We are so busy fighting for what we think we believe in that maybe we need to realise that we all need a little of what the other side believes in after all.  With a strong cast of fine actors, a well put together script and an enthusiastic audience, Can't Forget About You finds it's place as the highlight of the Lyric's 'Tales of The City' programme of events.

Oh and Wonder Woman makes an appearance...if that's not a reason for booking a ticket, then what is?        

Can't Forget About You runs until 16th June at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Click here to book tickets.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Inventors at the Balmoral Show

I am devastated that I can't make this event.  It looks fabulous.

Cutting-edge theatre company Kabosh, in partnership with Ulster Bank, presents ‘Inventors’, a hilarious series of performances celebrating the history of invention in Ulster.

Need to find a way of stopping amorous cows crashing over fields to get to your bull because 
he’s so blooming attractive? 

Wonder why we love our tea so thick you could stand a stick in it?

Are your cows all moo and no milk?

From Harry Ferguson’s three-point linkage system to Samuel Davidson’s tea-drying machine to Marconi’s radio telegraph – visit the Balmoral show and hear tales of history’s innovators and revolutionaries.

Join Kabosh as they transport you back to the music hall era of the early 1900s, where the city’s most awe-inspiring entrepreneurs are pitching their visions to change the world as we know it.

Written by Carlo Gébler, Vincent Higgins, Seth Linder & Jimmy McAleavey
Live original music created and performed by Ursula Burns
Directed by Paula McFetridge, Artistic Director of Kabosh

There are regular performances from 11.30am - 4.30pm on 15th 16th and 17th May 2013 in the pop-up barn at The Balmoral Show. The pop-up barn is located by the cattle marquee and cattle rings.

Click here to find out more.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Love, Billy at the Lyric Belfast Review

Love, Billy is part of the Lyric Theatre's Belfast season, Graham Reid bringing back Belfast’s most famous family for a fifth installment in the now legendary series of Billy plays.

"Love, Billy sees Billy Martin returning to Belfast after 25 years away. He left without warning or informing anyone and now all of the Martin family are awaiting Billy’s arrival to celebrate their father Norman’s 74th birthday. They haven’t seen Billy in all that time and still have no inkling of why he left. There are family grudges to be resolved and Billy’s story to be revealed, at the heart of which is a man struggling to adapt to a family and city he knew so well but hardly recognises any more."

There are some fine performances, especially from Joe McGann and George Shane who inhibit their characters with confidence.  It was great to hear mention of a relation of mine, Buck Alec and his toothless lion (also mentioned in Brassneck's latest production The Sweety Bottle).  I thought there were some really nice moments of wit, particularly from Ciarán Nolan as Ernie Greer, and from George Shane as Norman Martin, Billy's father.

But in the end, I have to be honest, I found this show difficult to enjoy.  While it did have some nice moments, overall the production is bland.  Some of the words seem unnatural in the characters' mouths, the script could be edited into an hour long show without losing anything and nothing of importance or interest happens.  While the set looked nice, it's angle made it very difficult to hear, as at times the actor's voices were not projected out into the auditorium (I was six rows from the front).  Cutting out the pointless set changes and paring down the repetitive script may have allowed the actors to build up a bit more energy.

At curtain call the actors were clearly expecting a standing ovation when the audience applauded politely instead.  It seems it was a night of disappointment for both them and me.

Love, Billy runs till 25th May at the Lyric Belfast.  Click here to book tickets. I'd love to know what your thoughts are.