Friday, 21 June 2013

Love For Sale at the Belfast Book Festival

Last week was a busy week...
Work, The All Ireland Performing Arts Conference, the kids, Castleton Lanterns, a wee genealogy project and co-producing The Break Musical at Pick N Mix. Somehow I managed to find time to go and see Love For Sale at the Grand Opera House (part of the Belfast Book Festival).  

Adapted from a short story 'Love for Sale $17.50' by Charles Bukowski, Black Egg presented this odd and slightly unnerving story of a man who falls in love with a mannequin.  I'm sure it was a difficult sell, but I like weird things, so off I went, dragging along the lovely Drew Dillon to accompany me.

James Doran tells the story of Robert, (Michael Liebmann) who has always had a thing for dolls. He limits his desires to his sexual fantasies until by chance he meets Stella, standing in the window of a junk shop... 
He offers the owner a price and he brings her home.  This relationship is obviously quite odd, and the audience is slightly unnerved as Robert stands he in the middle of his living room, talking to her and touching her as if she is not an inanimate object.  There is some nervous laughter in the audience and a few baffled looks.  With interruptions from his friend (Ciaran Nolan) and female lover (Jo Donnelly), he hides Stella away so they can't see.  He turns down drinks in the pub and does not want his girlfriend to stay over.  

“...there were advantages – he didn’t have to take her to dinner, to parties, to dull movies; all those mundane things that meant so much to the average woman. And there were arguments. There would always be arguments, even with a mannequin.”

He falls more in love, he dresses Stella up, talks to her, makes love to her. Eventually he realises that he shouldn't be ashamed of her and decides to tell his girlfriend, when all hell breaks loose.  The really lovely thing about the play is the direction by Fionnuala Kennedy and Paul Caddell, which subtly leads the audience's emotions in the opposite direction from where they started.  At the beginning of the play, we are disgusted by Robert's obsession, by the end we are rooting for him.  In the fight with his girlfriend, it's her that appears unhinged, not Robert, even though if this happened in real life, we would all react in the same way she does.  

We were all wondering if, in fact, we all wouldn't like a Stella in our lives? 


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