Belfast’s mini-festival of miniature theatre
These bite-sized helpings give a sneak preview of an emerging wave of independent theatre makers
Ulster Hall, Belfast
The stately, colonnaded spaces of the Ulster Hall have witnessed many dramatic performances over the years – orchestral, political and, of late, even weddings. But few have generated the sheer sense of fun and inventiveness of those produced by Accidental Theatre, which is in the vanguard of Belfast’s emerging new wave of young independents.
Accidental has forged a productive partnership with the Ulster Hall, which also hosts its popular The Biscuit Tin Readings. And it has teamed up with the Lyric for Fast and Loose, in which plays are written and performed in the space of 24 hours.
15 Minutes is a two-day mini-festival of bite-sized helpings of new work from companies from all over Ireland. It’s a mix of experimental pieces, physical comedy, music, dance and abridged versions of work-in-progress.
The first day’s programme brings together a heady combination of dance, new plays and issue-based theatre. Under artistic director and founder Eileen McClory, OfftheRailsDance perform an excerpt from The Dutiful Wife, which examines the private and public role of the political wife. The Red Shoes by Sarah Grochala is a dark, modern-day take on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tale, presented as a musical monologue by Fickle Favours.
Accidental’s contribution comes in the shape of Superhero, a new short play by American Mark Harvey Levine. And Dublin’s THEATREclub present We Can Talk About This Year, created and performed by Shane Byrne and Doireann Coady.
Day two spreads the net wider still, opening its account on a red carpet in the foyer, on to which Dublin company Carpet Theatre explode an engaging mix of music, vaudeville and slick physical comedy called Pierrot 2000’s. The pierrots of the title are white-clad, red-haired, po-faced Gin and Ger, who trade hats, punches and personalities with amazing dexterity, all to the strains of a plaintive button accordion.
The long-established Belfast comedy team Those Who Can’t demonstrate exactly why they have been around since 2001 with a sharply intelligent, impishly observed clip from their new show Thunderfinger, which lifts the lid on the strange world of espionage.
One by one George Smiley, Harry Lime, James Bond, M and a bizarre pair of hit men step forward, each revealing a situation more surreal than the last.
Young Belfast actor Caroline Curran is on a roll and she extends her range in an abridged version of Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History, written and directed by Patricia Downey of Spanner in the Works.
Curran embodies two contrasting women – former Northern Ireland secretary of state Mo Mowlam and death row prisoner Aileen Wuornos – in a piece to be developed and toured early next year.
The evening ends with the cool, stylish singing of Rachel Austin as Italia, a woman whose thwarted hopes and dreams are crying out for the intervention of a strong, powerful man. Enter Silvio Berlusconi.
Entra, Silvio sows the early seeds of a new 1950s-style musical performance, containing witty songs and shockingly intrusive archive footage of the man himself. Naughty, very naughty.