BY RACHEL CHIVERS
John Ervine’s ‘’ was first performed over a century ago. It is the first of four ‘Tales of the City’, put together by the Lyric Theatre in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Belfast. All of the plays promise to ‘get under the skin of this dramatic city’ mapping out the evolution of Belfast through family stories that will resonate with audiences both at home and further afield. On entering the theatre, audience members are engulfed by the atmosphere of 1907 Belfast: factory chimneys, gramophone music and the shouts and bustle of factory workers distributing handbills about the impending strike. Among all the commotion, sparks fly between Hugh Rainey (Brian Markey) and Nora Murray (Hollyoaks star Karen Hassan). The romantic connection between the two becomes apparent even before the official opening scene and their relationship provides some of the most intimate and sentimental moments of the play.
The drama takes place over several days in the setting of the Raineys’ family kitchen. It is from here that the political and violent elements of the play unravel. We view the plot of riots and violence from the viewpoint of a working class family, and in doing so experience the chaos and suffering at a human level. Touched with occasional wry humour, there is nevertheless an underlying tension which engages the audience. Marty Maguire, in the role of the Protestant father whose son wishes to marry the Catholic Nora, gives a commanding performance which brings tangible anger, fear, and bigotry to the domestic setting, mirroring the unseen political violence in the streets outside.
The poignancy of the subject in relation to recent protests cannot be missed, and the contemporary relevance certainly adds a deeper resonance to this production.
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Students get 2 tickets for price of 1 on Wednesdays, subject to availability. ID required. To book phone Box Office 028 90381081.
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