Greater Belfast

August 17, 2016 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✭✩    Evocative

Traverse (Venue 15): Thurs 4 – Sun 28 Aug 2016
Review by Joe Christie

Matt Regan is a true man-of-the-people in Greater Belfast, his moving lyric for a city that could be.

There is something of the elegiac in the way Matt Regan talks about his home. We watch as he gradually awakens from his ambivalence towards the industrious, but pained history of Belfast in a musical meditation that tries to pave over the sleech of the past in search of an alternative Ulster.

Greater Belfast by Matt Regan, featuring Cairn String Quarter. Credit Sally Jubb

Greater Belfast by Matt Regan, featuring Cairn String Quarter. Credit Sally Jubb

Bristling with compassion, Regan, also known by his alias Little King, offers a sprawling series of his own compositions on the people, places and events which contribute to his sense of belonging; these are sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, often somewhere between in mumbled recitative. The lilting score, produced by Mogwai’s Miaoux Miaoux, is performed flawlessly by the Cairn String Quartet. Joining him live on stage, they are making their first foray into live theatre.

Greater Belfast is difficult to categorise and all the better for it. Regan is gravity for the various poetics, songs and observations, as the patchwork format draws out the personal nature of the work. The loose structure allows him to capture the complex relationship we all have with our roots, typically built around a certain quirk and specificity.

boundless charm

All the more impressive then that he walks the listener along this winding path with him. The language and music are an outstretched hand, warm and evocative, with the gentle touch from Simon Hayes’ lighting design drawing out detail in memories of dilapidated linen factories and neighbourhoods besieged by acts of terror.

Greater Belfast by Matt Regan, featuring Cairn String Quarter. Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

Greater Belfast by Matt Regan, featuring Cairn String Quarter. Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

More than this though, it is the everyman authenticity of Matt Regan’s turn which lends him the authority to speak for his home. His boundless charm connects the self-deprecating character of the city with his listeners in the room, bringing everyone together in their common humanity.

If anything, this is the hope for Belfast too. That the scope in this scattershot of stories points to the infinite possibilities of the future. Even if he slightly belabours the conclusion, Matt Regan knows how to build his greater Belfast: by laying the foundations not on sleech, but on the bonds of the human spirit.

Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15), 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Thursday 4 – Sunday 28 August 2016
Daily, not Monday. Times vary: check website for details
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/greater-belfast.
Traverse website: http://www.traverse.co.uk
Twitter: @traversetheatre
Matt Regan website: https://www.reganmatt.com
Matt Regan on Twitter: @rattmegan

ENDS

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