Belfast by Moonlight

There was a full moon hanging over St. George’s Church on Saturday night, which seemed to be a good omen for the world premiere of Carlo Gebler’s latest offering and the show, created in partnership with Kabosh Theatre Company, had drawn quite a crowd to Belfast’s oldest church.

Kabosh are a company committed to producing original, site-specific work that speaks to Northern Irish audiences. Previous productions have taken place in graveyards, black taxis and the Limavady Workhouse. St. George’s is the newest non-theatre space to serve as their stage.

Marrying Gebler’s unconventional approach with Kabosh’s ambitious, challenging vision has created one of the most unusual pieces of theatre I have ever seen.

A candle-lit St. George’s provided an ethereal background for this eerie piece. The magnificent stained glass is the focal point of the church and the window through which the moonlight (cleverly lit from outside) waxed and waned throughout.

Six actors in silvery white emerged from the front of the church, while a choir of female singers processed from the back; so began this affecting show.

There was no single plot as such, rather each spirit moved forward in turn to tell her tale, interspliced with Neil Martin’s score. Each woman told a story about her life, Belfast and St. George’s. Together they sang of Belfast’s beginnings, the rivers that flowed across the mudflats and the moon that shone down on it all.

Without being at all oppressive the production was arresting and poignant. A gentle stillness spread its way across the pews. This was largely down to Paula McFetridge’s thoughtful and clever staging. The movement of the six spirits was like the motion of the rivers that were so often sung about; constantly swelling and rolling.

The performances were excellent across the board, but some had more to work with than others. Kerri Quinn’s tale of woe was particularly unnerving, as was her controlled, natural turn as a self-interested woman from 60s Belfast.

The success of this production lies in the setting and direction; while Gebler’s script was engaging enough, it was not the prose-like monologues that made this show stand out, it was McFetridge’s style and flair for staging unique, original drama, so firmly rooted in the history of this place.

Eve Rosato

Belfast by Moonlight

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