Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Festival Audience Award goes to Holy Holy Bus

By Matt McCreary

The curtain may have come down on the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's for another year, but for one local theatre company the applause isn't over, as the Belfast Telegraph announces the result of its prestigious Audience Award 2014.

We asked festival-goers to tell us which shows had their pulses pounding or their toes tapping throughout the packed 17-day programme, which wrapped up last weekend, and they responded in their droves, with votes flooding in for everything from contemporary dance to classical music and political discussion.

But the pick of the programme for audiences proved to be local theatre company Brassneck's new play The Holy Holy Bus, which ran at the Waterfront Hall for 10 nights. The irreverent comedy tells the story of a group of women from west Belfast - played by Stella McCusker, Roisin Gallagher, Claire Connor and Caroline Curran - as they depart on the eponymous bus to tour the holy sites of Ireland.

As they cover the miles, the four women reveal the secrets in their past and their hopes for the future. And, like the rickety bus, God moves in mysterious ways for all of them.

The play proved a big hit with audiences who packed out the venue nightly, including the Belfast Telegraph reviewer, who has described it as a "slice of authentic Belfast humour".

Tony Devlin, artistic director of Brassneck, said the company were delighted with the news of the award. "The Holy Holy Bus has been an incredible, faith-affirming and inspirational journey for the entire Brassneck team who brought this joyous piece to the stage," he said. "However, this award is all down to our favourite bunch of people ... our incredible and loyal Brassneck audience who continue to come to our shows in their droves to support us year in, year out, no matter what.

"I've always admired the great football manger Jock Stein's quote, 'Football without the fans, is nothing'. I like to think that the same applies in the entertainment game and nowhere more applicable than with us receiving this particular award. Theatre without its audience is nothing!" Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson said: "As media partner of the Belfast Festival, and a strong supporter of the arts in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph is delighted to present this award to Brassneck for yet another superb production, which shows the quality of both the writing and acting talent that exists here.

"We wish the company well in its future productions."

Critics' Awards

MUSIC

WINNER: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Mandela Hall

What the judges said:

“One of the most electrifying, inspiring shows of the year, Jones and her band bring the sound of ‘60s and ‘70s funk and soul to life. You don’t get many 58-year-old cancer survivors strutting their stuff in a band. There’s room for only one Jones!”

The judges:

Chris Jones — freelance music writer

Joe Nawaz — Music critic

Andrew Johnston — Musician and critic

DRAMA & DANCE

WINNER: An Enemy Of The People: Berlin Schaubühne - Grand Opera House 

What the judges said:

"Thomas Ostermeier's radical, rock'n'roll revisioning of Ibsen's 19th century eco-drama for the Schaubühne Berlin is one of the landmark productions of modern day theatre. For all of its innovative, experimental staging, there was a compelling clarity to the production. An exciting repositioning of a classic play to the modern day, tapping in to contemporary concerns about many of the themes troubling society today." 

The judges: 

Grania McFadden - Belfast Telegraph theatre critic

Dr Mark Phelan - lecturer in Drama at Queen's University

Jane Coyle - arts journalist

CLASSICAL MUSIC

WINNER: Ulster Orchestra, A Fanfare To Fate - Ulster Hall 

What the judges said:

"Conducted by Rafael Payare with gusto and sentiment, the Ulster Orchestra played as if its artistic life  depended on it, and gave arguably the best performance of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony which an Ulster audience has ever heard.

"The excellent Barry  Douglas also made Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 4 sound refreshingly new.

"A stunning end to festival, and a loud public statement that this fine orchestra must not be allowed to die."

The judges:

Terry Blain - music critic

Philip Hammond - composer and music critic

Alf McCreary - Belfast Telegraph journalist

CRITICS AWARDS

WINNER: Royal Ulster Academy exhibition - Ulster Museum

What the judges said:

"A really well-balanced exhibition this year. The standard is exceptionally high in all areas, including a beautiful multi-faceted ceramic piece, Percepito Memoriae, by Victoria Bentham.

A good standard of work and beautifully presented for a very large group exhibition."

The Judges:

Liz Baird - Art critic

Amanda Croft - Art lecturer

Chris Caldwell - Former owner of the Tom Caldwell Gallery

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