Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Belfast Festival: Thespians get taste of life on factory floor

The Festival Dragon 'Tinder' from the Enchanted Garden goes on tour with Cathy Jordan from Dervish and Brian Quinn from Big Telly Theatre Company to celebrate the opening of the 49th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's which runs until 30th October across Belfast. To book tickets visit

If you’re already sick of the glitz, glamour and all-round joyfulness of Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor, there’s plenty to bring you back down to earth tonight on the Festival programme.

We’ve seen a newly restored version of classic Titanic movie A Night To Remember at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, for many the seminal telling of the tragic tale of the doomed liner.

Tonight sees Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio ham it up for the cameras in James Cameron’s Oscar-winning 1997 epic, Titanic.

Refreshments will be on the rocks, but there’s no word as to whether anybody's bringing their own fin de siecle lifejacket.

If that hasn’t sobered your mood, there’s always the new offering from Tinderbox. Guidelines For A Long And Happy Life is a mix of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Greek tragedy.

Ballymoney playwright Paul Kennedy’s work is set in a post-apocalyptic future. A virus has wiped out almost all of the population, and with it civilisation.

It’s survival of the fittest — or maybe smartest — and the guidelines provide a blueprint for living to help those who remain.

There’s always an added frisson of excitement when a new show is performed in a new venue. And here, Tinderbox has opted to take its audience far from our more conventional spaces.

The company has set up shop in Victor Stationery Warehouse off east Belfast’s Castlereagh Road.

“You could say it’s quite a tragic play — there’ll not be too many laughs!” said Kerry Woods from Tinderbox.

It is just the latest in an ever-growing series of site-specific productions which have become a fixture of the Belfast Festival programme, most recently with This Is What We Sang at Belfast Synagogue in 2009, and 2007’s Macbeth at Crumlin Road Gaol.

“The idea is that we will walk the audience through the various staging areas of the play,” explained Kerry.

“We were looking for somewhere a bit rundown and decrepit, nothing too clean. We looked at some venues, old warehouses, that were just too clean, and we would have to spend too much money dirtying them up to make them look authentic.”

As you’d expect with a factory building, audiences are being advised to wrap up warm for the show and bring decent footwear.

“It’s a one-hour show, and they will be walked round two main spaces,” said Kerry.

The challenge will be all the greater for the actors taking part in the production, many of whom will be used to the more comfortable surroundings of a warm and well-appointed theatre dressing room between scenes.

“The building has no heating, or no running water, we are going to have to bring all those facilities in,” added Kerry.

“Obviously it will be challenging to take them out of their comfort zone. They won’t be coming from their changing rooms to find a stage manager telling them when to go on.

“But they are very excited.”

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