Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Theatre: BB? Shaw-ly not

Few of us would compare the works of George Bernard Shaw with the shenanigans on Big Brother. But that's exactly how the Lyric Theatre is describing its forthcoming production of Arms and the Man, which opens on Tuesday.

One of Shaw's most glittering comedies, Arms and the Man is usually considered the perfect parody of Victorian chivalry and attitudes to love, war and empire.

One of Shaw's most glittering comedies, Arms and the Man is usually considered the perfect parody of Victorian chivalry and attitudes to love, war and empire.

Headstrong heroine Raina offers shelter to the soft-centred soldier Captain Blotchily - unknown to her gallant fiance, Major Saranoff.

Director Richard Croxford believes the drama is still fresh because the story - and the characters - are still relevant today. "Love and war are always likely to be with us," he said.

"It's easy to look at the characters and relate their behaviour to, for example, the housemates from Big Brother."

Raina, for example, is not unlike housemate Nikki, who spent many weeks stamping her feet and throwing tantrums while trying to discover her inner self.

"Arms and the Man is about certain people looking for their place in society," said Richard. "I think the Big Brother analogy sums up the play perfectly."

This fresh take on Shaw's classic will feature a rather more stable cast than the fame-seeking wannabes from the Big Brother house.

Richard Orr, Libby Smyth, Niki Doherty and Frankie McCafferty will share the stage with newcomers Matt McArdle and Karen Hassan. Will they manage to bring Shaw bang up to date? Who knows? You decide.

Another play with a military theme opens for business next week, when the Millennium Forum hosts Martin McDonagh's outrageously dark The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Described (pretty accurately) as 'Father Ted meets Reservoir Dogs', the drama unfolds in McDonagh's favourite setting of the West of Ireland.

It all centres around Padraic, a freedom fighter with a soft spot for his cat Thomas. When Tom is found dead in the road, Donny and Davey do anything they can to stop the psychopathic Padraic from finding out.

With a cast including John Olohan, Joe Hanley, Diarmuid de Faoite and Andy Kellegher, The Lieutenant of Inishowen promises one of the darkest - and funniest - nights of theatre you'll ever see.

If only it were easy to write a box-office success like that. But help is at hand for aspiring dramatists, thanks to Tinderbox Theatre Company's series of weekend workshops, which explore all aspects of writing for the stage.

On September 23, the company is offering a double bill of classes, which will be opened by Jonathan Meth of Writernet. He'll offer insights and advice on building a career as a playwright.

There'll be discussions on the theme of identity and perceptions of censorship and how they affect writing, in Playwrights in Context.

And the series concludes on October 7 and 8 with talks from Stephen Wright of the BBC and TV and film and stage writer Tim Loane, who will offer advice to writers interested in a talk called Stage and Screen.

There are still a couple of places left for these events, which are free. Writers can book their slot by contacting Tinderbox's Hanna Slattne on 9043 9313 or logging on to hanna.slattne@tinderbox.org.uk. Next stop the National!



GRANIA McFADDEN

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