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Whale of a time to be had in Belfast

The sign of the Whale, Baby Grand, Belfast

Friday, March 12, 8pm

Here in Northern Ireland, we like our heartbreak to come dosed with a large sprinkling of humour. Straight tragedy seems a bit — well, tragic — to us.

Belfast playwright Jimmy McAleavey knows what his home audience demands, and his new play — set in his home town in bomb-blasted 1977 — promises laughter and tears in almost equal measure.

There should be plenty of pithy one-liners and toe-curling puns, too. For the central character in The Sign of the Whale is Dermy, a war-weary sub-editor who spends his working hours thinking of snappy headlines to signpost the latest terrorist atrocity.

A career based on murder and mayhem has left Dermy (played by Miche Doherty) with a black hole where his heart should be, and when we meet him, he’s on the brink of a breakdown.

Enter upbeat teenager Tony, who still believes the Troubles should be packed up into a kit bag and left in the past. For him, the best is yet to come.

So far so predictable. But what’s this? A killer whale puts in a cameo appearance in Belfast Lough — as big a symbol of Northern Ireland’s past as we’re likely to see on stage this year — prompting our odd couple to take the plunge and search for it, and while they’re there, for a shared future.

The play runs at the Baby Grand until March 20, but if you miss it in Belfast fear not — Tinderbox Theatre Company will also be bringing their production to several other venues around Northern Ireland later this month, including Coleraine’s Riverside Theatre.

Tickets £10.75 & £12.25, www.goh.co.uk

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