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Matt McCreary’s hottest tickets in this year’s programme


Michael Palin

Michael Palin

Michael Palin


Black Watch

For my money, the biggest draw of this year’s programme. The play, which follows the story of a squad of soldiers from the eponymous Scottish regiment serving in Iraq, has blown critics and crowds away since first opening at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006. The harrowing and moving play is based on interviews carried out with Black Watch soldiers on return from their tour of duty, and was inspired by the deaths of three of their number in a roadside bombing in 2004. There is the added resonance of bringing a play about the British Army to Belfast, and to reflect this there will be a panel discussion after the show on Thursday, October 28.

Girls’ Model School, Wednesday, October 27-31

Leon and the Place Between

Cahoots NI are no strangers to the Belfast Festival, having performed their special brand of spectacular children’s theatre to great acclaim in recent years.

They return with this magical adaptation of the popular children’s book of the same name, which follows a young boy who visit a magic show and finds himself transported to the ‘place between’ where magicians make their subjects disappear during their acts. The show will be held in a marvellous ‘Big Top’ set amid an enchanted garden in Botanic Gardens.

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Botanic Gardens, until October 17 & October 20-24

Martin Creed: Sick Film

The Turner Prize winning Glaswegian artist just loves to provoke a reaction and this is certain to divide audiences (those who remain in their seats, that is!).

A film consisting entirely of people making themselves vomit on camera should be quite an experience. As Creed himself says: “It is a film of people in pain, trying to do something which makes them feel better.”

Queen’s Film Theatre, Friday, October 22 (incl talk by Creed)

Hit me! The Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury

One of British music’s most prickly and influential stars, the late Blockheads frontman’s story is one of great highs and deep lows. Recently made into a film starring Andy Serkis, his life story forms the basis for this hit play, which is showing for one night only. The play features many of his best known hits live, including evergreen classic Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

Elmwood Hall, Friday, October 29, 8pm

Michael Palin (above)

Comedian, writer, traveller, train enthusiast and, above all, Python — he’s been many things in his long career, and his association with Belfast Festival is a long one.

The amiable Yorkshireman will return to Belfast to deliver a talk at the Whitla Hall, but also to launch a new bursary scheme for drama students at Queen’s University in memory of friend and former Belfast Festival director Michael Barnes, who died in 2008.

Whitla Hall, Thursday, October 28, 8pm

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