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More Than a Flag review: Bandsmen offer up vision of their own heritage

For the group of young men appearing in More Than a Flag, public performances are hardly unusual.

Drawn from three east Belfast flute bands, they are no strangers to displaying their musical talents to the wider world. Yet, as cast members in director Dan Gordon's study of the Great War's visceral significance to certain urban Protestant traditions, they have resolved to go deeper during a three-night stint in the unusual surroundings of Ballymacarrett Orange Hall.

A century on from 1914, Gordon's youthful charges deliver a genuinely compelling brew of songs, poems, music and drama relevant to that conflict.

For the director (himself a native of east Belfast), his project is intended to undermine the notion that this side of the city should be defined by 2012's infamous flag protests.

However, it is somewhat puzzling, given the title, that the eponymous flag should remain untouched throughout.

That said, under the tutelage of Gordon and his high-end production team, the bandsmen excel in offering up a vision of their own history and heritage that is infinitely more compelling than any single, divisive issue.

Focused and well-drilled, if these amateur performers are operating outside their comfort zones, it is not immediately obvious.

The poetry is crisply presented, the songs and music polished.

A number of dramatic scenes - including an impressively rendered group effort based in a war-time Harland & Wolff - are genuinely affecting.

Granted, the continual references to Sun Tzu's The Art of War might jar but, more broadly, this finely-tuned piece feels like a greater success.

Three stars

Belfast Telegraph