The standout productions in Belfast Festival packed with highlights
And so we face the final curtain... the lights are out around Belfast as the 48th Ulster Bank Festival at Queen’s takes its last bow.
And it’s been a good one, according to festival director Graeme Farrow. The crowds came out, the shows went down a storm and ticket sales went up.
The most successful event was Black Watch, which received standing ovations from a packed house every night.
“It was a triumph, both artistically and in the logistics of raising such a massive set,” said Graeme. “But it was definitely worth it, and I think it’ll be one of those shows that goes down in festival folklore.”
Graeme said the smaller shows were also a big hit, “particularly the Chopin opening weekend, where we had pianos at Central Station and the City Hall, and commuters and shoppers passing by could enjoy his music — or even play some themselves”.
It’s difficult for the man who planned the programme to pick a favourite, but Graeme cites Circa as his personal number one.
The Brisbane-based company is a new type of circus troupe — the performers combine highly-physical acrobatic sequences creating a show that’s stunning and sexy.
“They received ovations just as big as Black Watch. My six-year-old son loved it. It appealed to all audiences, was very accessible and just jaw-droppingly brilliant. That’s as good as it gets,” he added.
He’s already talking to the company about bringing a bigger show to Belfast in 2012.
Although he has a ‘no returns within a year’ rule, Graeme says there’s one show he might consider bringing back next year.
Word of Adrian Howells’ intimate Foot Washing For The Sole spread rapidly this year, and each performance could have been filled several times over.
“It seemed to become almost legendary immediately after the event — there are a lot of people who’d like to take part in that one,” he added.
I’m one of them. But I had plenty of other great things to see — in particular Alan Bennett’s play The Habit Of Art.
It was a joy to see such fine acting in a drama which explored all sorts of themes about ageing, art and abandonment.
Black Watch, too, will remain long in the memory — those young, brash squaddies reading letters from home in a scene which could have been from a ballet. What war means for a group of young fellas from Fife. Outstanding.
Music and song from Joanna MacGregor, Paul Brady, Tony Allen, Kenny Wheeler; a little bit of night magic from Cahoots in Botanic Gardens; applauding a group of naked women at the Waterfront, who danced for joy; watching a woman in red stilettos walk over a man’s bare chest... just some of the moments to be stored in the festival memory box.