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Festival Notebook: Spiegeltent returns with great line-up

By Jane Coyle

With nearly a third of its shows already sold out and £500,000 notched up in advance ticket sales, this year's Belfast Festival programme is proving to be one of the most popular in its 45 year history.

One of the success stories of last year's festival was the line-up in the mirror-lined Spiegeltent in Custom House Square. This year it is back in place with another bulging programme of cabaret, talks, music and comedy.

Tonight (Saturday) it will resound with some earthy Scottish songs and poetry in the company of Glasgow's recently appointed Poet Laureate Liz Lochhead and her friend, singer/songwriter Michael Marra.

Tomorrow night it is the turn of one of the great exponents of English traditional music, Eliza Carthy, daughter of the legendary Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson. Eliza will showcase original material from her forthcoming album, Dreams of Breathing Underwater. Hardly surprisingly, there are very few tickets remaining.

One never knows quite what to expect from a new piece by the Siobhan Davies Dance Company, except that it will be magic. Davies's latest collaboration with a composer/musician, a visual artist and a fashion designer, has resulted in Two Quartets, which will have just a single performance tonight in the Waterfront Studio.

Every year, the programme at Queen's Film Theatre seems to constitute a mini-festival in its own right. This year QFT is honouring the centenaries of Laurence Olivier and John Wayne. Olivier's Oscar-winning Hamlet will be screened tonight, and the Oscar- nominated Henry V on Sunday and Monday. Still to come are his Richard III and Wuthering Heights.

And another Oscar winner, the director David Lynch, will introduce his celebrated movie The Elephant Man. Tomorrow afternoon, in the company of singer/songwriter Donovan, Lynch will talk about his new book and the foundation he has put in place to help children and teenagers at risk. Both events are sold out.

Cahoots NI is presenting the smallest show on earth, The Flea Pit, to audiences of just 15 lucky people every half-hour in the newly created space of the Little Pavilion in Botanic Gardens until October 28.

And Sean Lock will bring his engaging brand of sardonic, tongue-in-cheek humour to the Elmwood Hall tonight as part of the Magners Comedy programme.

There is one change of venue - Children's Laureate Michael Rosen will now be appearing in the Great Hall at Queen's University this Sunday at 6.30pm, (instead of the Elmwood Hall).

Full programme and bookings: or 028 9097 1197.

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