Generational Divides in Belfast
“You’re either gay or you’ve been reading the Guardian!”
It is a tense morning for Matthew (Matthew Blaney) in Belfast. Yesterday was his father’s funeral and today he has to leave for a crucial audition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He’s rehearsing the opening speech from Richard III and distorting his body to show Richard’s disability. But it isn’t working.
David Ireland’s short play Not Now is receiving its English premiere at The Finborough, the pub theatre with an international reputation for new and rediscovered drama. Like the theatre, this play has a dramatic intensity many times larger than its size. In Belfast the past hovers over the present day and permeates modern day life there. And funerals churn up the past.
Matthew has breakfast laid out on the table with a cafetiere full of coffee. His uncle Ray (Stephen Kennedy) has stayed the night, sleeping on the sofa, at Matthew’s mother’s request to get Matthew to the airport on time. His uncle wants to help and talk and Matthew wants to rehearse his speech in quiet.
The result is Matthew’s annoyance at the extra breakfast guest. Ray tries to help and hits the wrong note every time and we laugh. Ray’s comparison of Shakespeare being rivalled by Stephen King, Pet Sematary is the only one he has read, allows Matthew and us all to judge him.
We are wrong. There are family secrets previously unknown to Matthew, one about his father and one, Ray’s heartfelt revelation about himself. The two disagree on how to present the Richard III play with Ray, whose dramatic judgement we have no cause to rely on, advocating that Matthew should use his Northern Irish accent.
Ray asks Matthew to rehearse in front of him. Matthew declines. Ray says, “How are you gonna to do it in front of all them bigwigs at RADAR?” The badinage between the two is a joy to listen to and the writing subtly reveals larger issues about Northern Irish identity and the history of the Troubles. “Everyone’s pretending!” says Ray about the divide between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast, after the Peace was signed.
Ceci Calf’s set has the playing area dividing the audience and at the edges, two large curved boards, covered with gravel, mirroring each other. in between is a small kitchen with table and chairs.
The performances totally convince, Matthew Blaney as Matthew angry and edgy for much of the play and Stephen Kennedy as Ray, kindly and bumbling but with something to offer his fatherless nephew.
We leave the play wishing Matthew all the best for his audition and knowing that this discussion has laid foundations for Ray and Matthew to be closer to each other and we have learnt so much about the difference between being British and Irish.
By David Ireland
Directed by Max Elton
Director: Max Elton
Designer: Ceci Calf
Lighting Designer: Mattis Larsen
Sound Designer: Jack Baxter
Running Time: 50 minutes without an interval
Booking to 26th November 2022
118 Finborough Road
Box Office: www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Finborough
on 3rd November 2022