Sunday, February 01, 2009

Bully – Richard Fry

This review is a couple of week’s late, but Bully was one of my highlights from the recent Out to Lunch festival in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

Bully, by Richard Fry, Belfast's 2009 Out to Lunch festival

The play starts with Davey sitting reflecting over his life. Going back to his early childhood. Domestic abuse. Incarceration of one parent; the death of the other. Fostering. School. Bullying. Relationships. Sexuality. Coping with a heavy cocktail of life experiences punctuated with a good laugh any time the depression is about to hit the audience too hard. And all delivered from the simple set – just a wooden chair and black drapes – but the actor and author Richard Fry.

It’s only about five minutes into the play that you realise that the play has been written in verse. Every now and again, the short sentences and observations take on a rhythm and even a rhyme as they drive some point and emphasise some emotional state. It’s a really clever and unusual device. And even better, it isn’t overdone or over obvious, so it adds to – rather than detracting from – the play.

Bully, by Richard Fry, Belfast's 2009 Out to Lunch festival

Buried in a set of comparisons around the idea that for every (saintly) Mum there’s a (terror of a) Dad, there was a locally relevant observation:

"... For every Mo Mowlam, there’s an Iris Robinson ..."

Expect tears. Yours as well as Richard Fry’s! And expect your initial sympathy for the character to be challenged as you realise that there’s a cycle of violence and most bullies have been bullied themselves. Powerful drama. Easily the best theatre I’ve seen in the last year. And a lunchtime that I’m still thinking back to and working through in my head. A triumph for the Out to Lunch festival programmers.

Adapted banner for 2009 Out to Lunch Arts Festival

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