Sunday, January 17, 2010

Out To Lunch – Karl Spain, Brian Keenan, Jane Austen

Out to Lunch Festival 2010 logo

2010’s Out To Lunch arts festival is now well under way. With lunch time events for £5 including lunch, it’s nearly cheaper than grabbing lunch elsewhere in Belfast and you get free entertainment thrown in.

After the free opening show, comic Karl Spain was up on stage on the Thursday 7 January. Ten days later, I remember laughing, but can’t remember any of the jokes.

Brian Keenan at 2010 Out to lunch arts festival

Last Wednesday Brian Keenan took to the stage to talk about his new memoir I'll Tell Me Ma. It was a unusual event, with Keenan spending at least the first half hour talking at length about the process of deliberating whether to write the book, before reading a few snippets.

Keenan sees a difference between history (with its straightforward linear timeline) and memory (which engages you emotionally and spiritually). Despite initially having no memories of his life before the age of seven, he found that they weren’t “trapped in a black box” after all, but could be accessed as he remembered growing up with buck teeth, traced back his relationship with his circumspect parents and walked around Duncairn Gardens and Tigers Bay.

Interestingly, Keenan often uses euphemisms to describe his incarceration in Lebanon between 1986 and 1990 – “ when I was on my holiday …”

Turns out that book ended up being written in a convergence between a place (his childhood streets in Belfast) that had gone and the imminent death of his mother. Keenan was losing the tangible foundations of his life.

He described his mother as being in “the lulu land of Alzheimer’s”. Yet her condition brought her back to her childhood. And after years of growing up with parents who didn’t talk about their experiences, all the history that he’d wanted to know came out in her last months.

Thunder Eagle - as referred to by Brian Keenan at 2010 Out to Lunch arts festival

For anyone reading this rambling post who was there at the event, you’ll remember Keenan talking about “Thunder Eagle”, a stone sculpture that he’d seen as a child and laterally spoke to him (no, not in a literal way!) as he questioned how to deal with his mother’s pending death.

I got a shot of it as I walked back to work. Belfast architecture is full of surprises just above eye level.

Last Thursday was a completely different experience with Rebecca Vaughan’s one woman show, Austen’s Women, rattling through female characters in Jane Austen’s books.

Rebecca Vaughan in Austen's Women at the 2010 Out to Lunch arts festival

With a nearly entirely female audience, and a very simple set, the corsetted Vaughan changes voice and dons shawls and dresses as she switches through thirteen characters in 75 minutes.

I’ve never read (or watched – the modern way to read!) any Austen, and having listened to the show, I’m not inclined to start. But that’s not to detract from the fantastic range of 19th century feminist rants that were played out on the stage of Belfast’s Black Box. A great show, and worth going to hear if you find it on in a venue near you.

With another 20 or so events (mostly musical) still to come, it still merits looking at the Out To Lunch website and picking up a few tickets for some diversionary lunchtime entertainment.


Timothy Belmont said...

The stone carving is on the façade of the Malmaison Hotel on Victoria St, isn't it Alan?

I'll never forget: I was up at the bar there with a work pal when we had the news about the £18m northern Bank raid!

Alan in Belfast said...

Indeed - you win the prize. The carvings are all worth examining.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Alan i couldn't remember what Brian called the carving....i got a photo of it later on aswell!!!