Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lanciatore: an everyday household suffering from Wonga economics, set in Medieval Italy (until 17 May)

A young man is ambitious to provide for his family. He could never hope to earn what he needs to move to a bigger house, so he takes out a loan and then foolishly gambles it all away in a bid to grow his stake, leaving his family in peril of losing everything.

Sounds like an everyday household suffering from Wonga economics with society’s obsession for prosperity clouding all notions of sensible saving before spending.

It’s also the premise of Paul Kennedy’s new tragic comedy Lanciatore which sees the eponymous juggler (played by Terry Keeley) in Medieval Italy borrowing from an impatient money lender (Michael Liebmann) to play cards with the Vagabondi and put everything he’s built up for wife Victoria (Roisin Gallagher) at risk.

“Don’t be doing anything stupid” shouts Victoria, a former contortionist and now stay-at-home-mother. They make a sweet couple, one quietly ambitious, the other content and so forgiving. Roisin gets to channel her inner Lally The Scut as she mixes gentle love with emotional frustration and angst.

Three Ragazze (buxom wenches played by Claire Connor, Jo Donnelly and Julie Maxwell) provide the narration, often rhyming their way through extended sections of scene setting and reflection, weaving their lines around and on top of each other. They also play the Vagabondi card sharks [you'd count your fingers after shaking hands with them] and the money lender’s two bailiffs, humorously named Rack and Ruin who ponder “How can he juggle with broken fingers?”

Michael Liebmann alternates between playing the money lender (whose repayment policy quickly boils down to ‘your money or your wife’) and a needy priest who would prefer if confession included some decent sins to get his teeth into.

The cast are totally committed to their characters and the use of masks and accessories prevent costume changes and clearly differentiate the multiple parts being played. The venue – Belfast Circus School – chimes with the lead character’s occupation and his previous work in a circus.

Paul Kennedy’s script has rhythm and is peppered with word play: “I’m just havin’ a giraffe” [laugh]; “Any bin lids?” [kids]. Everyone becomes a victim, even the money lender when the bailiffs decide that he is bringing his trade into disrepute and they call in his own debts.

Lanciatore is a stripped back production that would fit into the back of a small van if Rawlife choose to tour. Niall Rea’s wooden box set conceals actors, props and is easily pushed around and rearranged by the cast to signify a change of location.
“I’m out of time and beyond help.”

Only an hour long, and playing to an audience of 50 or so sitting around three sides of the set, Lanciatore is a well-balanced and pleasing piece of theatre in which the script makes its point and moves on without delay. The ending is the play’s weakest point: it’s hard to build up to an energetic crescendo when the denouement has to be so tragic.

Co-directors Martin McSharry and Patrick J O’Reilly have brought the script to life in a way that’s interesting but not so overpowering that the message is hidden behind layers of choreography or over-the-top acting..

Lanciatore contains live juggling and some strong language. Having played as part of the recent Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Lanciatore is back in Belfast Circus School until Sunday 17 May. Tickets available for £12.50.

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