Sunday, October 29, 2017

Closed Shutters - opening up street level perspectives of homelessness (Lyric Theatre) #belfest

Andy Doherty’s new play Closed Shutters looks up from the pavement to see life from the perspective of Spark and Ed who occupy side-by-side pitches on a busy Belfast street. Written in reaction to the raised awareness last winter of homeless people sleeping out on the city’s streets, through the pavement banter and voiced frustrations the audience learn about the two men’s individual circumstances and how passers-by interact with them.
“You have no idea who I am”

Michael Condron plays the relatively shy yet sometimes aggressive ‘Spark’ with a barking cough and cold limbs, disconnected from his family and his old life as an electrician, and with a worrying dependency on alcohol. Ryan McParland gives Ed a laddish charm and can do attitude, yet underneath the bravado his confidence is as limited as his life options are checked.

At first it seems surreal for two guys to be discussing the relative merits of different brands of cardboard boxes and how it would fit their personality and boost their begging potential. Yet with hours to spend occupying themselves day and night, it’s no more inane than the kind of conversation that could be happening over an eye-wateringly expensive latte in a coffee shop yards away from them.

Michelle (Adele Gribbon) introduces another angle, a mother who is trapped in an abusive relationship as an alternative to being homeless or reliant on a shelter. After some special moments when Ed and Spark square up to each other, the sensitive yet funny play finishes rather abruptly with a signposted conclusion for one character.

Emma Jordan’s direction of this read-through for the Lyric Theatre’s New Playwrights Showcase as part of Belfast International Arts Festival shuns chairs and lecterns and allows the performers to rest on four different heights of riser, creating the appropriate pavement setting. Andy Doherty’s future drafts may need to correct the steering on the underdeveloped character of Michelle who veers towards being a tart-with-a-heart stereotype rather than someone more complex, and deserve to further flesh out the troubling role rather convincingly played by Marty Maguire.

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