Friday, November 10, 2017

Quartered: Belfast, A Love Story - walk a mile or two in someone else’s shoes (Outburst Festival)

Sometimes you get very caught up in the problems and concerns that surround you and your family. Introspection soaks up much of your energy and leaves less available to consider others outside your immediate circle. And then you hear something that shakes you out of your revery.

Quartered: Belfast, A Love Story begins inside The Dark Horse on Hill Street. Head in at the allotted time and the four people on the tour will don their headphones and push the start button on their individual MP3 players at the same time to commence the hour long story written by Dominic Montague.

A guide will silently show the small group up and down familiar and less familiar streets. The commentary, an audio essay about love, will refer to buildings and paintings and events along the way. You’ll giggle and realise that the other people around you are enjoying the same wry comment they’ve heard at the same time through their own headphones.

It’s so refreshing to purposely listen to well-crafted words, cut off from other distractions. Neil Keery’s voice is warm and expressive and held my attention.

Quartered feels like being a ghost wandering around the streets of Belfast, inside someone else’s head, listening to and reacting to their thoughts, yet doing it in the company of others. A corporate yet individual empathetic experience.

It’s so challenging to take the time out to walk a mile or two in someone else’s shoes. To realise how the hardly-any-degrees-of-separation in Belfast affects the gay dating scene. How you might worry about your jaw being broken nearly as much as your heart being broken. The pressures around public displays of affection and the perceptible boundaries of where’s safe to hold hands and where’s not. The anxiety of living and socialising on the edge of a city, with venues and streets that feel segregated. Religion looming over attitudes.
“Look straight ahead and you’ll see that Belfast is as straight as that clock over there!”

Space is physical and mental. The gentle walk finishes in The Sunflower Pub with the question of ‘is it so much to want everything now?’ and an appropriate anthem, Arcade Fire’s Everything Now.

While Montague has authored and edited the piece with its references to sights and buildings right up to the last minute, Belfast is constantly on the move. Hoardings that were there yesterday are being sawn apart today.

The change is constant and perceptible, yet in some ways any sense of change is imperceptible.

I found Quartered to be a moving piece of promenade theatre, forcing me to look up from my own horizons to see Belfast as the canvass, the set, and listen to someone else’s story. A beautiful oasis on a cold Friday afternoon. And a triumph for director Paula McFetridge and KABOSH, confirming their reputation of excellence in site-specific works and conflicted spaces.

Quartered: Belfast, A Love Story continues on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 19 November as part of the Outburst Festival. Tickets £8/£5. Booking essential. Bring a warm coat.

As I searched for a link to add to this post, I spotted a relevant tweet that must be from the How to Unexplode exhibition of Patrick Sanders work. It runs in the Artcetera Gallery each day (except Sunday) 11am–5pm until Saturday 25 November.

No comments: