Saturday, December 21, 2019

Rewilding Winter Cabaret – a rich potage of irreverent madness to chew on (Writers Square until Sunday 22 December)

The word ‘rewilding’ suggests that something has become tame and is now on the turn. And it’s a good metaphor for the smorgasbord of acts that have come together under the banner of Rewilding Winter Cabaret to delight Belfast audiences in Cathedral Quarter in the run up to Christmas.

The temporary big top squeezed into Writers Square contrasts with the permanence of the stone block Belfast Cathedral on the other side of the road. Both have high roofs. Both had their lights on last night. Both use music and storytelling. Both host events that reflect on issues facing us as stewards of the planet. Both celebrate winter festivals … though in very different ways.

There’s a definite irreverence and a gentle pushing of the boundaries in the cabaret which promises to be “unconventional, environmentally friendly, late night, gender neutral [and] Belfast brewed”. Imagine ‘vegan circus’ and you’ll not be a million miles away from the woke vibe. Punters who bought tickets that included food get a tasty hot cardboard box of vegan goodness from Curated Kitchen to tuck into while comedy songstress Emer Maguire takes to the stage with her clever and entertaining odes to syndromes, class and online love. (Why isn’t she a regular of Radio 4’s Dead Ringers?)

The eco-theme pops up later with Victor McVictor’s energetic exploration of the familiar animals inhabiting the rave jungle, and a Turkey (Cecil McNulty) who somewhat selfishly espouses the benefits of veganism at Christmas and not eating sausages with every meal. Grant Goldie’s contact juggling mesmerises. With Rewilding Winter hosted in a circus tent, it’s entirely appropriate that Suzanne’s impressive trapeze act and Emmen Jude Donnelly silks are part of the cabaret. And given the season, why not throw in Dan Leith’s charity Christmas single and a burlesque Christmas tree (Nuala Rude) that’s dropping more than needles for good measure … even though I’m pretty sure denuding forests is a bad thing for the environment.

The tent is warm, the bar is open, the food was apparently delicious, master of ceremonies Leonie Pony shares extra treats and the sharp edge of her banterous tongue with the audience (poor baldy beardy Ian!) while boisterously introducing the eclectic slate of artists.

Like a rich potage or stew, the Rewilding Winter Cabaret throws together different ingredients and boils them together to create a tasty meal. The thematic linkages are quite loose, and when the artists all come back up to take a bow at the end they could do with a song or a dance to flamboyantly exit the stage. But it’s entertaining and will give you plenty of chuckles and more than a few oohs and ahhs during the 90 minute show before you disappear back into the cold streets of Belfast and rush back off to save the planet from wasteful Christmas shopping, over-travelled brussels sprouts, and trees that have been uprooted merely to cry needles onto your carpet.

Rewilding Winter Cabaret is produced by Three’s Theatre Company in the Tumble Circus Big Top and continues nightly at 8.30pm (doors open 8pm) until Sunday 22 December.

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