Category Archives: Arts

‘Logan’ Review: The final chapter of Wolverine’s story slices and dices all before it

Hugh Jackman in Logan. Photograph: Gamespot

Fans of the X-Men series have been clamouring for a gritty, ultra-realistic and brazenly violent Wolverine movie for many years, and even more so recently considering the success of fellow Fox property Deadpool. In Logan, which is touted to be Hugh Jackman’s last turn as the adamantium-clawed mutant, Fox and director James Mangold have achieved everything they set out to accomplish, and then some.

It is 2029, and mutants have become virtually extinct, with the few that remain seemingly in hiding from their human oppressors. A greying, bearded and dishevelled Logan is living in a rugged outpost near the Mexican border where his primary function is to care for a mentally debilitating Professor Xavier – with the legendary Patrick Stewart reprising his role as the iconic mind-reader for the final time. The Professor requires a lot of medication to restrain his substantial telepathic powers, which Logan pays for through his side job as a limo driver. It is somewhat disturbing to see these archetypal mutants in such a miserable state – it certainly makes a change from Xavier’s lavish X-Mansion in upstate New York.

One of the main story arcs in the film begins when Logan encounters Laura, a powerful young mutant portrayed by actress Dafne Keen who shines in a breakout performance. The girl is hunted by the methodical and frightening half-man, half-cyborg Donald Pierce, with Boyd Holbrook of Narcos fame putting in a superb display of charisma and nefariousness, and he will stop at nothing to bring Laura back to his Mutant Experimentation Centre. At first glance you could be forgiven for wondering why Laura is such an asset to the evil Pierce – but all will become clear around a quarter of the way through as her relationship with Logan develops.

Hugh Jackman has appeared in the X-Men series since its big screen debut in 2000, but for the first time, Wolverine feels mortal. You get the sense that every unsheathing of his trademark claws and blood-soaked battle may be his last, which separates Logan from modern day superhero movies where everyone appears to have an air of invincibility. It is a dark, emotional tale but at the same time an uplifting one. It is the perfect send-off for everyone’s favourite slicer and dicer. You can cast aside many of your superhero tropes and clichés for this one, as James Mangold tears up the rulebook and starts from scratch.

The Positive Impact of the Arts on Belfast City

 

Belfast City Hall – By Naomi Dowling

 

With the increase in funding for the local arts, and with the vast increase in visitors flocking to the city, Belfast knows only too well the positive influence of the arts. But how has this happened? and where can you experience it yourself? Investigated by Naomi Dowling. 

Back in 2012, Belfast City Council announced they would make a huge investment into the Arts, promising £150 million-pound contribution. It was the aspiration that, with the help of the local money and programming, by the year 2015 Northern Ireland would emerge as a city of vibrancy, passion, and talent.

“Some say putting local money into the arts is a waste, but without art you wouldn’t have the artistic enjoyment or the communal enjoyment that comes from this sector. Belfast has places that no other country can offer and its by time they were displayed.”, says Damian Smyth from the Arts Council Northern Ireland.

Now two years on from this goal, this positive progression oozes across the city. More people in Northern Ireland choose to interact with the arts than any other means of leisure combined, 80% to be exact, a vast growth from the 40% it used to be in the early 20th Century. This growth in interaction has thus contributed to the fact that, even with its dark past, Belfast has emerged as one of Europe’s most culturally celebrated destinations, for its history and artistic brilliance.

As a capital city, Belfast is best known for its political art, and it was during the 1970’s that many used murals to portray and express political feelings. However, the change from this heavy political influence to one of urban, colourful artisan cannot be denied. Hence, it will come as a surprise to many, that it is the art’s sector that has helped us to emerge from gloom to glory, in terms of educational, economic, and even political precedents. Hundreds of murals are scattered over the city expressing, not only political ideas but social opinions and peace, through expressions of love, food, and colour.

Smyth says, “Belfast is probably the most famous for its political murals, they are a territory marking, but in the 21st Century there has been a change in art, from heavy orthodox political influence over the last 10 years, to art becoming more open, more socially focused.”

Belfast’s new and emerging street art – By Naomi Dowling

It is this change in artistic vibes that have played a key role in the attractiveness of Belfast City to outsiders. Although, as Smyth points out, Belfast has grown from a dark demesne into greatness due to all art forms, be it film, music, dance. “All the art forms grow at the same time and the same speed in Belfast…and each have a tremendous effect…I think that is because Belfast is a very small geographical place with an intense artistic vibe, this puts pressure on artists to perform and they do not let us down.”

The beautiful aspect about this city is that each of these art forms has a place in the hearts of the community, the exhibitions, art festivals, markets, and visuals that surround Belfast, show the sheer stance of the love for this medium.

Moreover, ever since this surge in funding began, Belfast has also had an increased audience of 16 million coming from all walks, to not only see the art but partake in its creation. To emphasise the nature of this growth, I spoke with high-end Art’s Dealer Charles Gilmore, asking how he feels about the increase of the arts sector.

Listen to Charles Gilmore

This increase in audience for the arts is even more impressive when compared to its large competition against major cities such as London and Dublin. Local artist Emma Colbert, who regularly travels to and from Europe selling and creating her art agreed, declaring that Belfast is one of the best artistic cities she works in. “In comparison to a lot of Europe where I have been travelling to at the minute, Belfast is pretty great for its art. Even the variety of art shops and the number of galleries is a lot more than some of the major places in Europe.”

Colbert went on to emphasis the vital nature of the arts to the survival of this city. “Art will always have a place in society because of its positive impact. Creative people are a vital part of the mix, and their work has always shaped our perceptions…”

Essentially, it is because of this positive artistic growth that Belfast is now considered as a place of excellence to explore for its art culture, against places like London. The city is now set up as a place for alternative urban city breaks alongside the likes of Prague and Berlin.

But if “The visual arts occupy a way of life that only Belfast can bring”, as Smyth, and his fellow artisans believe, where, what and how can the traveller experience the arts? Let me tell you.

For any urban traveller coming to Belfast, the cities Cathedral Quarter is at the top of the list to discover. Mentioned by many other local travel writers, and a short walk away from Belfast City Hall, the Cathedral Quarter is the section of Belfast that gushes contemporary and traditional artistic vibes.

Upon walking into this area of the city you will be taken by the chic traditional architectural structures of the buildings, and the beautiful cobbled streets that would have felt the feet of the late Irish ancestors. Take a moment to look up at the tall steeple of St. Anne’s Cathedral, the magnificent detail, the painted fronts and the traditional arches of the pubs and shops.

Making your way further into the Cathedral Quarter you are hit with the alternative upbeat vibes that Belfast has to offer. Filled with quirky pub venues, try the Dirty Onion, or the Cloth Ear on a Thursday night to hear local bands, and quirky restaurants. However, what’s spectacular about this section of the city is the witty art that is used to decorate the surrounding alleys and walls.

As mentioned, murals have always been a famous part of Belfast culture. The murals are famous for holding much of the political history that went on during the 1970’s. However, there is also a vast amount of new and quirky murals that have made their way onto the walls. To fully appreciate their meaning and comparison against the heavy political, one can book a walking tour around the artistic quarter, where you can learn more about the reasons behind the pieces, and even offers you a worthy chance to use your expensive Canon camera.

Cathedral Quarter – By Naomi Dowling

A little further along the Cathedral Quarter, The Mac graces us, which is renowned for highlighting spectacular local and worldwide talent. Displaying a mixture of photography, film, abstract and fine art, The Mac is an exhibition center for contemporary art lovers, who want to divulge in a freshly roasted coffee afterward. It’s also a space where students from the neighboring Arts College set up laptop and pen to create their own artistic masterpiece, soaking in the vibes of the spectacular artistic inspiration surrounding them.

After enjoying the experiences of the Cathedral Quarter, tour back up towards the centre where, less than a 5-minute stroll away, lies the Ulster Hall. A stunning architectural building that has been at the basis of displaying the best musical talent in Northern Ireland for the past 150 years. This place has been graced with the likes of rock gods, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, U2, Coldplay, to one of Northern Irelands proudest achievements, The Ulster Orchestra, who perform, not only at the Ulster Hall but all around the UK each classical season. Just check out this performance from last season, you’ll be sure to recognise the piece and receive goose-bumps from the spectacular talent.

Why not have a look at the Ulster Hall website and plan your visit around a show of your choice? You will not leave disappointed. If you find yourself peckish after the show just step outside and you will be stuck for choice with the array of swanky bars and restaurants situated close to the building.

Titanic Quarter – By Naomi Dowling

Although, no visit to Belfast would be complete without a trip to the Titanic Quarter. One of the world’s largest urban spaces, the Titanic Quarter covers a 185 acre on the exact spot where the RMS Titanic was built. Hosting a combination of art, history, education, and commercial spaces, excitement, and eye-catching detail surround this area.

The true essence can only be fully appreciated with a guided tour, which is worthy of both money and time. Led around the monument, exploring both the outside and inside of the quarter, the standpoint of the tour must be the virtual reality lift that takes you around the interior of the ship in a sophisticated Edwardian fashion. Next to this has to be the virtual standing screen, where visitors get to peer below their feet at the ocean depths to see the Titanic as she sits today.

To see these places, and more, play the short video below and witness the range of the experiences this city can offer you.

 

Clubs, Drugs and EDM: A closer look at club culture in Northern Ireland

On 7 February 2014, emergency services treated over 100 young people outside a music concert in Belfast. The performer was Hardwell, a Dutch dance music producer and DJ. Small quantities of drugs were seized, Hardwell’s subsequent gig in Edinburgh was cancelled, and the situation was declared a “major incident” by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).

Families across the country, in particular those who had children or family at the event, scrambled for more information as panic swept the nation.

Many of the young people were unconscious and in a life threatening state, as ambulances and police cars surrounded the venue. The whole thing, visually, was striking and reminiscent of what you would expect to see at the scene of some sort of major attack, not a music concert.

Police gather outside Hardwell’s 2014 Belfast concert

This event was one of many that helped shape the public perception surrounding both the clubbing scene in Northern Ireland and illicit, dance music associated drugs such as ecstasy and MDMA.

There was public uproar and mass hysteria, the type that previously surrounded breakthrough forms of music such as punk rock and heavy metal.

But just how warranted is it? Does Northern Ireland really have a problem with illicit drugs in club culture? How do the facts stack up? And what can be done to improve the image of the clubbing scene and, in particular, dance music?

Numbers don’t lie – an assessment of the problem

Firstly, let’s look at the facts. The Department of Health’s 2014/15 Drug Prevalence Survey reports that around 27% of respondents had admitted to using illegal drugs at some point in their lifetime. However, across all of the responses, cannabis was by far and away the most widely used drug.

Contrastingly, 61% of respondents, over three fifths, reported drinking alcohol in the past month, with a fifth of adults admitting that they should cut down. So, from the offset, alcohol appears to be much more widely used than illicit drugs – and the majority of those illicit drug uses are concerning cannabis, a drug that isn’t widely considered to be dangerous.

A very telling statistic is the fact that 13% of respondents said that alcohol had caused them to have relationship or family problems as a result of their usage, while it was only 5% for drugs.

So, statistically, “clubbing drugs” such as MDMA and Ecstasy are grossly underrepresented, while alcohol is very highly represented and leads to many more problems concerning quality of life than any of the illegal drugs do.

The NI Drugs Misuse Database from 2015/16 provides some clarity on these statistics: of those who reported to healthcare professionals for drug misuse, Cannabis was most represented (66%), with Cocaine coming in second (35%), and Ecstasy only accounting for 10%.

So, even when only illegal drugs are considered and not alcohol, traditional clubbing drugs like Cocaine and Ecstasy are still not as highly represented as you might expect.

Research conducted by St. George’s University of London showed that, surprisingly, the top five drug killers in Northern Ireland were all legal drugs, not illegal. So why isn’t there a perception surrounding painkillers, or a crackdown in policy surrounding such drugs?

An inside opinion

It appears that the numbers and the facts don’t match the stigma.

I went to get the perspective of someone who’s in at the heart of the Northern Irish electronic music scene, Belfast-based producer Jamie Lowry, notable for his chiptune alias Casion and his bass music duo Anchorite.

Casion performing at T13 in 2015

I asked him what he thought about dance music’s long term association with illicit drugs and overindulgence:

I can understand the association,” remarked Jamie.

“Drug use and dance music culture have been tied up together for a long time.

“However, a lot of music and art culture can be linked and is linked to drug use.”

When asked about what kind of people are attracted to the clubbing lifestyle, Jamie stated that, “Perhaps it’s that the kind of people drawn to those kinds of scenes are more likely to experiment with illicit substances.

Who knows? It’s very hard to make any kind of definitive statement,” and proceeded to give some advice for club goers:

“I think it’s fair to say that drug use is common at some dance music events but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing as long as people are careful, safe and well informed.”

 Eventually, the conversation turned to drug laws and the current policing regarding them. I asked Jamie what he thought on this front.

“I absolutely think that drugs should be policed differently. I think education and regulation should be the strategy adopted, as opposed to just locking people up because they’ve made a mistake,” Jamie stated.

“Too many lives are ruined for something that doesn’t harm anybody else, and I think it would be safer for society and safer for the individuals using them if drugs were handled in a more calm manner.”

I finished by asking him on his thoughts about “club culture” and the fear that many members of the public have concerning it. “I actually don’t think the majority of the public fear ‘club culture’, “Most people these days have experience either going out to bars or nightclubs of some description,” he went on to say.

“I think, however, there certainly is an element of hysteria concerning drug usage, and there has been for a long time. When you look at alcohol, and you see how much worse it is in terms of deaths and damage caused to society, it’s quite easy to be dismissive of the fear mongering.”

A rapper’s perspective

Another Belfast-based artist, Jasper Waddell aka “Mafya” was keen to share his views and opinion on Northern Ireland’s clubbing scene.

“To a certain extent there is a real association between clubs and drugs, but i think it varies quite a bit. Clubbing as an umbrella term probably means a lot of things to a lot of different people,

“I think a lot of it depends on where you go and who you are with. The nightlife scene is always going to attract drug users.”

Similarly to Jamie, Jasper considers it a matter of fact that drugs and clubs go hand in hand.  In terms of how this affects his gigs and live shows, Jasper made it clear that, “Most of the time, whether it’s a bit of cannabis or pills,  some people need it to enjoy themselves,

“Sometimes its refreshing to do different events and do different things where the crowd is more sober.”

When questioned about the dangers of certain club drugs, Jasper was very clear.

“What saddens me though is seeing young people, and kids around sixteen, taking pills,

“They are dangerous. Coming from someone who knows, they are fun but you are playing with your life.”

“At 16 your brain hasn’t developed. How can you focus on your studies, and becoming a normal young adult, if you’re always getting wiped out?”

Jasper’s words are important for any young person to consider, and perhaps if the young party-goers in Belfast in 2014 had heard the same advice they wouldn’t have gone so far.  On policing, Jasper believes that the police do perhaps need to be addressed differently.

“They (drugs) are over-policed to a certain extent.

Belfast, however, isn’t too strict, and there are far worse crimes to be doing to be honest. There’s a lot more that the police could spend their time doing,”

The topic then came up of hysteria surrounding club and dance culture, and I asked Jasper for his view of whether or not this fear is warranted.

“You know, one person dies from a pill and hysteria breaks out,
thousands of people die from alcohol abuse each year.”

“It’s similar to a plane crash, more people die in car crashes every year but because plane crashes only happen rarely and are much scarier, people tend to be more afraid of planes.”
“As I said, a line needs to be drawn regarding age, but education for drugs is important.”

The bottom line

It becomes clear from assessing both the perspectives of these two figures within the scene, and from analyzing the statistics, that the fear and concern surrounding Northern Ireland’s bustling club and dance culture is very overblown.

“If you are going to take substances which are harmful you should know the right amount, the safe way to take them, and when to get help”

Alcohol and many other legal drugs kill and damage far more people than the illicit drugs which the public fears.  Drugs, while indeed dangerous in the wrong hands, are not the sole problem, and the scene isn’t ready to give them up any time soon.

(Below you will find audio including the opinions and perspectives of several students on this issue, many of whom have had real life experiences involving pills. It’s clear from those I interviewed that the current regime of policing drugs is not working in the eyes of young people, and that greater education is needed.)

 

‘Go Girl” exhibition at QSS Gallery on International Women’s Day

The ‘Go Girl’ exhibition at the QSS Gallery in Belfast was launched on the 8 March, to coincide with International Women’s Day 2017.

‘Go Girl’ is a collective of female artists, musicians and photographers from across Belfast who work together to raise awareness for works by women within the creative industries.

‘Trauma and Triumph’ exhibition

Catherine McLoughlin was the curator of the ‘Trauma and Triumph’ exhibition and a founding member of ‘Go Girl’.

23-year-old Ms McLoughlin, a Fine Arts graduate of Newcastle University, said the exhibition aimed to:

“Give a feminine perspective on how being a woman in Northern Ireland affects the way you live and grow up”.

The works displayed were all original creations and a total of £300 was raised which will go towards the hire of gallery space and promotion of events established by ‘Go Girl’.

The Go Girl exhibition conincided with Intl Women’s Day

Women In the Creative Industries

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On Friday 22nd April three inspiring women hosted an event as part of the Belfast Film Festival, which demonstrated how women are treated and portrayed in this particular medium.

First to speak was Fiona McElroy, the Creative Enterprise Manager at Ulster University since 2006. Fiona founded the Honeycomb Creative Works project, a £3.58m program targeted at the digital content sector across the INTERREG IVA region of Northern Ireland, the six border counties of the Republic of Ireland and the western seaboard of Scotland.

She spoke about the work Honeycomb has done for women in particular. It conducted 19 research reports examining discrimination, bullying and sexism in the creative industries. It also works closely with women who want to either break into or get back into this kind of work. It is a particularly difficult place for young females as it is seen as a predominantly patriarchal occupation and Honeycomb helps them to find their niche. Furthermore, for women who have taken time out from the industry to have children and raise a family, the project works with them so they are not overwhelmed with having to re-join the workplace.

Honeycomb does this by nurturing talent and holds various workshops in order to build leadership skills and confidence as this is a tough industry and one must develop their own identity if they are to prove themselves.

To find out more about the Honeycomb Project please click below:

http://thehoneycomb.net

 

Next to speak was Sarah Edge, a professor in gender and film studies at Ulster University. She jokingly remarked that her course used to be called “feminism” but changed it to “gender studies” so as to attract more male students.

Sarah began by saying that in her opening class she asks her students to go out and ask others what a feminist is. Over the years the answer has gone from an ugly man-hating lesbian, to a ball-breaking career bitch who puts down other women who stay at home, then to a ladette, then finally the modern idea is a woman who simply wants equal rights for men and women.

Sarah gave an audiovisual talk, which explored how feminism has been portrayed in popular films over the decades and how the female role has changed throughout the post-feminist era.

The first films to be examined were Fatal Attraction (1979), Baby Boom (1987), Working Girl (1988), and Pretty Woman (1990). All of these films were released when the idea of feminism was a new concept. Each depict the clash between the new modern woman who is powerful and sexually liberated but is either damaged or un-fulfilled; and the ideal image of femininity which is what men really want.

Then after the year 2000, there were films like Miss Congeniality (2000), Legally Blonde (2001), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and The Devil Wears Prada (2006) which featured women who have to alter themselves in order be successful, find romance, or be happy. Feminism is hinted at in each of these films but the women are not feminist characters even if they first appear to be.

Finally, with more recent films like Up in the Air (2009) and The Intern (2015) there is the introduction of the father figure. In each film the older man teaches the younger woman how be successful and happy in life, which presents the idea that women still need guidance from men.

 

The final speaker of the night was Margo Harkin, an award winning filmmaker from Co. Derry. Her work has spanned across many genres including documentary and feature films.

She spoke in detail about her lengthy career and said she wanted to become a filmmaker after Bloody Sunday as she felt the real stories weren’t being told on screen. Margo explains that workplace was “unbelievably sexist” when she started out and that “women were viewed in a suspicious light by men in the industry”. However, as she and her female colleagues proved themselves in their work it became a more supportive profession.

To find out more about Margo and her projects please click below:

http://www.besomproductions.co.uk/margo.html

 

One of the main objectives of this talk was to open up a dialogue between feminist researchers, academics, and women working in the creative industries themselves. It certainly was a superb demonstration of how far women have come over the years, and also how feminism has evolved in both the creative workplace and the work it produces.

For more info on the Belfast Film Festival please click below:

https://belfastfilmfestival.org

Music Seminar with Modular Maestro

Photo by DIT DJ Society: https://www.facebook.com/ditdj/
Photo by DIT DJ Society: https://www.facebook.com/ditdj/

On the 27th of April the Dublin Institute of Technology DJ Society hosted an analogue music seminar in collaboration with renowned local electronic music artist Matt Flanagan, better known as DeFeKT.

The event, which took place in The Bull and Castle in Dublin, was the second in series of seminars hosted by the group. Members of the society aim to invite a number of artists to share their experience and expertise with those participating. DeFeKT, who has been active in the electro scene for a number of years, was invited to educate participants about analogue and modular music.

Watch one of DeFeKT’s live performances:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1QP56em8EM

 

Entry into the event was free, however, there were a number of collections for the suicide and self-harm prevention charity, Pieta House. There was standing room only during the seminar, as the venue was filled to capacity.

Proceedings began with a modular synthesis workshop, in which DeFeKT gave a live musical demonstration of his improvised analogue sound. Following the musical display, he went on to talk at length about his experiences during his career as an artist. The informal lecture covered a broad range of topics including his own live shows, his knowledge of the music industry, and music production methods. Audience members were then invited to take part in a Q&A session with the artist. Aspiring musicians and music fans were given the opportunity to create a dialogue about the music scene, and to ask for advice in relation to their own careers.

As the seminar came to an end, those in attendance were invited to stay for a number of DJ performances from members of the DIT DJ society. The society plan to host a number of other seminars in future.

If you or a friend are feeling suicidal, or in distress, help is available from Pieta House:  http://www.pieta.ie/

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Photo credit of Pieta House Self-Harm or Suicide Crisis Centre https://www.facebook.com/pietahouse/

Game of Thrones returns with enjoyable first episode

Acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones has returned, with episode one of season 6 airing on Sky Atlantic on Monday night. And while, by no means a landmark episode, ‘The Red Woman’ was certainly a welcome opener.

Job one for producers Benioff and Weiss was certainly to address the cliffhanger they had left us all on at the end of season 5. Primarily, the fate of Jon Snow. When last we watched, the young Lord Commander was subjected to a hail of stabbings, which would almost trump the dying moments of Julius Caesar. Yet this is a series of Red Priests and White Walkers, so no one need remain dead for too long. We now have our answer. For now at least, Jon Snow is dead. Rumours persisted about actor Kit Harrington’s presence on set, but his role has been reduced to that of a tragic, cold corpse. Whether he stays that way remains to be seen.

jonsnow_9possdw

The episode moved us away from the goings-on in the north, and addressed some of the other characters we’d almost forgotten about while wringing our hands at Jon Snows fate. There was a satisfying moment in which Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) were rescued from the Boltons by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). Heading further south towards Dorne, the show reminded us of the violence with which we’ve grown accustomed to with a number of Martell characters killed off.

The show managed to present some humour through moments of miscommunication by Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in Mereen and in a debate about beauty, by members of the Dothraki horde that now holds Danaerys (Emilia Clarke). Yet it was the very end of the episode which provided the biggest twist in the tale.

It was the red woman, Mellisandre who had the last say in the episode. Her loss of faith (after Jon Snow’s death) led us to see her true form. In showing us that she was actually an older woman, masked by her faith, Game of Thrones added another plot twist to its long line of shocks.

melisandre-old

However there is a sense that this episode is more about set-up than anything. Bear in mind that the series has now moved beyond the Books which spawned it. George R.R. Martin continues to be an active presence in the writing, but has continually postponed publishing his next book. And after all, we all know that the show must go on.

george-rr-martin-game-of-thrones

 

Martin has said that he is now putting all his efforts into getting The Winds of Winter published, but for now based on this episode, the Game of Thrones television series is a more than welcome continuation of the fantasy epic.

Stewart Lee Review

stewart lee

“Comedy is the new opera” Stewart Lee quipped at the outset of his new show, referring to his Grand Opera House surroundings. He might just be right too. Lee’s brand of comedy is dramatic, intense and, at times, beyond his audience.

 

Throughout the ninety minute set Lee effortlessly kept everyone laughing. However, underneath the mirth, omnipresent, lay a didactic, challenging style. Lee is unforgiving of ignorance and regularly broke from his set to goad punters (not unkindly) for failing to grasp some of his more cerebral allusions.

 

I imagine that many English comedians may find playing Belfast a daunting experience, there must be something of an internal struggle about whether or not to mention the troubled past and present of the city you’re standing in. Lee had no such reservations:

“Unlike you I don’t live in a culturally divided war zone. I live in Hackney.”

 

The locals rewarded him for his frankness time and again; there was no shortage of spontaneous applause. But then perhaps this was not your average Belfast audience. As Lee pointed out, if all the Guardian readers of Belfast were in the Grand Opera House  who was going to smooth over any pub brawls.

 

Lee’s intelligence is palpable; nothing leaves him speechless or gag-less. When improvising, which he did frequently, you didn’t see the struggle for material register on his face.

 

This comedian’s greatest talent is for building seemingly endless and meaningless hilarity only for the punch-line to hit you entirely unexpectedly.

 

However, the most arresting aspect of a Stewart Lee show is his vitriol. The stand-up’s capacity for hate is far-reaching, no one is too big or too small and he has no fear of making enemies. If he has you in his sights and he doesn’t respect you, watch out: I’m looking at you Michael McIntyre.

 

Lee’s latest show is yet another work of artistic brilliance. But it isn’t for everyone; this is exclusionary comedy for an intelligent, sharp, liberal minority. Lee uses this show to talk about the world as he sees it, his understanding of it and, often, his utter exasperation with it. You can tell Lee really couldn’t care less whether he has universal appeal or not, he won’t put on a front; his satirical meanderings, his irony, his fury are who he is. This isn’t a character, or an act, this IS Stewart Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NHS gets the ‘Stitched Up’ treatment

Stitched Up

‘Stitched Up’ is a topical play tackling relevant subject matter at a time when the NHS is dominating the headlines.

As I collect my ticket at the usually quiet Riverside theatre in Coleraine it is clear from the number of people in the foyer the satirical drama by Northern Irish playwright Rosemary Jenkinson has caught people’s attention. A recognisable face from BBC’s drama ‘The Fall’ is no doubt giving ticket sales a helping hand as Richard Clements plays Aidan, a disgraced surgeon in the touring production.

As the show starts the reassuring beep of a life support machine can be heard throughout the dark auditorium and as the lights slowly build a surgeon can be seen at work through a dimly lit gauze. The stillness of the operating room is established and creates a stark contrast to the, at times, manic action of the following 75 minutes.

Clements plays a surgeon facing unwanted media attention after leaving a pair of scissors in a patient during a rushed surgery. Meanwhile his wife Kate, played by Roisin Gallagher, is distracted by the success of her campaign to demolish Belfast’s infamous peace walls. Repercussions occur when the introduction of a third character lying on the couple’s kitchen table, ”like a Sunday Roast” forces Aidan to make a split second life or death decision.

Making his directorial début for C21 Theatre Company, http://c21theatrecompany.com Stephen Kelly’s style is considered, as staging and technical nuances compliment elements of the script in conveying current pressures faced by NHS staff. At one point the disgraced surgeon stands at the front of the stage facing the media backlash and fielding questions thrown at him from recorded voice-overs playing through speakers in the auditorium.  All of a sudden the audience are no longer bystanders as they become the faces of the public putting the doctor on trial.

The play invites the audience to question the staged elements, the truths, and the fictions behind the portrayal of current issues in contemporary society as the couple’s individual experiences challenge Kate’s belief that, ”All publicity is good publicity.”

‘Stitched Up’ certainly gets a few chuckles but a slight dependency on the use of bad language for easy laughs may offend some audience members.

 

QUB SWOT Fashion Show 2015 a Massive Hit

On the 9th March the annual SWOT Fashion Show took place in the Whitla Hall, in Belfast.

Students Working Overseas Trust is a charitable society run by fourth year medics at Queen’s University Belfast. The students raise funds and take them to the third world when they travel to work overseas during their six weeks summer elective.

The show featured music, dance routines, on-trend fashion, raffle prizes and an auction including tickets to see One Direction. The hosts were Shane Todd AKA Mike McGoldrick and the queen of UTV, Pamela Ballantine.

Pamela Ballantine and Mike McGoldrick

I was so lucky to be there as I left getting my ticket until the last minute, meaning there were none left! My better half did a bit of sweet talking and eyelash fluttering to the organisers and I had a ticket!

As it really wasn’t my boyfriend’s scene and he was snowed under with work, I had to bite the bullet and go alone. I was doing my best “air of confidence” impression until I couldn’t find a seat and had to walk around stopping occasionally to ask “is this seat taken?” Eventually I found space beside a lovely couple who took me under their wing and I could relax.

The event was outstanding and it’s not just me who thinks so! The show won Charity Event of the Year in the Union of Students in Ireland Awards.

Union of Students in Ireland Awards, SWOT Fashion Show wins Charity Event of the Year 2015

The student medics had been juggling rehearsals, placement, lectures and exams since October and it was clear to see the time and dedication they had put in. I can honestly say that the hard work definitely paid off!

The lectures threw some shapes on the catwalk and rugby boys took on GAA boys in a topless dance off. The interval was filled with tasty treats that the medics had baked and there was more than just tea and coffee on offer for those who fancied something stronger to set them up for the after party at the Speakeasy.

The rugby boys take on the GAA boys

The event raised an incredible £32,533 and this coupled with other fundraising efforts will undoubtedly make a huge difference to the wellbeing of individuals overseas.

I am already looking forward to next year’s show and will definitely make sure I get my ticket early. I strongly recommend you do the same!