Greater Belfast: tribute to a troubled city
Greater Belfast, a spoken-word gig meets theatre piece, written and performed by Matt Regan, begins with a rumination on sleech, the muck upon which the Northern Irish capital is built, a mix of sand, gravel and boulder clay. It’s a fitting starting point for a piece of theatre that combines the elemental, the historical and the personal to create a stunning portrait of a troubled city.
Regan (aka Little King) was born and raised in Belfast. For him, it’s as much defined by the Undertones as it is the ‘T-word’ – The Titanic, as he quips at one point. He’s a commanding, sometimes disquieting, presence, stalking the stage and wandering up the aisles as he drifts between confessional, conversational asides, verse, reminiscences and song, lifted by the soaring Cairn String Quartet.
History always weighs heavy on his shoulders. He touches on the Peace Lines, the Millies who worked the linen factories, and the bombs. It all culminates in a trip to the Ulster Museum with his father, where he weeps as he looks upon the names of the dead. Here it threatens to come undone; a complex struggle reduced to one man’s emotional response. But it’s impossible to resist the atmosphere, and the sincerity.
Regan situates a deeply personal story – about growing up, bumping around in bands and finally leaving for pastures new – in a grand Whitman-esque sweep of the lives, the history, and the spirit of his subject. It’s Romantic and dewey-eyed at times, but utterly compelling and beautiful all the same.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Greater Belfast is at the Traverse until 28 August.