Arts

Michelle and Arlene road trip drama debuts in Belfast's newest arts venue

Michelle & Arlene, a new play by Rosemary Jenkinson and directed by Richard Lavery, will premiere on August 24 at 12-13 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast

THERE'S a new arts venue in Belfast and it's kicking off it's season with an evening of bedlam and a road trip with political leaders Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster.

The pop-up theatre, 12-13 Shaftesbury Square – located in the disused former Northern Bank – is the new home for local arts companies Accidental Theatre and Amadan who are busy creating a wide range of events, workshops, and performances for all ages.

Events begin with Amadan's staging of Bedlam Bazaar, a new cabaret club night featuring all manner of entertainers, from the weirdly wonderful to the seductively strange. These include harpist Ursula Burns, performance poet Alice McCullough, burlesque artiste Nuala Rude, master magician George Bleeks and Northern Ireland's only Muslim comedian Mustafa Saed.

The following week Accidental are staging Michelle & Arlene by Belfast playwright Rosemary Jenkinson.

Inspired by the Hollywood movie Thelma And Louise, Jenkinson says she penned the play "in response to "the ridiculous impasse" between the DUP and Sinn Fein "that means we have no chance of getting our government up and running again".

Michelle & Arlene is part of a new project called Rapid Response were Accidental ask writers to create a new short play based on an immediately topical issue – that is, written, rehearsed and performed all in around a month.

"Public figures like Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster have to control themselves so tightly in office that something inevitably will give in private – they're almost bound to go wild," Jenkinson says.

"I wrote the play hoping that it would be fun, topical, outrageous, satirical and at times even explosive. The premise is that Michelle and Arlene go separately on holiday to Ibiza but keep bumping into each other – in spite of their initial hostility, it's almost as if they are fated to be closer than they ever thought possible."

The newly transformed building includes a black-box theatre, wood-floored rehearsal and meeting rooms, private and shared offices, an intimate performance space and a book bar. The plan is to rent space to artists for rehearsal and performances and thus foster indigenous talent, as well as attract new audiences and build an evolving cultural destination.

Jude Quinn is one half of Amadan, who have been creating edge and physical theatre since 2013 and next month will be hosting a Clown Lab on the art of bouffon and clowning.

"We are thrilled to be part of the exciting new pop-up theatre on Shaftesbury Square. 12-13 gives us the opportunity to create and perform new work in our own space and continue our popular and affordable training initiatives for local arts practitioners," Jude says.

:: 12-13 Shaftesbury Square is the venue for Bedlam Bazaar on August 19 and Michelle & Arlene from August 24-26. For further information and tickets visit accidentaltheatre.co.uk.

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