You might think ‘uniqueness’ is a good thing, artistically. But critic, David Lodge, once said, great books come from other books. It’s about continuity, a kind of cultural Repair Shop. Yet one of our greatest playwrights, David Ireland, whose output is so startlingly original it knocks your critical socks off, has a new illustration of the opposite argument.
Take Cyprus Avenue, a play I reviewed at The MAC in 2016. The conceit involving our main character, delusionally imagining the baby he’s cradling is the reincarnation of Gerry Adams, is memorable. Also hilarious and terrifying. Ireland, who was originally an actor and is now based in Glasgow, has brought his play Not Now to Belfast. Identity is one of his big themes – remember Sadie, the play delivered on BBC Four by the Lyric Theatre? In Not Now, at The MAC until Friday May 5, we meet a guy heading for London after burying his dad, talking to his plasterer uncle who thinks he should stay to retain his Irishness.
So where does inspiration come from? Rosemary Jenkinson, pictured, another stellar playwright, has been visiting war-torn Ukraine since the middle of the conflict. She has penned excellent reports from the frontline and is somebody who maybe slightly relishes danger.
She reports: “I arrived on Thursday and got an overnight train to Kherson. It’s an eerie half-deserted city and I’ve heard a great deal of bombing echoing across the river Dnieper. I love eastern Europe and have taught English in Prague and Poland. Because this conflict is the biggest in Europe since the Second World War, I wanted to understand what the Ukrainians are going through. And as a writer, bear witness, as Orwell and Hemingway did.”
Jenkinson adds: “Naturally a degree of danger triggers adrenaline and excitement, but too much fear isn’t fun. If I didn’t feel a responsibility to record this war, I’d be watching a thriller. But I’ll definitely use this to write a play in the future. Ukrainians have a kind of dark yet palliative humour, just as we had during the Troubles.” The influence of Rosemary’s experiences are evident in her latest collection, Love in the Time of Chaos.
Safe suburbia is where I currently, happily live. A brilliant exhibition at The MAC until August 13 reveals the suburban underbelly, and also the beauty via a pretty palette. Louise Wallace, brought up in a west Belfast housing estate, produces paintings that seem to reference the French greats, Bonnard and Dufy.
Her landscapes, including the vast and frankly sinister Midnight Feast, show challenging shapes. At night things change, and in this canvas there are maybe dark intruders. Elsewhere, there are black bungalows, homes invaded by sick flowers. Remember the way Columbo murders took place in sumptuous LA mansions?
The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival continues this weekend with stand-up, music and the stellar eclecticism you’d expect.
Catch Brian Bilston, pictured, on Sunday, the poet who loves Vimto soft drinks and has a controversial dislike of Jeremy Clarkson.