East Belfast Boy
- Eddie Harrison
- 21 August 2018
An energetic account of the early life of Davy
From writer Fintan Brady, East Belfast Boy is the first of a trilogy of 'nearly true stories' about the city's inhabitants, followed by East Belfast Girl and East Belfast Granny. Ryan McParland plays Davy; leaping onto the stage as a slab of techno plays, he subjects the audience to a vigorous tongue-lashing as he shares his thoughts on drugs, street-life, bonfires, school and other subjects. Accompanied by flashing lights, East Belfast Boy is an intentional assault on the audience's senses, directed by Emma Jordan for Prime Cut Productions.
Davy calls himself a Loyalist, but was born on the 14th of July, not the 12th; it's not the only thing that makes him feel like an outsider in his own life. He loves his music, and he propels himself around with remarkable vigour to a soundtrack by DJ Phil Kiernan. Noising up the audience, Davy describes his lifestyle with enthusiasm, before the crushing weight of social adversity takes his toll. Bruising encounters at the job-centre wear down his enthusiasm, until a few more specific and painful blows arrive.
It says something about the size and scope of McParland's performance that the stage at Summerhall's Buford church space, big enough to accommodate a dozen Taiko drummers, never seems to dwarf the performer. But Davy is all bluster and little bite; the show eventually rolls over easily to reveal a sentimental heart with a key monologue about a premature baby, and the appeal to the audience's emotions seems both deeply conventional and unearned.
The success of East Belfast Boy in its native land has been enough to spawn sequels; the originality is in the observation of Davy's voice and outlook. But the construction of the show is rather less ground-breaking, and will require a bit more work if Davy is to make the same impact outside of Belfast.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 20), 9pm, £16 (£12).