Matt Regan brings the sounds, speech and sleech of his hometown to the stage in Greater Belfast, with the help of the Cairn String Quartet.
What is it?
A complex love letter to a complex city, Greater Belfast is Regan’s attempt to get to the essence of a place through words and music. Backed by the Cairn String Quartet, he makes the Traverse 2 his own, gently involving the audience in a monologue that’s by turns humourous and poignant.
Why should I see it?
Written, composed and performed by Regan, this is an honest, warm, gritty show which explores Belfast’s past and present. Anyone who has a love-hate relationship with the place they first called home will recognise many truisms in this brilliant hour of performance.
Ambling into the studio space with string quartet arranged behind him, Regan is an amiable character who wise-cracks with the audience in true ‘Norn Iron’ style, nips up the steps to the back of the seats to perform one of his teenage poems, and at one point sits among us with an ice cream to hand. He’s a relaxed, confident presence, mastering the sometimes rapid-fire wordplay in the way only a writer-performer could.
His anecdotes and asides, twisting and meandering like the River Lagan itself, are brilliantly accompanied by the quartet, giving the story a whole new layer of emotion.
While in some sense Greater Belfast is about the titular city, it’s really about the inescapable influence of past and place on all our lives. No matter where we go or what we do in our lives, we always carry a bit of the sleech of where we come from.
The Cairn String Quartet’s classical treatment of punk songs by The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers is great, but their slow-building finale, during which Regan recites fragments of dialogue and bubbling sound effects plunge us underwater, is a visceral experience.
How can I see it?
Greater Belfast is at The Traverse Theatre until 28 August, more info
There’s a CD to accompany the show, and you can listen to some of the tracks online: