New Speak Re-imagined

Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Gemma Mae Halligan and Jude Quinn (Amadan Ensemble) Credit: Lyric Theatre
Patrick McBrearty Credit: Lyric Theatre
Latma Sharma Credit: Lyric Theatre
Zara Janahi Credit: Lyric Theatre
Vasiliki Stasinaki Credit: Lyric Theatre

Prompted by a line in George Orwell’s 1984—“I can see what the future will look like”—the Lyric Theatre Belfast’s New Speak Reimagined, a series of online responses to life in lockdown, launched with a pot-pourri episode exploring the domestic absurdities of self-isolation and the potential dangers of politics over-reaching the draconian social measures already in place.

Punning ersatz television event shows, the Amadan Ensemble’s The Great British Lockdown wittily plays with the tensions between compliance and paranoia while underscoring the confusion of mixed messages about safety as a young couple take to extreme measures to deal with social distancing at home, not least feeding their bedroom-confined child through a window via a bucket on a pulley.

Dominic Montague’s Real Talk takes its cue from online ‘influencers’ as chirpy vlogger Patrick McBrearty blithely trots out a chilling vision of a future disguised as info-tainment in which rationing is in force, identity cards are the order of the day and “citizens’ points” can be gained by informing on friends and foe alike to rise through newly defined, strictly controlled levels of society.

Sausage Sodas and Onion Bahjees finds Lata Sharma in double lockdown under the scrutiny of her mother, informed and enforced by a network of gossips, and caught in the clash between looser Northern Irish mores and the stricter social conventions of her Indian heritage.

Metaphorically turning the telescope around to take a wider perspective—the natural world’s response to ecological exploitation and exhaustion—the solo dance piece The Perception of the World Through My Eyes is vividly performed by Zara Janahi and co-choreographed with Annika Drennan-Rocke and Clare Montgomery.

Singer-songwriter Katie Richardson’s My Mind is a Weapon is atmospherically realised by dancers Ryan O’Neil and Vasiliki Stasinaki and lent a painterly gloss by video director Emily Foran.

With a running time of just under 22 minutes, brevity keeps individual elements of this first episode moving along at a necessarily brisk pace. But these are timely interventions seeking to interrogate a new age of solitude with wit, compassion, sensitivity and quiet anger while also sounding the alarum about the danger of present social incongruities giving way to future political impositions.

Three more episodes are planned over coming weeks—debuting at 7PM on May 1, 8 and 15—and each will be available to view on the venue’s YouTube channel for one week.

Reviewer: Michael Quinn

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