The Belly Button Girl, The New Theatre
Writer and Performer: Tom Moran
Director and Producer: Romana Testasecca
The intriguingly titled The Belly Button Girl opens with our narrator (and sole performer) arriving at ‘Cousin Sharon’s’ 21st at a parochial hall in Dingle. Listless and not really enjoying the night, our narrator soon comes to life when he catches sight of the bar maid. Enchanted by her she quickly gains the moniker: The Belly Button Girl. Over the course of the weekend, through a series of accidents and misspoken phrases, they become close. The weekend closes as they wind up together in her bed in Portobello, Dublin. Our narrator is in love. Infatuated and contemplating their life together, we follow him over twelve months as their relationship grows and changes. Reminiscent of falling in love for the first time, The Belly Button Girl, is a story of love and confusion, edged with the hope of redemption.
A bench took centre stage, with beach paraphernalia decorating the front and back of the stage along with small items that are significant in the plot; an anchor, a small Buddha statue, pieces of driftwood. The set design, by Ursula McGinn, is delicate with each item carefully placed for maximum meaning. The soft blues and sandy pebbles recreate the feel of a small Dingle beach, where accidents and love stories can take place. This was complemented perfectly the excellently times lighting by Eoin Lennon. Brining this together was the direction of Romana Testasecca, who demonstrates an understanding of the power of space and structure, and whose flair for movement reverberated through the performance.
Moran is a consummate performer. He doesn’t falter for a second and all eyes stay on him over the course of the hour. He embodies the narrator with ease and switches from moments of light comedy to intense feeling. The narrator is twinkly and easy to like; blessed with an ability to always hope for the best, even when all of the signs are pointing the other way. Some of the plays highlights emerge with the introduction of several secondary characters, from the taxi driving ‘Sambuca lady’, to the ‘Massive Lad’ and the Dublin taxi driver who offers the narrator an insight into the way in which capturing life’s small pleasures can lead to contentment.
This is a lesson that the narrator doesn’t heed in time. He carries on like a piece of driftwood, washed up on stage, at the mercy of external forces. The key external force is, of course, The Belly Button Girl. While the narrator is like the boy who didn’t grow up (which is demonstrated by the perhaps too many counts of gross humour), she has her act together. Work, study, the future, and the intricacies of love are tackled by her with ease while he is still struggling with alarm calls and bra clasps. Although she is the focus of his desire, she remains elusive. In the future more could be done to fully flesh out her character, so the audience can see in her, and in their relationship, what the narrator does.
Full of finely drawn detail and sharp observations The Belly Button Girl is an entertaining, eccentric, bizarre, funny and human story.
Runs Until 18th May 2019.