The Belly Button Girl

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*Edited, longer review. Contains spoilers.*

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. Bringing 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 has a real knack for observation and some of the plays highlights emerge with the introduction of several secondary characters, from the ‘Sambuca lady’, to the ‘Massive Lad’ and the Dublin taxi driver. They offer the narrator an insight into the way in which capturing life’s small pleasures can lead to contentment. These were interesting vignettes, well drawn and showing characters who live a different kind of life, who have perhaps found a more accepting, comfortable way of being. However our narrator doesn’t seem to learn from them. It is not essential that all character arcs show growth, however as the ending circles back to the beginning one might have expected a little more character development. It was uncomfortable that fat bodies were commented on and found funny (the drivers belly jiggling and so on) and yet other bodies were not mentioned at all – to the extent that the belly button girl remains mysterious and unshaped – so it is difficult to believe that the focus on fat bodies and finding humour (often grotesque) out of them could be coincidental. Gross moments were excessive and became unnecessary. I’m not a fan of this type of humour however there came a point where it was just too much even for the biggest gross out fan. My theatre going companion felt that certain moments – particularly the one with the toothbrush – veered into misogyny, that the narrator was taking out his anger at women – and one particular woman – in the most grotesque, childish way he could think of. I’m not sure that the script showed enough awareness of the character, instead revelling in any moment for comedy.

Despite his interactions with others the narrator 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, 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 what he sees in her, and in turn believe in their relationship. Despite the title the play is very much about the narrator. Little is revealed about the belly button girl and there is an odd moment at the end where the audience expects to find out her name, but the moment is let go.

Overall, The Belly Button Girl is full of finely drawn detail, playful wordplay (such as selling toilets at a place called ‘the drop zone’) and sharp observations. The Belly Button Girl is an entertaining, eccentric, bizarre, funny story that with a little more work could be deeply human and relatable.

 

 

 

 

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HashtagRelationshipGoalz

First Written for The Reviews Hub

HashtagRelationshipGoalz – Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

Director: Emma Jane Purcell

HashtagRelationshipGoalz begins with a young couple sat on chairs in the centre of the stage. The only props they use are the two chairs, a patterned blanket and a small table. He has his arm slung over her shoulders while playing on an ipad. She is obviously bored. So is he. They bicker and laugh and try to figure out how to spend the night. Cinema, restaurant, pub or back to their parents’ house? It is clear that they love being together although they argue near constantly. There are brief monologues when the actors are alone on stage, turn to the audience and we hear their inner thoughts and frustrations. Our young couple begin the show together, will they end it the same way?

Actors Costello (who also writes) and Sean Doyle have been cropping up in productions in the Dublin theatre scene for several years now. Both bringing their experience and wit to this new production. Interestingly Costello also has credits to her name as a writer and director and we are bound to be seeing much more of her talent in the coming years. Alongside Costello and Doyle the cast is rounded out by the assured Laura O’Leary as the interfering, teenage sister who barges into her older sister’s life with her frequent disasters and embarrassing questions.

HashtagRelationshipGoalz is presented by Squad Theatre Company as a part of Smock Alley Theatre’s Scene and Heard Festival, which gives new writers a chance to see their work on stage. Running at only 30 minutes long it is a playful, realistic and touching portrait of three young people trying to find their way in the world with each other. It is very pleasant to find a play of such quality at the Festival and it will hopefully be resurrected at some point in the near future.

Runs until 24 February 2017 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4.5*