WHERE’S Wally, poetry slams, a subversive, hip-hop loving social commentator and more shows, a Mike Scott reading, and more and events than you could shake a quill at… the Belfast Book Festival came back to town. 60 odd events in 13 venues across the city, providing for young, old, classic and hip alike, the second annual BBF promised much. Vulgo caught these.
De Profundis, Crescent Arts, June 13
The play appears to have begun before bums touch seats. Table, chair, a cruel-hewn wooden bed and the words of provocateur extraordinaire seem fit for Antrim’s Conor Maguire. Scribbling furiously, Savile Row behind, gaol rags on, the drips-and-drabs-arrivals finally find Oscar bereft. It’s a brave man who takes such revered script to the knife. Wilde devotees will scream heresy, while those fed on your-daily-Oscar-quote-dot-com will revel. But what’s left? Forget the Importance of Being, their beloved Dorian and all other Wilde’s works when he was the pride and the prized game. Prison brings realism: which in nature brings violence and from that violence we’re given a poignant beauty so heart-rending it makes escaping into a gorgeous sunny Belfast afternoon a chore.
LitNI First Writes, Crescent Arts, June 14
I love these things: watching writers pour over past script, debating whether a comma should have gone here, there or nowhere at all derives a certain pleasure. But while book reading can be as bland as weather reports, this one is different. Where else can you hear auto-tune desired renditions of God Save the Queen and the socialist’s nation collapsing anthem of Internationale?
Former journo, Armagh born Darran McCann’s After The Lockout echoes A Portrait of the Artist in style, historical leanings and dual character conflict. For a first write the future is bright.
The Open University has much to be proud of, not least the writings of Derry’s Lynne Edgar. Name dropping Sylvia Plath and using a couplet from the bard’s Hamlet may seem brave to the point of idiocy, but with verse as terse as this, bravado can be assumed.
Next and finally, the most accomplished reader of the evening. Derry born, Scottish bred Donal McLaughlin veered intentionally from writing a novel with An Allergic Reaction To National Anthems as humanly possible, but his readings from the mentioned suggest he could hardly choose a more apt medium. “I write to see if I can, I write because it’s more important than ever to do so, I write because I survived the one teacher who may have stood in the way…” From what was heard Donal should keep doing what he does best.
Tolu Olorunda, Crescent Arts, June 16
Strong words, softly spoken, I do believe a beer ad used those words a while back. But Nigerian born now US citizen Olorunda brings new light to such a statement. Social commentator and writer Tolu addresses a near full auditorium on youth culture, his obvious reverence of hip-hop, aggressive marketing strategies, Reaganomics, misogyny, the soft and hard wars on children and more besides. Is he preaching to the converted? Yes and no. If the converted equal liberals who’ve taken the time, money and trouble to give up a Saturday night’s frolicking for the stat rich, thought provoking night of enlightenment, Olorunda provides the converted with a 1984 sense of a future barely worth consideration. Obama preached hope with a capital H. Tonight’s speaker preaches a fight, a fight we must all embrace if there’s to be any hope at all.
Silhouette, Aaron Shanley and Peter McVeigh, Crescent Arts, June 17
Speaking as a failed musician, there’s everything to hate about Aaron Shanley: pipe-cleaner legs; equally skinny jeans; the nonchalant attitude to his audience and a guitar deeper than his torso. But then he starts singing. Peter McVeigh, with whom Shanley shares tonight’s stage, has a mother-introducing persona entirely at odds with his younger compatriot. Together they provide 100 minutes of divine music. If truth be told the songs of Shanley boast greater originality and scope. But with McVeigh’s accompaniment, be it with heartbeat thumps on the guitar or the sublime lead played behind Shanley’s driven songs, what’s achieved is a duo in waiting.
Silhouette, you may know their I Can’t Keep Up visit NI theme tune, finalise proceedings with an hour of foot-stamping vigour. Shauna Tohill’s blend of dance-infused life-affirming pop breaks in places to well crafted ballads cert to make hairs stand on the most follicly challenged nape. It’s only a matter of time before Silhouette break the bigger market. As encores go we’re treated to the superb. Inviting Aaron and Peter back onstage a rendition of Timberlake’s Cry Me A River has never sounded so haphazardly reckless or inspired. I and the rest of the crowd are left begging and wishing for more.
By Conor O’Neill