The Sole Purpose tour of Galatea opened in Belfast on Friday, and – biased as I am – I thoroughly enjoyed the production. Patricia Byrne first presented the play in Derry last summer as part of Foyle Pride, where it sold out the Derry Playhouse, and decided to take it on tour this year.
To kick off the tour, Pat decided to open in Belfast, and to do so in conjunction with Belfast Pride at a wonderful new venue, Upstairs at the MAC. The production has evolved a bit since last year. One of the four actors was unavailable, and the new fellow did very well indeed. Pat introduced a couple of interesting new touches, including some fun musical references to “My Fair Lady” and some bits of business that fleshed out the characters a bit more.
As for the actors, the veterans all seemed more comfortable with their roles – they really seem to have become better acquainted with the characters – while the new guy brought an entirely new spin to the character of Harry. This is one of the bits about theatre I always enjoy: different productions see new and varied things in the scripts. But in this case, Glen Tilley’s interpretation of Harry was a bit harder and sharper. (Last year, Frank Rafferty’s interpretation was of a sadder, more hesitant and “older” man.) I think both versions work perfectly well and highlight different aspects of the character.
Of course, when there’s a new actor and a new version of the character, then the relationships have to adjust as well. And the other three actors (two, really, as Alex Wilson’s Freddie never really crosses paths with Harry) step up and adjust accordingly.
Pride is a big-deal good time in Belfast – over 20,000 at the parade and festival in a city of half a million – with mothers giving their young kids rainbow flags to wave and little old ladies smiling and dancing to the music. (The very few people protesting Pride – no more than a dozen – were confined to a small fenced-in area in front of City Hall and surrounded by police officers.) So in a city like this, it’s no surprise that the audience at the MAC was very warmly supportive of the production. The tour now moves to a couple of smaller – and presumably more conservative – towns in Northern Ireland, so I will be interested to see how the show is received there.
Postscript: a friend in Belfast has passed on a local review of the production.