Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Belfast Boy

Purple Penguin Productions

Genre: Drama, Solo Show

Venue: Spotlites


Low Down

Martin Hall cannot sleep. He has come to see a psychologist as it is thought that he can be helped. What follows is an hour of a first interview between Hall and the unseen psychiatrist. We go through his life from being very young, the Troubles and his departure from the Province in the middle of the night, the death of his parents, the time he spent in Penrith and Birmingham, the dance career he didn’t have and the rent boy horrors and previous abuse which he suffered.


This is an astonishing performance. There are few superlatives left in the box for what we see as the script calls for a rollercoaster of description wrapped round a horrendous depiction of life as a young gay man in the wrong place in the 1990s. All of the imagined horrors are given voice and all of the traumas and desperation body as Hall explodes, disrobes and displays his inner being. To end he thanks his psychiatrist – a proper doctor.

That it grips you is certain and yet I found parts of the script slightly uneven and whilst some audience members did mention the issue of the brogue making it difficult to attune quickly I found that wonderful Belfast accent added to the whole experience. Like Glasgow, the Belfast accent does not hint.

Between the movement of his exploration of character and when he leaps to give us the feelings and visual clues to the emotions felt when facing abuse, dancing or taking your top off this never lets you off the hook. It was directed with pace in mind and this does at times feel like one wave of nausea after another, heaped upon the misery of a life badly spent.

And yet there are lighter moments, moments of humor which give us some relief from the multiple miseries. The set is simple, costume functional, props absent – would it be too much to actually have a mobile phone – and leaves you with one thing to catch you – a performer.

Both mesmerising and naïve, authentic and unbelievable this is a performer kicking and screaming his pain all over the stage. It stays with you long after the show ends. And yet I left without the overwhelming positivity that others have felt. Was I wrong? I saw a performance that should have taken my breath away and yet there were minor issues that kept me from being over enthusiastic. That may well be a criticism that is unfair as so many have seen this and feel it has hit heights hitherto unimagined in terms of physical solo experiences. What I do know is that if you are fortunate to bag a ticket it will leave you breathless at the horror of modern life and in awe of a performer that takes you through it whilst screaming – not all of the time on the inside.