Carlo Gébler's Henry & Harriet
Kabosh Theatre take to the streets of Belfast with Carlo Gébler's Henry & Harriet. Click Play Audio to hear from director Paula McFetridge and actress Carol Moore
On summertime Sundays in Belfast there is little to do but walk. Traipsing along the familiar streets, it’s common to see civilians out for a stroll, dandering placidly past closed shopfronts. As it has been for years, there are few sales and little drama.
You see men, mothers with children and nans dragging tartan carts. All look relaxed, with little to do. Some look bored. I swear to have seen elderly babies - tots with the faces of 80-year-olds - slumped in their buggies. Tired of being taken on the same old walk around the same old block.
Henry Surphlis offers a change of pace. He needs out. Fast. He needs to complete his list and get onto the boat with Harriet Sweetlove, before Leonard Louden grinds his bones.
All three are characters in Kabosh Theatre’s production of Henry & Harriet, performed in Belfast city centre every Sunday until late August 2008.
Written by Carlo Gébler, the play takes audiences on a theatrical walking tour through the Belfast of 1912. It follows the frantic Henry’s attempts to buy everything he needs before boarding the Titanic, bound for the new world.
With scenes set in shops and the action taking place as the citizenry take their city centre Sunday strolls, Henry & Harriet is a welcome disruption to the oh-so-traditional world of indoor theatre. Director Paula McFetridge visibly fizzes when talking about it.
‘There’s nothing as bizarre as walking into the local shoe shop and saying, right. Now. What’s going to happen is, we’re going to stick a guy dressed in 1912 costume behind your counter, you’re going to give us the keys to your shop, and we’re going to bring punters in to watch a play.’
When Shakespeare wrote that ‘all the world’s a stage,’ he probably didn’t imagine that an ambitious Belfast theatre company would use the city’s streets as their set. Beginning the adventure at Belfast’s Northern Whig bar, the madcap dash runs through Donegall Street, North Street, Lombard Street and Bridge Street.
After a successful first run in 2007, Henry & Harriet 2008 consists of six shows each day. The seven-strong cast craftily includes two actors - Gerard McCabe and Neal McWilliams - playing Henry Surphlis.
‘The venues so wanted to do it this year,’ says McFetridge, ‘and they wanted to encourage other venues to do it. We should have more of these type of things running over the summer.’
As in the original production, the story focuses on the thrill of Henry’s scramble. A notable change since 2007 is casting Carol Moore to play shopkeeper Maggie Boyle.
‘I’m stationed in the shop Cash Convertors,’ she says. ‘I play Maggie Boyd, an independent woman who just wants to sell porcelain. She can’t understand why she’s being engaged in such a detailed way by Henry. There’s a lot of humour.’
Moore is perhaps better known as a film-maker, with her 60-second short History Unfinished earning her a trip to the BAFTAs as part of the ‘60 Seconds of Fame’ competition earlier this year.
She was also one of five women responsible for creating Charabanc Theatre Company in 1983, which came into being due to ‘the lack of work available to women in theatre, but also the quality of what was available'.
‘Our remit would have been to go around community venues, sometimes drinking clubs,’ she says.
‘That had its own challenge because you had a really mixed audience, with punters who wouldn’t mind remarking on the shows in the middle of the shows if they felt so inclined. It’s all about quality, though, not where you do it. The standards of this production are high.’
‘Each of the actors are doing the show six times,’ says McFetridge, ‘and you’re doing it in the city over the space of six hours. The life of the city becomes very apparent. We begin at 12, and Belfast hasn’t even opened on a Sunday.
‘It’s beautiful. It’s very quiet. But by the time we get to the 4.40 show, it’s mayhem in the streets. People on the open-top busses or people having coffees watching Henry and the actors dandering past in their 1912 costumes, with the audience following. Anything can happen, and quite often anything does.’
Henry & Harriet begins at the Northern Whig, Bridge Street, Belfast, from 12pm every Sunday until August 31. Tickets cost £10, £8.50 concession. Click here for booking or call 028 9024 6609.