Huzzies at The MAC

Rising stars of Northern Ireland's theatre and music scenes come together in new Tinderbox play, part of the Belfast Festival at Queen's

Playwright Stacey Gregg is excited, and not just because her new play, Huzzies, is set to open at The MAC in Belfast on October 19. Rather, she is thrilled to be a part of the wider cultural renaissance that has energised the Northern Irish capital city in recent years.

'The music scene here is so fertile,' says Gregg, 'and cool at the moment, and was a real inspiration to me in developing this play. It is such a thrill to be bringing a play to a Belfast audience for the first time, and I am so excited that my friends and family are going to be able to come along to The MAC to see it.

'It is also fantastic to have Katie Richardson [of Katie and the Carnival] on board creating the signature Huzzies sound, and thrilling to be working with Tinderbox and such a talented cast and crew.'

Huzzies will run from October 19 to November 3 in The MAC as part of the the 50th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's. It is, as Gregg asserts, 'a dynamic mix of live music and drama'.

Huzzies tells the story of a band who crave distraction from the humdrum of everyday life and yearn for something better. Fast-paced, direct and full of Gregg's trademark wit, the play follows the highs and lows of four fame-hungry musicians as they hurl themselves at the Belfast music scene.

Local singer-song writer Katie Richardson is musical director for the production, and has written a set of new songs to be performed live by the band during the play. Four talented actor-musicians have been cast in the roles of the unlikely band members, and will perform all the vocals and an array of musical instruments live during the production.

Kerri Quinn plays front woman Dee, escaping from her dysfunctional family. Cat Barter plays Claire, ever the good girl who just wants to fit in. Doireann McKenna is Shona, who is messing around until something better comes along, and John Shayegh is Pete, who thinks being in a band is a great way to meet girls.

Gregg is originally from east Belfast but has lived and worked in Dublin and London most of her professional life. Her first play Ismene was short-listed for the Royal Court Young Writers Festival, and her acclaimed drama Perve opened at Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 2011 and went on to win the Stewart Parker BBC Radio Drama Award.

Her play about today's Belfast, Lagan premiered at Oval House Theatre London in 2011, where it was Time Out Critic's Choice and nominated for two Off West End Awards.

Although most of Gregg's plays are set in Northern Ireland and use the country as a lens through which to explore various ideas and issues, this is the first time her work will be performed to a home audience.

'When I was dreaming up Huzzies, it really came to life as a challenge to the notion that girls don't play instruments,' says Gregg. 'I always strive to make my plays appeal to people who wouldn't normally go to the theatre.

'I hope that the audience [in Belfast] will come away uplifted by the music and that Huzzies will challenge the notion that drama can only be enjoyed by certain people.'

Tinderbox's artistic director Mick Duke will be directing the play. 'We are hoping to create something very different through Huzzies, and end up with a production unlike anything ever seen on a Belfast stage,' he beams.

'Not only do [the actors] need to become the characters in the play, but they also have to work together to form a band that can perform the new material. As part of the process they may pop up at some of the city's live music venues to trial their sound, so watch this space!'

Huzzies will be Upstairs at The MAC 19 October - 3 November.