Back in August, myself along with my culture buddies, Andy and Mark, booked tickets to see The Nest at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. There was two things that attracted us to this performance:
1. It was written by Conor McPherson, who penned the fabulous The Night Alive and also featured Laurence Kinlan, who also gave a sterling performance in this place.
2. The play features an original score composed by the award-winning and super talented PJ Harvey.
On Wednesday, it was time for our latest culture night to take place. To start our evening off, the three of us met at Yum on Stranmillis Road (anyone who knows Andy and Mark, won’t be surprised to know I arrived first!). The restaurant had a special offer of two courses for £12.95 or three courses for £15.95. With everything sounding so good, I decided to go for a starter and main, and if room allowed, add on a dessert. For starter I had confit duck spring rolls, served with glazed vegetables, garlic and ginger noodles. This was crispy and flavoursome and a perfect start to the meal. For main I couldn’t say no to the pan fried breast of chicken, with peppercorn and brandy sauce, seasonable vegetables and buttery mash. This dish arrived beautifully presented and it tasted just as good as it looked. I did not have room for dessert but with such quality food, exceptional choice, professional service and perfect location to the Lyric Theatre, I know I will definitely be back.
When we arrived at the Lyric, it was bustling with theatre goers; the venue was exceptionally busy as not only was The Nest being performed that night, so too was St Joan. The Nest was showing in the Naughton Studio, and this was my first time in this performance space. It was much smaller than the Danske Bank stage, which helped create an intimate feel to the play. Before the performance started, it was hard not to notice how elaborate the staging was and as the play proceeded, I was impressed with how flexible it was, realistically transforming to portray a variety of settings.
The premise of the play is very simple: Kurt and Martha are expecting their first child. Whilst Martha and Kurt are both incredibly hard workers, it is a worry how they will cope with the mounting expenses a new arrival brings. When Kurt’s boss offers him a chance to make some easy money with a mysterious side job, his actions effect not only his family but also the community he lives in.
With only two cast members in the performance, Laurence Kinlan’s Kurt and Caoilfhionn Dunne’s Martha, the actors has a huge task on their hands to carry an entire performance between them. However, from the outset it was clear this task could not have been in better hands, Caoilfhionn Dunne displayed a fragile vulnerability in parts and in others she exuded a strength and fierceness that was entirely believable. Laurence Kinlan, who impressed me in The Night Alive, totally blew me away with this performance. His portrayal of Kurt was entirely engaging and in certain scenes, when he had the stage to himself, I was completely mesmerised.
What makes The Nest so impactful is that several of the scenes were so normal, showing Kurt and Martha go about everyday life. Consequently, when Kurt makes a decision that could rip his family apart, it is all the more powerful as this couple on stage are entirely relatable and it is completely believable that the situation they find themselves, could happen to anyone. The storytelling was a bold, combining laugh out loud moments with dark scenes that make you question the characters’, as well as your own, morality. This, combined with the atmospheric musical composition from PJ Harvey, results in an experience that is raw, thought-provoking and emotional.
I love the fact that the Lyric Theatre attracts such high quality productions to Belfast. The Nest is no exception, from start to finish it was engaging, with a strong script, well defined characters and a brooding soundtrack combing to create a performance that resonates long after it finishes.
The Nest runs at the Lyric Belfast until 22 October. For more information visit: https://lyrictheatre.co.uk