Review: One Belfast Landmark Inspires Five Irish Monologues

Maureen has worn the wrong shoes — one of each from two different pairs. So she’s hiding in a bathroom stall, phoning a friend for some ...


Maureen has worn the wrong shoes — one of each from two different pairs. So she’s hiding in a bathroom stall, phoning a friend for some emergency footwear.

As soon as she hangs up, she begins to melt down, flashing back to the mortifying episode, decades before, when as an overly confident 11-year-old, she attempted a nursery rhyme as a drama class monologue.

“This is Humpty Dumpty all over again,” she says, but this time it’s because something has broken in her life that cannot be put back together.

Such is the setup for Sarah Gordon’s rollicking “Occupied,” the one full-on comedy in “Under the Albert Clock,” an excellent program of five short audio monologues from the Lyric Theater in Belfast. Directed by Rhiann Jeffrey, with sound design by Chris Warner, it’s part of the Origin 1st Irish Theater Festival.

The New York-based Origin Theater Company commissioned the series, asking five female playwrights in Northern Ireland to use as inspiration Belfast’s landmark Albert Memorial Clock (a monument to Queen Victoria’s husband, and thus a symbol of Britishness), and to place their plays in 2050.

Examining ingrained animosity and overlooked goodness, “Occupied” gets dark for a bit when we learn the reason that Maureen (Gordon) is so rattled, but the prevailing note is humor reminiscent of the Netflix series “Derry Girls.”

The program opener, Alice Malseed’s “Haven,” is the only play here that feels awkwardly fitted to a prompt. Its narrator is Julia (Maggie Cronin), who owns a pub under the clock and spins a tale of greed, gentrification and sweet vengeance on generations of male brutality.

Emily DeDakis’s forebodingly futuristic “The Garden of Remembrance for Bygone Phallic Symbols” transports us to the plains of eastern Colorado. This, the caretaker Sally (Sarah Reid) tells us, was once the landscaped dumping ground where a garden sprang up: home for all the world’s banished phallic towers. The Albert Clock, of course, was among them.

It’s a piece about feminism, patriarchy and the dangers of ideological militancy — about misjudging beauty as threat, and tearing down wholesale what others might use to build upon. Even this monologue, though, has death in it; surprisingly, all five do.

The specter of it is built into Fionnuala Kennedy’s grim satire, “A Dummy’s Guide to Creating a Martyr,” in which a character named X (Caroline Curran) has decided to blow up the Albert Clock. In her eyes, she will be committing “an action of love.”

“This is not sectarian,” she insists, self-righteously. “This is a cross-community bombing.”

Gina Donnelly’s “Maybe if We’d Stayed Angry” makes an eloquently thoughtful companion piece. In it, a widow (Abigail McGibbon) at the grave of her murdered wife rues the refusal to recognize acts of violence between Protestants and Catholics as part of a war that never stopped. They disagreed on this, she and her dead wife, without ever hashing it out.

“I never had the fight with you that I wanted to have,” she says. “I thought I’d have it now.”

And so she does, with quiet magnificence, fueled by grief and love and decades of wounded fury.

Under the Albert Clock
Through Jan. 25; origintheatre.org

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