As the UK succession laws are amended to allow a first born female to become Queen, and female equality reaches new heights, the Ovalhouse launches their new season of work, ruled solely by women. Lady-led is a season of work created by women, which does not focus solely on gender issues. Stacey Gregg begins her reign with Lagan, a play about the lives of ten people in Belfast. It’s a well-crafted production, anchored by strong performances and a sharp script.
Four seemingly isolated characters dressed in blue overalls arrive on a set which is part dock, living room and ship. Ian is returning to Belfast from London, noting the changes the city has undergone with the analysis of a reflective yet self-absorbed writer. On arrival his Taximan offers his own social commentary complete with anecdotes and non-PC remarks. At home, Ian’s mother Anne reminisces about her former life as a musician, whilst his sister Aoife deals with an unwanted pregnancy. The ensuing acts hone in the lives of the other people in the city.
Played by the same four actors, there isn’t enough to distinguish between all ten characters at times, but Gregg captures their humanity and the history of the city with effortless intensity. Like the river Lagan, their lives are never constant, but deeply rooted in the city.
Gregg’s script bites through the ebbs and flows of the multiple dialogues. The transitions between the scenes are seamless and Cecilia Carey’s transforming dock acts as apt symbol for the journey in which one will either “sink or swim”. Performances by all four actors are strong, but Pauline Hutton’s energetic and animated performances are most memorable.
New directors of the venue, Rebecca Atkinson-Lord and Rachel Briscoe, have created a concept which sets gender as the springboard from which female artists can launch from. Lady-led offers liberation of another kind and as the maiden voyage, Lagan is confident and self assured.