Review: East Belfast Boy (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

Now streaming on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s Summerhall Online platform, this piece of physical theatre is a throbbing fusion of dance, monologue, travelogue, and the dramatic curve which awaits Davy as he walks his streets.

Developed from what appears to have been an intense live show a couple of years ago, Fintan Brady’s East Belfast Boy again puts dancer Ryan O’Neill centre stage with Terrence Keeley’s voiceover. O’Neill puts in a vibrant performance of high power, using the influence of various types of dance from the streets and clubs.

An updated soundtrack by Phil Kieran pulses through the city, with rhythms and vibrations as it goes. Emma Jordan directs this film, Conor Maguire edits. The visuals are expressive, immersive, and complementary to the script. This is Davy’s life, inside and out, and we are invited to join him for a half-hour ride.

At first it isn’t clear what we’re seeing – is this a story about dancing – or how we are meant to connect with Davy. Slowly, tbough, this tough young man opens up to us in his earnest voice and his body language, whicb jolts and pops through an area of Belfast still strictly Unionist.

The filming is thrilling, not just performance and location, but because there is something so primal about the art of dance and movement. It goes beyond nationalist boundaries or political concerns. This isn’t a show about the Troubles, but in the brickwork of the city the history is just a kick or a jump away.

It isn’t just about what Davy sees or who he meets. His mates, his girl, his opportunity to make good and make money. You can’t look away because the colours pull you in, the shine of grime on the pavements, the slight young man casting his own shadow.

East Belfast Boy intrigues from the first frame, and lends itself perfectly to the new format, redefining the boundaries between disparate art forms.

Fringe rating: ****

You can stream East Befast Boy until the end of August: book your ticket here.