More Than A Flag – East Belfast bandsmen poignantly look back at WW1 as the audience see potential #BelFest

More Than A Flag 14Twelve young guys who couldn’t be much older than twenty. Most with no acting experience. Some haven’t been in a theatre never mind standing on a stage. Bandsmen. Proud of their community, proud of their culture and their flag. Often derided, stereotyped, and written off.

Over the last couple of months, Dan Gordon has realised a long held dream and produced More Than A Flag, a powerful piece of community arts by Happenstance Theatre that will be premièred in the Ballymacarrett Orange Hall on the Albertbridge Road over the next three nights.

More Than A Flag 2x2Over ninety minutes, these young men remember local East Belfast men who served in the First World War. Watching last night’s dress rehearsal I found it incredibly poignant to see lads the same age as many of those went to war reading out names and addresses of fallen soldiers who came from streets only a stones throw from the venue. While it’s a celebration of service it’s not a celebration of war, with room in the production to explore the awfulness of the conflict and even those who deserted before being court martialed and shot.

No flutes or drums, but plenty of speeches, poems, acting, dance and songs. And hope. The transformation of twelve guys from bandsmen into actors … and by the end of the performance, bandsmen who are actors.

More Than A Flag 13Bandsmen. Proud of their community, proud of their culture and their flag. Talented and now celebrated, seen to be full of potential.

A quality production that looks back at the past, but also looks toward a bright future, playing at Belfast Festival for three nights only. Some tickets still available for the opening tonight if you phone the box office 028 9097 1197.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.