Big Albert shines his light/ casts his shadow across the pond

I knew nothing of Under the Albert Clock  until I spotted a review of the  podcast in the New York Times no less.  Creativity and performance defies the lockdown. American sponsorship and other interest is very welcome. Any reaction?

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.”


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