#Uproarious #Outrageous and #Unexpected – Gulliver arrives at The MAC!
As a kid I never had much of a desire to read Gulliver’s Travels; from Swift’s depiction of fantastical foreign lands including the little people of Lilliput, to the giants of Brobdingnag and equine inhabitants of Houyhnhnm, Gulliver’s travels were never of much interest to me.
Enter an interesting proposition from the good people at The MAC! A new play, co-produced with Big Telly Theatre Company, which portrays the lesser-known side of Guilliver’s Travels – the family he leaves behind in Kilroot while he goes on his many adventures. Gulliver, which stars a fantastic cast including Gulliver’s Wife Mary (played by the hilarious Shelley Atkinson), daughter Betty, played by Nicky Harley, son Johnny (Patrick J O Reilly), and Gulliver’s mum, (Helen Roche), picks up at the beginning of a highly-anticipated welcome home party for Gulliver. Upon entry into the auditorium, members of the audience are recruited into the immersive experience, being tasked with blowing up balloons, signing a card for Gulliver, and hanging posters across the room. The buzz grows in the lead up to the play’s beginning, but the party is suddenly drawn to a quick end before it could even get started.
Played by Bryan Quinn who’s acting seriously channels Will Farrell throughout the play, Gulliver’s main character Lemuel Gulliver is brilliantly depicted using surprisingly few words from the equine-channeling actor. When the dialogue emerges for Quinn, his comedic timing and excellent delivery make his character shine throughout the remainder of the production.
Expecting a warm homecoming as their father returns back to the nest, Gulliver’s family and the audience alike are given a wake-up call when the party is crashed by a Gulliver who appears to have ‘gone native’ following his most recent visit to the equine land of Houyhnhnm. Wearing only a fur loin cloth and communicating through whinnies and stamping his hoof foot, it becomes obvious that Gulliver has been changed permanently by his most recent experience abroad.
The remainder of the play navigates the unique family dynamics of the Gullivers, looking back on how members of Gulliver’s brood have reacted in the past to his travels while at the same time developing the story in the present as they work to ‘tame’ the beast that their father has become and gain insight into Gulliver’s change.
The play includes a fantastic set complete with an AV screen backdrop which creatively depicts a constant view from the Gulliver family’s kitchen window in one corner, while acting as an immersive flashback experience for the audience as the story slips into Gulliver’s past travels as well as becoming a portal enabling the audience to take in the Gulliver family from the point of view of the youngest member, the half-Laputian baby born to Mary and Lemuel while he was away on Houyhnhnm (PS – The scene depicting the baby’s conception is by far one of the best of the play).
Initially drawn to the idea of the more realistic, untold side of Gulliver’s Travels – that of Gulliver’s family – my expectations of a more realistic plotline were quickly thrown aside during the first act of the play…and completely went out the window for the second act as the already bizarre plotline became a bit of a runaway train. The hilarious, quick-witted, bizarre and unexpected story brought to ‘Gulliver’ will have you laughing for hours afterward, but definitely go with a friend, as it’ll take a few days to process what you’ve just seen with them!
Gulliver is running at The MAC Belfast from 29th September – 17th October. For more information visit themaclive.com
By Brittany Breslin