What's going on in NI


Theatre Review: Famla – The MAC

March 23, 2017 Laura Caldwell 0 Comments

Every family has a few hidden secrets, and the ‘Famla‘ we meet during Tinderbox Theatre Company’s latest show is no different. 

Set in the innovative and intriguing landscape of an old dilapidated house, it’s clear that this is a family home, but not as we know it. Ciaran Bagnall’s impressive set sees swathes of rotten wood arranged in an almost skeletal fashion, separated into four, to make this a versatile and unorthodox prop.


As the lights dim, and the audience quietens, a rhythmic, yet panicked scraping of shovels is what introduces us to Harpo (played by the fabulous Tara Lynne O’Neill), an obsessively secretive woman, and the house’s current resident. It appears that we have happened upon this opening scene in the middle, rather than at the beginning, making it hard to make sense of what is happening, adding to the intrigue and the sense of uneasiness that this play exudes.

Next, we meet Hector (played by Hayley McQuillan), a young woman who sees herself as such a part of the furniture in her town that she is ‘invisible’. As Hector and Harpo interact, a unique and at times nightmarish relationship grows, punctuated by the brashness of Harpo’s cousin Botley (played by Rhodri Lewis) who later appears. Through a tirade of thick Ulster dialogue, the themes of ‘family’, ‘the past’ and ‘secrets’ are addressed in this grotesquely humorous setting. You really do get the vibe that literally anything could happen with these three characters, and there’s a deliriously delicate balance that could so easily be upset.

Described as ‘haunting, hilarious and heartbreaking’ it maybe says more about my age and naivety than anything else that from the name ‘Famla’ I assumed this play had a Spanish, or Portuguese theme, however obviously this unique Ulster dialect is the order of the day. Playwright John McCann opens a welcome window into the dark, festering underbelly of family through the unrelenting intensity of this nuanced Ulster dialect. Thank god we were given a glossary of terms to look out for at the start of the night, otherwise myself, and the rest of the audience may have gotten lost. 

Rough, dirty and raw, Famla tip-toes the line between art and theatre, and no matter what your grasp of this Ulster dialect is, this is one play that you will have a hard time getting out of your head.

Famla is showing at Belfast’s MAC Theatre from 21 – 25th March, followed by a mini tour at Cushendall Gold Club, on 29th March, Craic Theatre in Coalisland on 30th March, The Playhouse in Derry on 31st March and Armagh’s Marketplace Theatre on 1st April.

 For a more concise summary, here’s our immediate thoughts, on Facebook Live after the show:

#Drama#Famla#Review#The MAC#Theatre#Tinderbox#Ulster Scots

Previous Post

Next Post