Belt Up's Twenty Minutes to Nine

Before I walk into the theatre it is quarter to six in the afternoon. But inside it is twenty minutes to nine – it’s always twenty minutes to nine and I can’t imagine it being anything else. This was my first experience of Belt Up’s unique brand of semi-immersive theatre – and I was instantly charmed. The room is decked out like the inside of a large tent, a remnant of some dream of Empire-era Britain. The audience are placed on sofas, chairs and cushions, gathered round to hear a story from a single, ageless woman. It’s a first time for them as well – as far as I know the play is Belt Up’s first go at a one-person show. They pull it off fabulously.The rambling, but deceptively purposeful, monologue is full of rich imagery, incessant linguistic tics and captivating insights into the speaker’s fragile mind. In fact we may be inside it already, cocooned in a sort of seminal half-dying space, something hinted at by the topics up for discussion – the open viewing at the insane asylum, the jars of pickled objects, the old woman behind the glass, and the perpetually spinning girl of the music box. All symbolise the condition of the main character, a mind trapped and stuck in a limbo, of which we, by entering this theatre, find ourselves a part.What’s equally remarkable is the subtle execution of the audience interaction, which creates little dialogues, seeks small contributions. Not enough to shape the show or to make it take too many diversions, but enough to naturalise us into the space, make us feel like we’re being talked to, not at. It can, on occasion, fall into cliché or hamminess, especially where mentions of period detail are involved. But it’s usually quickly averted, and at its best the script and performance are truly beguiling. By the end we become as stunned and as still as the character before us, and her clocks, all stuck at twenty minutes to nine, and no reason to move.

Reviews by Tom Moyser

Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

The Girl with the Hurricane Hands (and Other Short Tales of Woe)

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

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★★
Traverse Theatre

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theSpace @ Jury's Inn

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★★★★
Summerhall

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Summerhall

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★★★★★

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The Blurb

Sip tea and allow the company, 'transforming what we can expect from a night at the theatre' (Observer), to take you on a journey through the captivating tales of a decaying old raconteuse. www.beltuptheatre.com

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