Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

There is something beautiful about Belfast. Writer, performer and composer Matt Regan manages to capture this beauty and present it onstage in an ambitious, exciting, humorous and passionate spoken word theatre performance. He is joined by the inventive and imaginative Cairn String Quartet who provide the evocative soundtrack. The combination of words and music is epic and takes the audience on a journey around the ever changing streets of Greater Belfast.

The show itself is a biography of Belfast with the music of the city taking centre stage. We are taken to the bars, museums, linen factories, botanic gardens and University. The voices of the people are reflected in Regan’s witty and authentic script. The words are rich and true and paint a strong and opulent picture of the city. It is easy to envision the buildings, architecture and people even if you have never visited Northern Ireland. Regan clearly has a love of punk and references the pop brilliance of The Undertones and the ardent and vital music of Stiff Little Fingers. The performer delivers his own version of Alternative Ulster, but other than being a full on punk rock interpretation we experience the soaring sounds of the Cairn String Quartet. The effect takes the powerful lyrics and lifts them to new heights, with the strings weaving their way around words and inducing them with energy and vitality.

Recently film director Mark Cousin released his own love letter to the city in the film I Am Belfast. Matt Regan has taken a different approach and focuses on the sounds and language along with the dirt and “sleech’. The latter a colloquial term that Regan uses throughout to describe the grime and grit of Belfast.

Greater Belfast is a strong and powerful performance piece. The combination of words, poetry and music is fantastic and the passion of the musicians and performer is obvious as soon as the first note rings out. The show had brief run at Tron Theatre in Glasgow earlier this year and truly deserves to have a successful and far reaching life outside of the Edinburgh Fringe.