Friday, 8 April 2011

Just another Manic Thursday

My participation in the Belfast Film Festival 2011 continued yesterday evening. When I'd been looking at the programme I stumbled upon a "special event" called Dance Mania. Its name didn't seem to fit in with all the other arty film titles and so it caught my attention. It was described as follows:

Get your leg warmers on and get ready for a fantastic evening of dance and film at the Spectrum Centre.

We’ve edited together a compilation of some of the best dance routines from some of the greatest musicals of all time. So get ready to go disco with John Travolta, Put a ring on it with the kids from Glee, try some Summer Lovin’ with the gang from Grease, Do some Singin' in the Rain with Fred Astaire and don’t forget We’re All in This Together with the team from High School Musical.

Why not come along and bust some moves on the dance floor with us…"

I figured, hey, I like musicals, I like dancing and I especially like Glee - this sounds like my kind of event! My mother, who enjoys utter cheese as much as I do, also thought it might be fun and so we conspired to head up the Shankill Road together on Thursday 7 April and boogie on down.

So last night we headed out on the town. First we decided to grab a bit of dinner - after all, you need a lot of energy to dance the night away! We were originally going to try The Potted Hen in St Anne's Square but their pre-theatre menu didn't particularly stimulate our mental tastebuds and so we headed across the road to Hooligan. Or, as the case may be, not Hooligan. You may recall that as recently as last week, the Yorkshireman and I had a wonderful dinner at Hooligan and so I had been contemplating its sister restaurant, Made In Belfast, as my venue for our pre-Mania meal. However when I visited Made In Belfast's website earlier this week, I was stunned to see the following announcement:

"Hope the hangovers have cleared from your Paddy's Day adventures and you have obtained a clean bill of health. However, for those who still want to eat, drink and be merry our lovely team here at Made In Belfast are in the process of opening our second restaurant, on the very grounds of our pop up restaurant Hooligan (which met a violent end :-x)...MADE IN BELFAST CATHEDRAL QUARTER WILL OPEN ON 1ST APRIL 2011....and no this isn't a joke! Though our staff have big smiles xxx."

What do you mean "met a violent end"?! If it did indeed turn into Made In Belfast Cathedral Quarter on 1st April, I was apparently there on Hooligan's last day of existence and it seemed to be very much in one piece then! Perplexed I tried in vain to call Hooligan's number to see if they were still open, albeit in the form of Made In Belfast Cathedral Quarter, but it was constantly engaged, hence our decision to go to The Potted Hen instead. However when we walked past yesterday it was indeed open for business and so we figured, hey, why not?

Nothing whatsoever seemed to have changed apart from the now absent Hooligan sign that the Yorkshireman had so carefully documented for posterity the week before. The kooky d├ęcor was still the same inside and I still risked setting my clumsy self alight on the candle in the wine bottle on our table. The menu had changed slightly however. The Yorkshireman is now entirely gutted that they no longer offer their fish finger sandwich, even though I explained to him that my mother had essentially the same thing in the form of the their fish and chips with mushy peas, the only difference being a lack of bread (which you can order separately anyway) and the fact that hers was served in a metal bath. I on the other hand had an absolutely devine Greek stifado stew and was gutted only because we didn't have time to stay for dessert.

Before we left I quizzed our waiter on the whole Hooligan/Made In Belfast Cathedral Quarter debacle and he confirmed that the name had indeed changed and that if we had been there the week before then we must have been present for Hooligan's "downfall" - I still have no idea what actually happened or whether they're just being fabulously dramatic about a mere name change just for the craic but I like their style!

And so it was off to be dancing queens for the evening… or so we thought.

Our first hint that the event would not quite live up to expectations was the fairly short list of people who had purchased tickets and the equally empty room when we arrived. But fair enough, I thought, an evening of dancing to cheesy music is not for everyone and it's better to have only a few fellow crazies than a lot of disinterested folks being boring. Onward!

However the evening did not get any better when the "event" began. There was no introduction from anyone - the lights simply went off and the screen went on. It looked fairly promising at first when a montage of dance clips from movies like Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Grease and Rocky Horror played to the tune of Footloose and had us simultaneously dancing in our seats and sqwaking "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" and "It's just a jump to the left!". However once Footloose finished so, effectively, did the entertainment.

From that point on, one song simply followed another, as though someone was clicking their way through YouTube one video at a time by following the suggested video links down the right-hand side. The quality was awful in most of the clips too and the editing was truly shocking - some clips ended in a black screen for an eternity before the next one started whilst some screeched and warbled to a sudden halt just before the end. Only three girls ventured out of their seats at any point to dance and I have a suspicion they were in some way connected to the organisation of the event. It also paled in significance when compared to the seven people who got up and left about 5 minutes in, effectively cutting the audience in half.

What annoyed me most, however, is that a good amount of the songs were in no way related to musicals, film or even TV. I can sort of understand them playing Thriller (even though I detest it) because it's sort of a mini film in itself, but how exactly did the creator of this bilge decide that the dance-loving audience of a film festival audience would be more enthralled by Groove Is In The Heart and Walk Like an Egyptian than, say, I've Had The Time Of My Life or the Time Warp? We were waiting for the punchline or something great throughout the evening but it never came.

Thankfully it was as short as it was rubbish and we were out on the pavement blinking in the daylight after about an hour, wondering how someone had managed to scam us into paying a fiver each to sacrifice an hour of our lives in such a way! As my mother said, if a GCSE media student had submitted it as their coursework, they would have failed.

And so it was on to Starbucks for some caffeine to numb the pain. Well there had to be some high point to the evening! Prior to that my favourite part (apart from dinner) had been when they played the Glee version of Single Ladies, but any happiness this provided soon faded when they played not one but two High School Musical songs, each as monotonous as each other. Woe!

I must say I'm fairly disappointed. I guess their budget isn't that huge but I'm fairly sure that even I could have edited the thing better, not to mention choosing better songs to start with. Bad Belfast Film Festival! I am so totally putting you in a corner because that is where the naughty step is! I can only hope that my next (and final) Belfast Film Festival outing later this week will be of a higher calibre. Only time will tell!

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