‘I just wanted to let her know it was alright to have a belly button.’
The Belly Button Girl, which went on at the New Theatre in Dublin last week, is writer and actor Tom Moran’s first feature length play.
We follow a year in the life of a young man as he attempts to manoeuvre himself into adulthood, and fails, ‘I started using the lunch bell over at the local primary school as my alarm clock’.
We meet him as he arrives at his cousin Sharon’s 21st Birthday party at the Parochial Hall in Dingle. Unfortunately, the party is filled with complete Aislings. Feeling out of his depth and lonely, he decides to lock himself in the bathroom for the evening ‘with a glass of water and the wifi password’, when he claps his eyes on the Belly Button Girl. She is working behind the bar, her hair pinned up in a dark bun, bird like, with tiny black hairs on her skinny arms, and so begins an infatuation with this warm and elusive young woman.
Moran came up with the idea when he was writing Downward Facing Dog, the story of a young man who falls in love with his yoga instructor, while simultaneously being very bad at yoga ‘I realised I wasn’t actually writing about yoga, I was actually writing about a relationship, and once I stripped it back, The Belly Button Girl was left.
Moran’s writing is observant and witty. He has created bizarre, brash characters such as ‘Sambuca Lady’; the local taxi driver and resident smoked salmon thief; Miguel, the lonely sailor from Limerick; Cleopatra, the ill-fated pug; and the ominous ‘Massive Lad’, who can’t get the Nokia 3210 theme tune out of his head.
Moran gives an earnest performance, cutting his teeth on a topic that has universal salience. The play is a funny, heart wrenching throw back to the confusion of being vulnerable and falling blissfully in love. Soon he begins to realise ‘that the belly button girl was becoming my best friend.’
Despite his naivety, we are endeared to our neurotic protagonist, so unsure of himself, and yet so willing to let himself fall, ‘I wanted to remember, what it felt like to hold her hand’. Although the play is mostly humourous in tone, there are edges of darkness peppered throughout, telling a story of how love and pain can be ruinous.
We never discover the name of the Belly Button Girl. Moran explains ‘I have a name for her in my head. But, I decided not to ever share it with the audience, it’s a secret’. Moran is full of energy on stage, a passionate performer, it’s clear he has plenty more to say.