The new campus drama from UCD’s Campus Television Network comes under the cynical eye of Jon Hozier-Byrne
From the whimsical title, you’d be forgiven for thinking CTN’s new series Belfield of Dreams was a hilarious comedy – but upon watching it you quickly realise it’s more in line with an American soap than a humorous take on campus life that probably would have suited the medium better. Student drama is an insanely difficult thing to do well, and Brian Dermody’s new project attempts it boldly and ultimately pulls it off well.
Belfield of Dreams follows a love triangle between three young freshers, each one vying for the other’s attention and being more irritating then the character preceding them. We have Johnny (Jack Esposito), the stereotypical American cool guy, who shoots rifles and has sex with things. He’s the villain of the piece but his ingenious schemes come off as less Machiavellian, and more petty and relatively retarded. There’s Mike (Paul Duggan), the likable but naïve young fresher and the writer’s author-insertion-persona, who needs a slap and a good stern talking to. Finally there’s Aisling (Clare Leatham), the token ‘hot girl’, around whom the plot revolves – a fact that the character is clearly aware of.
It’s easy to lose interest quickly in their collective romance, and far more interesting is the character of Ronan O’Dea (Kevin Nolan), who’s like a mix between every UCD Northsider and The Viper out of Hardy Bucks. Although he’s only on screen far, far too briefly, he’s a much more interesting character, and delivers the only really funny lines in the piece. For episode three I’m genuinely hoping writer/director Brian Dermody just follows him around campus as he tells women they’re obvious lesbians and tells Law students nobody will ever love them.
Some elements of Belfield of Dreams are really very good. Clearly Brian Dermody has put a lot of effort into the piece, and the cinematography, editing and soundtrack in particular give the piece a professionalism often missing in student productions. Working against this, however, is the acting. Not all of it, mind you, as most of the young actors do a stellar job but some of the actors simply don’t have much to work with. Aisling’s long emotional diatribes about ‘life’ are at best banal, and at worst extremely irritating, a tough character to pull off. She then complains that Mike “probably wouldn’t want to listen to a word I’m saying anyway.” Mike has the right idea.
The camerawork is occasionally shoddy, and the audio levels go up and down frantically, but now I’m just nit-picking. All in all, Belfield of Dreams is a bold new project from CTN, and will hopefully start a trend. It’s a pretty fun show, and if you can see past minor imperfections and the occasionally fudged line, you’ll find a keen and clever observation of UCD life.