Tuesday 21 November 2017

Dublin Theatre Festival: Review - Politik

Samuel Beckett Theatre

Alan O'Riordan

The Company are not shy about sharing their modus operandi. It seems to consist of locking themselves away with prescribed reading material that serves as the inspiration for what have been some fresh, funny and well crafted pieces.

In 2009's Fringe hit Who Is Fergus Kilpatrick? Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard were the starting point -- those postmodernists with their unsettling notions about the nature of reality.

For 2010's As You Are Now So Once Were We, Ulysses was the template. They did not don straw boaters, but instead took from the book a cue about how the personal and the universal fit together in daily urban life.

This year, The Company, who are performers Brian Bennett, Nyree Yergainharsian, Rob McDermott and Tanya Wilson, directed by Jose Miguel Jimenez, have been thinking mostly about politics.

They have come to less-than-startling conclusions, told to us by Yergainharsian after a gratuitous opening dance routine: quadrennial (give or take) suffrage is not enough; more direct democracy is needed, more civic engagement. And who could disagree with that?

The Company wants to illustrate the principle using theatre as a metaphor. They perform a story that is not undersold when it is described as one "we've seen many times": a simple bank-heist scenario.

Then they proceed to deconstruct and reconstruct the piece, with varying levels of participation from the audience, who are not tucked safely away in the stalls, but scattered around the wide performance space.

There is nowhere to hide, and we are all pressganged into the ensemble, with some doubling as actors, others helping demarcate with chalk the various scenes: a cafe, the bank, a night club and the hideout.

What has this got to do with politics? It's the metaphor, stupid: participation affects the system. We participate in the play and its narrative changes. The same goes for politics.

This is true, but it is also axiomatic. The same goes for so many things -- from quantum physics to football -- that it's really of no metaphorical use at all. But it's easy to forget this when you're deciding which character should have Tourette's, which a lisp, and which narcolepsy.

What the audience devises isn't necessarily inspired, but such is the giddy energy created that it doesn't matter. The show is a gregarious hoot, even if, to find it funny, you really do have to be there.

The performers are bright, generous, witty, decisive and confident, even if this isn't as subtle or clever or artful as we have seen them in the past.

Irish Independent

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