Engaging, thought-provoking and surreal
AS You Are Now So Once Were We is not a play. And it's not a dance piece. It's an exercise.
By all the rules, it should be self-indulgent and arrogant in an expectation of audiences engaging with what is essentially an inward-looking examination. But it is totally engaging, despite an apparent coldness and dismissal of the audience as the fourth wall.
It's presented by The Company on the Peacock stage, with four actors 'playing' themselves on a stage lined with crates which become everything from battering rams, to mirrors, to the stage doorway of the Peacock Theatre itself.
The non-existent action pivots on a physical and verbal examination by the two men and two women watching themselves mentally, observing the others, but only in relation to themselves, and seeing themselves as part of the past as they live the present, which in turn becomes a mirror into the future. It's as clever as it is contemptuous, and as oddly thought-provoking as it is surreal.
From the moment Nyree wakes up in Howth and avoids looking at her morning face in the bathroom mirror, she and her housemates -- actors all -- are irritatedly absorbed in shared trivia, unpleasantly (or perhaps resignedly) aware of their ephemeral nature.
But the reality of a theatre -- the Peacock -- where they are performing a play about crates, is the steadying epicentre that helps them to blend past and future into an all-encompassing present once they walk through the stage door. It's a hell of a hymn to the power of an art form.
But it would be as irritating as the trivia the cast paint as their daily lives were it not for the extraordinary physical talent and discipline on display.
Directed by Jose Miguel Jimenez, the cast of four are a dream to watch as they dance, posture, strike attitudes, stride and freeze; they guy themselves and each other in a dazzling pantomime of self-mockery that turns what could be self-indulgence into sly humour. And given that nothing happens (twice or even three times), that is one very naughty achievement.
The actors are Brian Bennett, Rob McDermott, Tanya Wilson and Nyree Yergainharsian, and the technically intricate and precise design is by Ciaran O'Melia.