Monday 16 December 2019

Review: The Smile Off Your Face

Smock Alley Theatre

Alexander Devriendt in 'The Smile Off Your Face'
Alexander Devriendt in 'The Smile Off Your Face'

Sophie Gorman

AN affable man welcomes you into an almost empty corridor. Speaking words of reassurance, he helps you into an awaiting wheelchair, binds your hands together, locks your feet in place and blindfolds you.

Then he pushes you through a door and into a kaleidoscopic world of sensory overload. And that's pretty much all you can say about 'The Smile Off Your Face' without spoiling the crucial element of surprise.

As you voyage around in your wheelchair chariot, you are utterly disoriented. But you feel alive, your every sense tingling with anticipation.

Deprived of sight, your other senses are heightened. You smell. You listen. You taste. You touch. You are touched. You are invigorated. You learn to trust. You are seduced. You begin to see without seeing. You share intimate thoughts with invisible strangers. They compel you to be brave, to take chances, to explore ideas. Your smile makes a man cry.

There are funny moments, disturbing moments, surreal moments, memory-triggering moments. You are challenged, confused, engaged, afraid, invigorated -- and sometimes all at the same time.

But essentially, you trust that you are safe and this faith enables you to put yourself into the hands of strangers.

Presented by Belgium's Ontroerend Goed theatre company, this is not a play in any real sense, though there are impossible scenes playing out in your own imagination.

And you are very much a key performer in this piece. Your responses are an intrinsic part of the experience, shaping the direction that certain situations take and ensuring that no two shows can ever be the same.

This work is ultimately all about surrender, the ability to give yourself entirely to this experience, to release your inhibitions, to open yourself up to all these possibilities. You emerge from this adventure into your imagination and float out into the real world, the smile very much on your face.

Irish Independent

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