Thursday 18 January 2018

Dublin Theatre Festival: A one-man show that's a little old fashioned

Audience participation at Tino Rodrigues’s play
Audience participation at Tino Rodrigues’s play

Katy Hayes

Portuguese actor-writer Tiago Rodrigues's one-man show has something in common with a clown's circus act where attendees are conscripted into the action.

Ten audience members volunteer to learn a poem. With some of the qualities of reality television, this is reality theatre. It presents the spectacle of real people performing a task. Instead of eating maggots in the jungle, they have to learn a Shakespeare sonnet. The unpredictability of the volunteers' behaviour adds a frisson and an extra-live dimension to the live performance.

Rodrigues is clever and knowing, claiming "audiences love to see vulnerable people", and the work is highly intelligent. He weaves a story about his 93-year-old grandmother's desire to learn a book off by heart as her sight fails. From this personal story he extrapolates into the political realm, and the possibility of protecting art by containing it within memory.

Whilst ultra-modern in form, the piece is completely old fashioned in its historical concerns.

George Steiner and Ray Bradbury are a bit back there. Condemning Nazism and Stalinism is not exactly a challenging position in 2015. Don't we have more immediate problems with knowledge-annihilating regimes in the 21st Century?

There is just one glancing reference to 9/11. Surprising from an artist so young (he's 38). This material would be a bit retro from someone in their sixties.

The pull of the political is finally abandoned in favour of a deeply sentimental denouement. Suddenly the actor is acting, rather than persuasively being, thus derailing an already shaky train as it shuttled home.

Irish Independent

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