Review: Multi-sensory experience at the cost of a plot
Theatre: Sunder, Moore Street, Dublin
ANU productions present the first of a triptych of works conceived to mark the 1916 centenary. Their work is a blend of theatre, performance art and installation, frequently with a site-specific aspect. It appears more mainstream this year, as the entire centenary commemoration jamboree has the characteristics of a devised multidisciplinary site-specific engagement.
This show starts at the library in the Ilac Centre. The small audience, five when I was there, are given individual mobile phones through which come instructions. Each audience member goes a different route and has a different experience.
Director Louise Lowe steers this representation of the final events of the 1916 rising around Moore Street and its environs. There are three phases to the work. The first, mainly outdoor, involves meeting familiar figures, including Winnie Carney who was James Connolly's secretary and Seán McLoughlin, the 20-year-old Dubliner who was promoted to Commandant General.
There is an urgency and immediacy to this material, which is highly infectious.
The audience is directed to a stairway at the back of a Chinese food shop for the second more abstract phase: a too-hot room with two women covered in mud experiencing some sort of agony. The third phase was in the same building in different rooms. Two women and an injured man behave as you might imagine panicked civilians would have behaved in 1916. These interiors are carefully designed and lit. We eventually find ourselves back on Moore Street again.
With this type of abstract work, what you lose is language, story and character development. And without character, empathy is difficult.
But the biggest difference between this and the traditional theatrical experience is the induced self-consciousness in the audience member.
You assist rather than spectate and at no point do you forget yourself or lose yourself in the art. What you gain is a multi-sensory experience, but the losses are a high price to pay.