Thursday, September 15, 2016

What We’re Made Of - experimental, ambitious, and incredibly engaging (Crescent Theatre until 23 September)

Tinderbox specialise in new writing and last night’s premiere of three new one act pieces was certainly a treat. An ensemble cast of four slipped in and out of diverse characters under the title of What We’re Made Of.

Daragh Carville’s History sees two old flames rekindle their friendship. With the help of two stage hands (Nicky Harley and Rhodri Lewis) who double as inner voices, the playwright plays with time and we see renewed passion grow between Emma (Kerri Quinn) and Declan (Patrick McBrearty) while dipping in and out of significant moments in their past relations. If you turn lives upside down to pursue the only person you’ve really loved will you find enduring happiness and stability amongst the guilt and latent insecurities? Moods change in the beat of a broken heart in this intense and pared back character study that subversively allows the characters to speak in cliché while forcing them off the normal script as events spiral to their conclusion.

After the interval, the audience were introduced to Hen (played by Rhodiri Lewis). In this short woolly performance, stereotypes of gender and identity were unravelled as the audience began to interact with the gestures and mostly non-verbal prompts of the bearded gender-neutral character to his knitting circle. [Hen is the Swedish gender-neutral personal pronoun used as an alternative to Han (he) and Hon (she).] Wearing a spangly skirt, pinny and tie with a hard hat to complete the look, Hen is a character with legs (and a beard) that we’ll hopefully see more of in the future.

The third performance Hiatus is a collaboration between playwrights in Croatia and Northern Ireland (Jonathan Bailie, Vedrana Klepica, Ivor Martinić and John McCann). The audience return into a completely reoriented theatre space, though the components of Niall Rea’s set are familiar in the war torn landscape. Party poetry, part play, part meditation on war, there’s a lot packed into three vignettes, and space is made for comedy amidst the conflict angst.

Who are we when our world falls apart? Acts of defiance and gender are explored as the story behind a famous photograph is dissected and we are reminded that the explanations attached to a single frame can misrepresent the original snapshot.

A coalition is formed in a coat. A ridiculous but brilliant allegory. The intertwining of the mundane, human desire for stuff with an imagined better way and the oppression of conflict and man’s continual attempt to keep woman out of the narrative. Not to mention the creation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for the modern mercenary.

Moby’s Porcelain inspires another scene and shows off the vocal and rhythm talents of Harley and Quinn as the situation of refugees comes under the spotlight. “Hundreds and thousands of people. No government, no home, no protector, the right-less people.”

All three works live up to the Tinderbox’s promise of experimental theatre. If anything there’s nearly too much squeezed into the two hour running time (including interval). And putting milk into a cup followed by the tea bag and then the hot water is just wrong!

What We’re Made Of is experimental, ambitious and incredibly engaging. The three pieces show off the range and ability of the cast and the back stage team at Tinderbox. While Quinn and McBrearty’s disco moves in History are a joy to watch, they also point to the hand of director Patrick J O’Reilly. And the crisp dialogue and sparse silences indicate that the red pen of dramaturg Hanna Slättne has homed the writing. While Niall Rea’s set is simple, and much of the production is exposed, this belies the complex layers of cues, lighting effects and Katie Richardson’s pumping soundtrack.

What We’re Made Of runs in the Crescent Arts Centre until 23 September. Three performances not to be missed or forgotten.

No comments: