The Guardian reported the story of a sinkhole appearing in Guatemala city.
“When we heard the loud boom we thought a gas canister from a neighbouring home had exploded, or there had been a crash on the street. We rushed out to look and saw nothing. A gentleman told me that the noise came from my house, and we searched until we found it under my bed.”
From this germ of a true tale, playwright Sarah Gordon tells what at first sounds like an increasingly surreal story of denial, confusion, reproach and cover up as things that are familiar are sucked into expanding holes that just keep appearing. Stripped back without a set or sound effects, the short performance includes visual humour, plays on words, food and many moments of absurdity between Sarah and an actor who is deliberately unfamiliar with the script. Tara Lynne O’Neill was the actor on the night I reviewed.
The role of the playwright, actor and audience are established in an early scene that gently introduces some repetition of speech and awkward pauses. The programme notes inform the audience that “this is a play for anybody who has ever forgotten what they came upstairs for”. There’s a subtly to the performance and how it has been engineered to allow familiar actions to become distracted and distorted. While we’ve been warned that “a hole appearing is really about something disappearing”, these holes in the action are at first ignored by the audience, though later examples may still be disregarded.
A Sinkhole In Guatemala explores dementia with the fondness and compassion of someone who does acknowledge and understand what a family member is experiencing. Provoking laughter and tears, the performance is warm throughout and towards the end introduces a raw realism about what life must be like: a production that will live long in my mind and conversations.
Premièred at this year’s Tiger Dublin Fringe and developed with the support of Prime Cut Productions’ Reveal programme, A Sinkhole In Guatemala was part of this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival.