Friday, October 11, 2019

Engine – liberating artists to tell stories (Tinderbox in Brian Friel Theatre until Saturday 12 October)

Tinderbox Theatre puts play at the heart of its work, trying to free artists up from the boundaries of role, loosening the constraints of rules, and through this sense of liberation, create theatre work is often hard to describe as it transcends traditional categorisation.

Its Engine programme has worked with 20 artists over the last two weeks playing with an idea and devising a show which was performed tonight and will be back on stage tomorrow evening due to popular demand.

The story is about the death of man and the gathering of his friends and family, against the backdrop of what happens to the border on 31 October 2019. The border is physical, a thick white elastic tape that stretches diagonally across the otherwise setless stage. It can be pulled and bent into shapes, creating rooms, walls and coastlines. Around it and up against it, groups of performers travel towards an office in Belfast where all will be revealed …

The first week was spent developing their language of spatial dramaturgy, and working up tools and techniques alongside directors Carlos García Estévez and Paige Allerton from Manifesto Poetico, a 20 years old theatre research laboratory working with the abstraction of space, spirit of imagination, and essence of the collective as they tell stories.

The second week moved into the creation phase, and it’s clear from the characterisations that the cast and creatives had great fun. An Argentinian carries a brick from Berlin above his head like a trophy from another border. Another group navigate passport patrol at the border in the wellyboots. Breeda Riley reports live – and loud – from the Drogheda border for television news, while a detective in a belted overcoat stomps around (with comical live musical sound effects) piecing together clues about the deceased man’s life and times before it all goes slightly Cambridge Analytica and a bit Die Hard.

It’s a blast. A neat story, well told. Short and to the point. Manipulating space. At least as physical as it is verbal. With concepts that would never have been thought off if a playwright had submitted a script and told the director to stick to it. Building networks of artists who will continue to collaborate in the future.

You can catch the extra performance of Engine in the Brian Friel Theatre (go in through the door for the Queen’s Film Theatre and keep walking straight ahead) on Saturday evening, 12 October, at 7.30pm.

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