Monday, November 8, 2010

Fregoli, 'The Idiot Box': The Truman Show

Nun’s Island Theatre
Oct 25-26

Thoughts on The Idiot Box coming up just as soon as I alienate the blind …

If there is one thing that is consistent in the practice of theatre companies in Galway: it’s a commitment to risk and experimentation. Nobody likes to stay comfortable for too long. After all, innovation is inherent in an artist’s nature and where else can they test their techniques but in the space with their audience? However, it does pose the question: when does an artist stop treating their live space as ‘experiment’ and start treating it as ‘work’? 

Fregoli command a mania in their work, one I’ve only witnessed during their fantastically ferocious production of Disco Pigs this past summer. Their new original piece for Galway Theatre Festival, The Idiot Box, is engaging though not as formidable. It is not the madness that is at fault here, but rather the method to it.

Cathal (Shane McDermott) and Barry (Aron Hegarty) are two housemates that have little in common other than they’ve both grappled with tremendous grief. Both men are essentially fractured, and dreaming of ideals has become currency in this domestic den. When Elizabeth (Rebecca Ryan) moves into the apartment these indulgences of fantasy take dangerous physical forms, one of which is a developed obsession with surveillance and perception inspired by The Truman Show

There are a lot of admirable ideas here. McDermott’s writing contains a winning capacity for comedy as well as a maturity that is poetically descriptive and moving, especially in moments which contemplate father-son relationships. Hegarty is tall and solid in form but fragile at heart, and almost effortlessly evokes a resemblance to humanity and all her sorrows and wishes that is essential in this otherwise mad house. 

Where the The Idiot Box falls for me is in the conflicting intent of the nature of the space. The play seeks expressionist avenues of dreamscapes, soliloquies, and transparent voices to compose the woes and dark humour of its landscape, and done so quite skilfully. However, there is a persisting claim to naturalism in the piece as well, suggested by the set of the living room and the positioning of the actors on the couch to convince us of the action of viewing the television. If we are indeed in a naturalist setting, then the consequences of such a realism must be taken into account, leading an audience member to think things like: “Is that really the best place to keep your dream journal?”. 

These claims to both naturalism and expressionism are ultimately contradictory, and thus The Idiot Box suffers from a psychosis that is rather unfortunate. 

What did everybody else think?

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