Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nyree Yergainharsian, ‘Where Do I Start?’: Pirandello & Ponies

Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Feb 15-16

A few thoughts on Where Do I Start? coming up just as soon as I hate Ryanair …

“Who is Nyree Yergainharsian and why should we care?”

This is the challenge Yergainharsian has set before her as she sits alone, watching her audience file in, armed with nothing but a few random play-scripts and plastic horses among other curiosities arranged on the floor next her. She’s looking a bit uneasy and whatever strength these oblivious possessions offer her wont falter us unmerciful masses. Nyree is alone and we’re waiting for her to tell her story. 

After admitting: “I’m a bit afraid of you to be honest”, she delivers her disposition, confused but charmingly honest. Sentiment breathes into the littered possessions as the young performer earnestly tiptoes through her story, detailing her childhood in Meath, her Armenian heritage, her exodus to London to make a new life for herself, and even more biological candours. As if just tripped out of Roland Orzabal/Gary Jules’ Mad World, Yergainharsian’s frightened demeanour has a poetic sensitivity. Discoveries such as “I realized that I missed playing the piano” and “I lost my friends and then I found them again” are casually slipped in, and their subtleness is rather beautiful as they disappear into the atmosphere without further context. In trying to isolate her ‘identity’ the performer talks about her relationship to her Armenian heritage, referencing the Armenian Genocide after World War I  and Armenian societal customs a hundred years ago. Yergainharsian’s  conclusion is that who we are are children of time and circumstance, and she delivers it with sweet irony.

Also striking is the show’s style of presentation. Comparisons can be made to Una  McKevitt’s recent work, which positions non-performers to stand before audiences and deliver honest testimonies without exaggeration. While Yergainharsian’s performance exists in such a self-referential space, she does utilize exaggeration in her onstage persona. Unlike McKevitt’s collaborators, Nyree is very much so a ‘performer’. In fact, her love and ability for theatre is as crucial an element of her identity as her Armenian background: “That’s why I’m telling you this in here and not out there”. In this respect, Yergainharsian's onstage profile bears resemblance to a Pirandello creation, artistically tailoring facets of ‘self’ in trying to consolidate their true identity.

Only groan I had was the ticket price, which didn’t really reflect the duration of the show at all.

What did everybody else think?


  1. I loved it. For me it was the stand-out of last night's Theatre Machine programme. The writing was honest and creative and I got a real sense of someone trying to figure out who they were and what the sum of their parts really meant. The only thing was that I sometimes found her delivery to be a little over-acted in its nervousness which seemed to go against the authenticity of the content. Nyree did have a wonderful humility and sense of humour though, which instantly endeared her to the audience. While the piece was certainly brave, it could have revealed more about Nyree's personal life but then again, I liked that the audience were left to wonder about lines such as her referring to characters as more reliable than herself and the admission towards the end that she has had a few blows in her life which slowed her down for a while. An exploration of her emotional history would have given us a completely different piece of theatre and to have missed this one would be a real shame. More please.

  2. I agree Ro, more Nyree please.

    The show's concern with 'authenticity' is a really interesting question. After initially seeing the show I agreed that her nervousness was distracting and unnecessary. But after thinking about it I found that there is something going on with this exaggeration, whether it be her nervous twitches or the daft scene change after the blackout. This use of theatrical elements seems to create a 'meta performance' that the audience are very much so 'in' on. The pros and cons of this type of theatre space are up for grabs. It could be argued that such a space emphasized the intangible relationship between the performer's identity and the stage. But, as you touched on Ro, perhaps it almost made her distanced from the emotional material.

    But you're right: if done any differently it would be a completely different show, and I think this piece hit a number of positives to stay in the good books.