Project Arts Centre, Dublin
My review of Weaving the Cry coming up just as soon as I recognise my stitch ...
If you ever tried to picture Riders of the Sea sailing on Galician waters, strung up with Grotowskian discipline, it would probably look like Weaving the Cry, an independent reaction to Synge’s play by theatre laboratory Nervousystem. Choosing this dark miserable territory to travel is brave, and what the company ultimately achieves with their distinct style is a harrowing allegory of a culture at the mercy of the fierce cruel sea.
Synge’s tale is that of Maurya, her daughters Cathleen and Nora and son Bartley. Maurya has lost her husband and five sons to the ocean and now tries to prevent Bartley from the same fate. At the same time, Cathleen and Nora have reason to believe that their brother Michael has drowned. The plot highlights Synge’s eye for cultural institutions, with the influential figure of the priest used by Maurya as an attempted gambit against Bartley, and Cathleen and Nora’s disapproval of her sending him off on an ill word.
Nervousystem open up the plot further, exploring Nora’s sexuality in her romancing of the waves and giving the deceased Michael a scene where the shirt that would later serve as an indicator to his doom is presented as an emblem of his affections for his family. After Bartley’s departure, Maurya’s pain is represented in the unravelling of a ball of twine that her daughters use to adorn the space, creating what resembles a ship-deck on which Weaving the Cry will take its own course. In the end, after Bartley’s body is found, the production invites us to mourn in what is essentially a wake. Maurya and her daughters wash the young man’s body and sing with all their strength. The scene seems otherworldly yet relatable, and also incredibly honourable considering Synge’s own ear for cultural ceremony.
As with its source material, the piece is sailing on rough waters, so to speak, and having our empathies keep up with these cold miserable affairs is a heavy order. The severity of the performances doesn’t do the production too many favours, and in the midst of trying to portray the cruelty of the play’s environments, our connections with what is human and familial is often lost. This overpowering bleakness is heavy burden to the production, one which they fail to relieve. However, with less science and more humanism, Nervousystem will be downright unstoppable.
What did everybody else think?