Thursday, January 24, 2013


THEATREclub's mini-festival THE THEATRE MACHINE TURNS YOU ON, VOL. III has run it's course (check out my previous coverage here). A few more words on it after the jump ...

There's a lot to sample in THEATREclub's mini-festival. One recurring theme is the subject of the self-surveillance of Woman. After all, "One is not born a woman but becomes one", said Simone de Beauvoir.

First of all we have Sorcha Kenny's physical theatre performance DOLLSGlazed in candyfloss lighting, Kenney's performers - dressed in daisy-patterned dresses, their faces caked in cosmetics - move in excellent synchronicity, lip-syncing to audio excerpts from beauty pageants and accounts about sex dolls and promiscuity. Nervingly, what this spellbinding performance ultimately brings to light is our inescapable voyeurism, as Kenny's dolls transform into erotic dancers.

To get to the source of gender unbalance you might have to go all the way back to the Book of Genesis, which Ali Matthews has done in her sassy cabaret Eve Speaks (pictured below). "If Eve never came back to Adam, got the hell out of Eden and took up waitressing, and raised a snake baby on her own - I wonder what stories that would bring", she coos while gently strumming a ukulele. For all his handsome attributes, Adam is ultimately incompetent, and now the seductive serpent seems to have caught desiring Eve's attention. Blasphemous perhaps but Matthews's voice is heavenly, her performance daring and relevant as, when a Dalek-voiced God insists she disclose her sexual intimacies, a chord is struck with recent controversies of male control over female bodies.

Or perhaps society's terms of womanhood are more content with putting ladies through laborious recreations of dance routines, as demonstrated in Meadhbh Haicéid's MADONNA (pictured below), which details the performer's pursuit of her soulmate, the queen of pop herself: "To begin with, our names both begin with the same letter ... the letter 'M'". Referencing magazine articles and song lyrics, Haicéid draws similarities between herself and the singer, suggesting a fateful relationship. But when the performer sets about likening herself to the saucier side of the popstar's persona it becomes a nerving commentary on the sexual objectification of the female. Madonna herself (successfully caught after her Aviva gig last July) sees that Haicéid is afraid of something, and it's a precious moment that touches on many insecurities.

Female performativity aside, other performances drew on the economic realities of today. 86,146 mortgages are in arrears according to Veronica Dyas's all that signified me (pictured top). Dyas, despite being caught in that gruesome figure herself, is still optimistic, and has even downsized her worldly possessions to a few items that are included in her performance. What follows is a moving declaration of what the performer is grateful for, chiefly the loving people she has encountered. Dyas sees theatre as ritual, and, as with 2011 masterpiece In My Bed, recognises the ceremony in the form. At performance's end we find ourselves dancing, for ourselves, for the 86,146, across a pattern of bothersome bank letters, and our survival feels all that closer.

2013 brings with it the centennial of the Dublin Lock-Out, which appropriately forms the backdrop of Louise  Lewis and Simon Manahan's new play The Churching of Happy Cullen (pictured above). The wife of a striking worker, Happy Cullen is suspended in a state of remembering, possibly trapped, as she reaches for the knob of a large oak door but can't bring herself to turn it. Here she is to recall her beauteous daughter and the circumstances that befell her. Lewis is tremendous, and has to conjure a lot of ghosts. Alma Kelliher's sound design whispers sweet revelations, as the unfamiliar become familiar to Lewis's heroine. This work-in-progress showing is promising for a more developed production in the future, which I would be most interested in seeing.

So there you have it. What were the highs and lows of your THEATRE MACHINE? 

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