Monday, September 9, 2013

Collapsing Horse, 'Distance from the Event': Days of Future Past

Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 7-9, 11-15, 17-21

My review of Distance from the Event by Eoghan Quinn coming up just as soon as I wear a coat that's exciting ...

It's the question at the heart of any good mystery: "When is the game up?".

Playwright Eoghan Quinn leads us curiously through the world of his new play for Collapsing Horse: a Flann O'Brien come Bladerunner vision of the future where people wade through 'light trains' and class elitism, with cities separating the rich from the poor.

Detectives Mel (Emily Johnson) and John (John Cronin) surveil an art gallery, suspecting the dealer Dez (Karl Quinn) to be a crook. But Mel, who is receiving strange dreams about a mysterious woman, is drawn to another case: the disappearance of an entire human colony on a disenfranchised planet.

Gumshoe grade dialogue and smooth visuals by director Dan Colley make it a lot of fun. Action and scenes are swept along by white panels that are wheeled into position to form different settings. Simon Bird's sound design pulses excitedly and Emma Gleeson's costumes suggest slick noir.

There is also a sense that this is the company at their most mature to date. The more aggressive scenes don't pull the desired punches; Quinn is still better at out-smarting than out-gunning, and with the exception of the experienced Cronin the actors aren't up for it yet. But by not throwing all their storytelling devices at it as they did with MONSTER/CLOCK and Human Child, Distance from the Event begins to feel like their most concentrated and measured work. And of course, it includes one their trademark chase scenes.

But then it begins to lose its footing, as Quinn doubles up on protagonists and story. Terry (Jamie O'Neill), a henchman for the villainous art collector, leads us through a muddled second half. Scenes get weighed down by exposition as we go and nothing dramatically powerful is given to the actors. The script circles and circles until it's off centre. The game is up but it's a different one than the one we started with.

For a while we glimpsed a more mature Collapsing Horse, a company not just technically accomplished but also capable of scaling back effects to allow emotional arcs to form. But there is still some distance to go.

What did everybody else think?

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