Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Clinic Media, 'Life Behind The Venue': There is an 'Us' in 'Usher'

Project Arts Centre
Nov 19-23

My review of Life Behind The Venue coming up just as soon as I get an office with a balcony ...

It's a bad idea to wear jeans and runners on your first day of work, I'm reminded as a stern supervisor throws me a look of disapproval. The audience are fresh meat in Clinic Media's promenade performance exploring identity in the workplace, as we are trained to be ushers in the performance's venue. The backstage of Project Arts Centre is thrown open as we're split into separate tours, led by eccentric guides teaching us the trade. Rip off that ticket stub. Escort the tall man to the back row. What do you wish to gain from this experience?

We have the stock workplace characters: the recently promoted exile, the competitive co-worker, and the downbeat employee who brings his personal problems to work. The exceptionally clever Mary Lou Mc Carthy sneaks us into dressing rooms and offices, responding with such expert timing and wit that it's hard to tell if she's improvising or not. Bumping into other characters along the way reveals her determination to sidestep the hierarchy (as well as a comical office she's self-fashioned under the staircase), in what is a meticulous planning of interactions mapped by director Eoin Ó hAnnracháin.

This promenade romp through the workplace rolls with charm and hilarity. Its only drawback is its ending, as it scrambles for a dramatic collision to bring the performance to a close. Mc Carthy's whistling narrative crashes into the that of the melancholic co-worker played by Danny O'Connor. The effect of it isn't tonally consistent. For all the play's allusions to how individuals are institutionalised, it doesn't escort us to any new or powerful examination of such.

What did everybody else think?

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