Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ruairí Donovan, 'ZOMBIES': Night of the Living Dead

This all-nighter polemic seeks to open our eyes to the collapse of Capitalist culture. Keeping our eyes open is another story.

D-Light Studios, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 6-7, 13-14

My review of ZOMBIES; why death is dying or are you working hard enough? coming up just as soon as I distrust a poem that introduces itself as a poem ...

"Someone has to do it" accepts the security guard, sipping his coffee. Having pulled a graveyard shift more exact than usual, he directs me inside the warehouse environs of D-Light Studios. Taking heed of a producer's instructions - "This performance is dangerous" - we walk cautiously upstairs to an event that promises imaginings of a new future.

A sleeping dancer in a worker's uniform (Cathy Walsh) takes deep breaths, then quickening into convulsions, smacking scarily against the concrete. Contorted and grunting, her transformation into zombie is pretty grim but goes unnoticed by her ensemble members, who are mostly engrossed by their various Apple devices.

Ruairí Donovan's production, in collaboration with artists from France, Germany and the US, continues in this vein - to diagnose Capitalist culture and how money and technology are severing attempts at human connection. The urgency of this is found in the hazardous feel of the space, where props are smashed, melted down, and torn asunder by chainsaws.

Tonally, there are madcap moments such as Larry Arrington's hilarious "romance is dead" speech and Mica Sigourney's dazzling performance as a drag queen taking hold of the world. It's jarring then to have a heavy handed sentimentality that permeates throughout. Jassem Hindi's monologue as he plucks the feathers from a dead chicken, as well as the roots of anti-environmentalism, would be otherwise incisive if not for mentioning an all-encompassing past lover. Similarly, Sigourney's depiction of masturbation, laden with a voiceover account of a consuming love, is, forgive the pun, anti-climactic.

Louise Trueheart's physical lines of enquiry are sweeping but while we watch her sincere prayer to God, we wonder if ZOMBIES is confused about how it wants to engage with its audience. While scenes such as this suggest that it wants to connect on an empathic level, the casual nature of the event and the primacy of technology suggests that it's designed to block us out. Maybe it's wanting us to feel that very Capitalist experience of disconnection, and if pushed far enough we'd probably delight in seeing someone take a chainsaw to a very tangible and isolating fourth wall.

The performance isn't ready though. We don't get to access the second, more interactive act. The live time of the event (1-6am) isn't acknowledged either (Donovan's late night WITCHES kept us up to see the dawn, in more sense than one). As I walk home along the empty streets, I look around and wonder just how ZOMBIES could have healed the world.

What did everybody else think?

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