Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fishamble, 'Underneath': On the Brink of Genius or Virtuosity?

Kinevane's poetic drama pursues ideas of beauty. It's a question of whether or not you'll appreciate its eclecticism. Photo: Patrick Redmond.

Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick City of Culture
December 5-6

My spoiler-free review of Underneath by Pat Kinevane coming up just as soon as I headbutt the Queen ...

When it comes to Pat Kinevane's drama, Fishamble director Jim Culleton has the task of sustaining a smorgasbord of devices borrowed from various theatrical styles. Taking an Irish story, Underneath (the marketing materials of which depict the playwright/performer resembling a black-faced pharaoh) presents it with choreography that gestures like moving hieroglyphs, as a manipulation of Egyptian iconography speaks in the indirect mode of symbolism. Cutaways, then, to scenes from a television property show - showing a man and his unpleasing wife in their endless search for a house -  feels like a strain from the absurdist theatre, conveying a meaningless universe. Add an un-linear plot to the mix, a form of audience address similar to a stand-up comedy routine, eventually someone might ask: is it all a bit too much?

Yet Kinevane is curiously watchable, his presence otherworldly. The characters in the plays, like the playwright's aesthetic, exist on the edge of a system. The struggle lived by the speaker in Underneath is represented in tattered costume design by Catherine Condell, with metallic face-paint that sets the figure alight. Denis Clohessy's gorgeous composition of harp strings and drums are in keeping with the atmosphere, while a set adorned with golden fabrics evokes an Egyptian tomb.

It's a poetic drama pursing ideas of beauty, showing the disfigured and the immaculate mutually trapped within a derogatory system of meaning. There is a question of whether or not you'll appreciate its eclecticism; the performer carves some powerful moments but frustratingly follows them with a wisecrack or jest, flippantly rushing the award along, rendering such awards meaningless. As a whole, it sits undecided between an evocative drama and a theatricalised comedy routine.

Still, the fusion of forms is fascinating and may propose something entirely new. What's certain is that Fishamble's gilded production situates Kinevance on the brink of either genius or over-virtuosity.

What did everybody else think?

No comments:

Post a Comment