what happened instead

21 Jan

Well I didn’t go see the show again. I’m some lame theatre sleuth. It was a freezing rainy day and somehow I wanted to stay with first impressions as well. In that life-art folded way I ended up walking around Dublin with Michele, who I met last night at the performance. The fictional walk through the city, the second-person beginning to the show last night (“you arrive in a city you don’t know well”) infiltrated the following day and became our day’s performance. Lovely to walk through a city with someone who lives there. You so quickly become lost. We walked up Georges Street and through a park and around a curve in the road, suddnly out of tourist Dublin and into housing projects, which were not the sudden dip into ugliness I’ve learned to associate with housing for the poor. These were red brick, human scale, with little balconies and washing. Dublin is very compact and not yet (or ever to be?) segregated, it’s more that the local Irish and the visitors are like warm and cold streams of water in the ocean—its’ all one body and you move along and suddenly it’s changed. Dunnes discount stores next to high fashion boots.

I wonder if writers need to do things differently. I wonder if I see the work fresh or if my own obsessions and silent internal dramaturgy are always working with what it isn’t, as well as what it is. Michele was describing another big chaotic show of theirs she’d seen, and how at a certain point she realized her neck was hot, that she was angry and wondering what she was supposed to make of it. Then in the midst of all the mess— suddenly an image or moment of intense emotion, or tenderness, or cruelty. And then the chaos again. She was saying how as a writer (it’s not just me!) she often felt frustrated (not just by F. E. but many ensembles who spurn the script/ solo author) – that yes, you have some wonderful material but you stopped before it became something. Before it found its shape.

So, some moments:
Wendy on the ladder in her cave-man outfit (big wheelie ladder) pouring buckets of fake snow over the narrator. Richard masturbating in a cave-man outfit and doing ridiculous fertility dances, stage-whispering prompts to the narrator that included sex in every part of history (so to speak). Robin stage-whispering prompts to the narrator, who was trying to provide an overarching narrative of History. The dance of the Long Peace, and all they didn’t know, the narrator told us (those strange waxy figures moving moribund through history’s Victorian pause) about what was to come. World War I. World War II. Hiroshima. The Cold War.

My favorite bits were in between other bits, when they just stopped. In the hiatus between one piece of masquerading chaos and another. And some solitary moments— the 3 cavemen masturbating vigorously in front of a laptop. That was funny. The volcano scene.

Most of all I liked Terry’s narration, which were quiet and very personal, because they formed some kind of counterpoint and complexity to the chaos which just seemed illustrative of one idea (school history is bad and Eurocentric and leaves so much out- yes, we know.) “Stuff was happening in Bolivia. Stuff was happening in Japan. But here in Europe, it was the Black Plague”. In the Dark Ages, when the narrator got the lights turned out and everyone sort of sat against the flats and only the bar radiators glowed, Terry clicked through slides on a laptop—each change making a nasty QUACK sound— and told stories. The images were very everyday, the places in between places, that nobody lives in really. A hotel room with the furniture stacked. “Someone you might have known”. And as the Dark Ages progressed, many ordinary objects whose names he couldn’t recall. Like a knife or a cup, things like that, supermarket wrapped meat. This alongside the narrator’s Triumph of Man attempt to narrate the Dark Ages when they forgot things. A list of things that were lost. Reading, writing, history, painting.

Terry’s last speech. The bookends that failed to hold a book in between. But the slipping and falling can’t be dismissed. Somewhere between slipping and landing is the show—somewhere in free-fall, an impact glimpsed but deferred, lost in the About-ness, with the generality that summons, of the topic of History.

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