Invisible Atom by 2b Theatre Company @ CAT 23/06/2010

I didn’t know what to expect on my way to ‘Invisible Atom’ – reading the blurb I had seen references to math-sy things and sort of gave up on understanding the play, especially as I have dyscalculia! However, I have never before been as wrong in my pre-play impressions and found I understood the play, probably a little too well.

The play was presented under the banner of ‘2b Theatre’ a, what might be described as, quirky theatre company from Nova Scotia – not of Elizabeth Bishop fame I think and written by Anthony Black, the sole actor in the piece.

Walking into the theatre space was quite a surprise. A lot of the seats were taped up with signs indicating you shouldn’t sit here and once we had become settled, the attendant announced if we left we couldn’t be left back in due to the delicate nature of the lights in the piece. In my naivety and due to my faniciful personality I was expecting lasers at this stage!

But I was in for something far more impressive and a far greater testament to the creative spirit.

Invisible Atom from UTRFestival on Vimeo.

Above you have Black’s opening three minutes and a taste of the ingenious use of lighting to create refreshing metaphors. In fact the entire piece features innovation that will make your mind do a double take!

As you can see Black uses his hand to portray Atom’s walk to the edge and through the decision making process that happens there. It open’s with a narrator who becomes the main character – which, just now, strikes me as interesting because Atom will go on to narrate the other characters vital to the story just as he is narrating himself now. The use of hands in itself is quite endearing, playful, childish and almost like puppetry. There is something quite intimate about it too – after all, holding hands is one of the most tender and intimate displays of affection there are.

I would think that creating this air of intimacy is important to “Invisible Atom” as, for me, the piece was powerful and moving because Atom’s character became real for me and I identified with him on a very real, personal level. I’ve only ever felt the same way about one other fictional character – Edna Pontellier from Chopin’s “The Awakening”. This is probably because we are very clearly brought into Atom’s thoughts and perspective. He is the only character on stage and the portrayal of the other characters and even his physical surroundings are filtered through him.

This connection with the character is also strengthened by the innovative and affecting ways Black describes how Atom is feeling. One example is the use of a book that is dropped, mirroring Atom’s workplace as it is bombed. The book seemingly hits the ground without
making a sound. This replicates the feeling a person has as they miss the last step in the stairs – the mind numbing lurch of your heart. It is difficult not to empathise when you, yourself have shared the experience.

The ending, while I won’t give it away, was harrowing for me. I had to go home and think it over, try and absorb it, try and cope with the fact that it happened. (I may have some issues separating fiction and reality😛 ) I am very grateful to have seen this piece – I’m certain it will act as a benchmark for any creative works I participate in.

“Invisible Atom” is a piece that uses the theatrical medium to it’s full potential. The stage and the theatre have been thoroughly considered and woven into the essence of the staging. It is not just a script that has been written for the sake of writing a play it is a piece that could not have happened on TV or the cinema screen or anywhere else but on the stage and for me that makes “Invisible Atom” a very important piece.

I had the good fortune to meet Anthony Black in person. Unfortunately, me being me, I failed to be able to hold a proper conversation! The plug in my mind having been pulled and draining me of the ability to articulate the little intelligence I posses. He was lovely though and tolerated me very good naturedly – especially as I kept popping up randomly through out the day and the next!

It is often I try and justify the importance of theatre – it’s significance as a medium in a world of cinema and TV and it is thanks to pieces like “Invisible Atom” that give me the confidence to believe in theatre’s place in our lives.

http://www.2btheatre.com/
2b Facebook

The Last Cargo Cult & From Away by Mike Daisey @ Half Moon Theatre

First of all, no I haven’t fixed my laptop but I have found a decent internet access point! So I’ll be able to continue publishing. The stats for this blog tell me I have a few visitors so I now have some responsibility it seems…oh dear!

You may have noticed I have squashed these two performances together. Am I being lazy? Maybe… but seeing as the performances themselves are quite similar I wouldn’t want to reiterate the format again and I don’t think I could turn the material from both shows into stand alone blog posts so I’ll discuss them together.

Again the simple set and dramatic lighting do nothing to take from Daisey’s performance and thus do it a great justice. He uses his expressions and tones of voice to add a wondrous texture to his monologues. In one moment you’re trying to gasp some air through the eruptions of laughter and in the next his sincerity is sending scratches up and down your spine and knocks on your integrity, even your humanity. Daisey’s style is captivating. His understanding of subtle humor is delightful.

He is a debater’s dream. He has thoroughly and skillfully crafted his arguments for the greatest effect and one would do well to study his style. Clearly an astute observer, Daisey manages to sculpt cultural subtleties into greater significance and I was left gaping at how seamlessly these references brought the story and argument on together, thereby rendering you helpless to discovering how you reached that conclusion and helpless to the realisation that that conclusion must be the most natural to come by. Very clever.

The official blurb for “The Last Cargo Cult” runs thus;

Groundbreaking monologist Mike Daisey returns with the story of his journey to a remote South Pacific island whose people worship America and its cargo. This narrative is woven against a searing examination of the international financial crisis that gripped the globe at the same moment. Confronting the financial system that dominates our world, Daisey wrestles with the largest questions of what the collapse means, and what it can tell us about our deepest values. Part adventure story and part memoir, he explores each culture to unearth a human truth between the seemingly primitive and achingly modern.

It pretty much does what it says on the tin. Though, as an added bonus, Daisey expertly relays the experience of getting to grips with a new culture – especially when it doesn’t go the way you hoped. However, even this, it seems, is a clever device to convey his arguments; using himself as a contrast between capitalism seen by a believer and those more suspicious. The most startling contrast was how the natives were able to distort and abuse the relics of corporations for their own purposes while we are bound by those corporations restraints – in essence, as much as we like to believe the contrary, we are playing by their rules. It takes something special to shake our fundamental beliefs.

From Away was a ‘special edition’ monologue about Cork. Daisey again managed to take our perceptions of something innately familiar to us and change our perspective. I certainly felt the affect of such a short preparation time but was nevertheless fascinated by Daisey’s almost Holmes like observations and deductions. Of course I was good naturedly mortified to discover he had dedicate a few moments of the time to describe the Young Curators…I’m still confused as to whether we left a good impression or not but we certainly fared better than our fellow Corkonians I believe! I particularly liked his description of Cork’s late-night fashion sense and the confusion over the “Toyota dealership”. Still, it is these quirks that make us “The People’s Republic of Cork” and even thinking back on it now I’m left with perhaps a misguided sense of pride in my hometown.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of Daisey’s work and hope to see him back here in the future. He has a lot he needs to say that a lot of people need to hear.

A Quick Announcement

Hi All!

Unfortunately due to the untimely death of my laptop’s charger port I haven’t been able to upload any new posts! I won’t be able to get it fixed for a while so I’m afraid the blog will be on hi-atus for a some time. This makes me very sad as I was about to write a wonderful review of Mike Daisey’s ‘The Last Cargo Cult’ and ‘From Away’ and finally get the chance to unleash my feelings for ‘Invisible Atom’. No mind – when I can get some money together it shall be done. And if anyone decides they would like to fund said repairs…I won’t say no.

Till I’m rich!
Amy Paint!

The 2 Dimensional Life of Her by Fleur Elise Noble @ The Granary Theatre 20th June 2010

Flicking through the Midsummer Brochure I was immediately captivated by the idea – an artist’s creativity spilling out into reality and using paper as a medium for theatre. However, as seems to be the running theme of my posts it didn’t reach its full potential. To be honest I can’t even get through the promo clip without growing tired of it.

The set was beautiful and clever and for some reason I fell in love with the sounds. I’ve always loved the computer’s stock ‘scribbling’ sound. And the light clunks of the puppets and actress as they moved around was lovely – but I’m weird like that.

The actress was a projection – as was everything else. I was expecting more interplay between reality and the drawings. A clever piece of theatre as opposed to a clever film screening.There were some very interesting visual jokes – like the artist who stamps his face to make portraits. In any case, I didn’t feel any sort of sympathy or connection with the character or the puppets, even when she was in distress. Now coming from me: queen of the weepies and the girl who finds it hard to separate fiction from reality – that’s a bit of a feat. I don’t know if that’s because of the lack of a person on set or the acting or the “story” but nothing made me sit up and take note.

The one way we had built up a relationship with the puppets and their world was by learning their “language”. That is, growing accustomed to the fact they didn’t speak. Unfortunately, this was shattered when Noble, in the flesh, appeared on stage and began to speak to them. For some reason I got angry with Noble over it – though I can’t for the life of me explain why! This was towards the end of the play – when I was still waiting for it to go somewhere and the ending itself? While I won’t spoil it for you, was akin to coming to the crux of a story and having the narrator exclaim: “then I woke up”.

This really cemented the fact the play was about nothing! Which is tragic, because the use of the projections on paper could have worked so well with the right story. Just because a piece is innovative in their approach doesn’t mean it should be excused from delivering a vital story. Take for example “War Horse” (I know, I know). Their main actor is a mute horse puppet – but that didn’t stop them delivering a performance that has made hundreds of audiences rejoice and continually brought thousands of people to tears.

Again it’s a piece where you can’t exactly explain why or how it’s gone wrong because there is some semblance of quality there but it just didn’t go that extra mile. I can’t manage to force much else out of me on the topic, I’m afraid, simply because I’ve forgotten most of the piece but if you’re jonesing for some more information the show’s brochure is here.

War Horse: Video Collection

Just for fun I’ve collected the clips I can find on youtube about the play so you can see the pure amazing for yourself!

Trailer.

Channel 4 News Report.

Audience Reactions and Cast Comments.

Talk with the puppeteers and Monty Robert’s reaction.

Paul O’Grady Show: Talk with puppeteers.


Podcast featuring Michael Morpurgo & Co-Directors.



Official Video Diaries (in Sequence).






Demonstration of one of the earlier models of the puppet.


War Horse at the West End News Piece.

Some clips from the ‘Behind the Scenes’ DVD.

    ENJOY! Tell me what you think of the puppets, or what you think of theatre that uses puppets.

The Ones To Watch: The Letter Project & THEATREclub @ CAT Club, 19/06/2010

I was thrilled to discover “THEATREclub Stole Your Clock Radio What The Fuck You Gonna Do About It?” (*inhales*) was on the YC’s to do list. I had been to Dublin a number of months ago to attend the, what could be called, inaugural meeting of ‘Future Arts’ and as I trotted along to The Exchange, on Exchange Street (after spending an hour trying to find the place… …) I was bombarded by a wall of the following words – in big, block capitals: “THEATREclub STOLE YOUR CLOCK RADIO WHAT THE FUCK YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?” I was immediately captivated.

When I first heard of the letter project I was curious too. I was caught by the potential of the idea.

If you took the time and had the chance to write to a person or a thing, who or what would you write to? Earlier this year, Meantime Theatre Company asked the public this exact question. Inspired by the notion that there exists a secret writer in everyone, but not always the platform to express yourself, we set up a postal address and urged anyone and everyone to send us something, as long or as short, as rude or as kind, as angry or as loving, as funny or as serious as they warnted, as long as it was from the heart. What followed became the first showing of The Letter Project: a work-in-progress devised directly from the flood of letters we received.

I thought about it, and thought about it and came to the conclusion that a) people’s innermost thoughts are going to be ferocious, hilarious, random, quirky – that everything from notes scribbled at 5am to epics penned during your darkest hour would be aired. b) Imagine the fun you could have bouncing those sentiments off each other – mental chaos would be sure to ensue. Instead the piece felt diluted. Also, c) PostSecret anyone?

I liked the set – dark, highlights, four chairs and the letters scattered about the floor. There was a sense of intimacy, as if we were inside a cave, or hiding under a blanket together, you know that kind of vibe. The letters themselves sort of provoked sympathy, or a carefulness about me. I wanted the actors to be careful too- almost like stepping on eggshells.

Basically what happens is the four actors sit down and read out the letters, perhaps edited, perhaps not. There were some snippets of interest. Some of the letters had apparently used very similar metaphors and slotted together quite well. There was some overlapping reading, which hinted to me the production was hinting at the assumptions it had to make in the tones of the letters and who wrote them and there was a play on age gaps. Apart from that nothing really stuck in my mind and I’m pretty sure the format of the piece is a dramatic reading rather than an actual piece of theatre…?

The letters themselves were ok, nothing about the language or emotion in them really stuck out for me – one letter was terribly overwritten, I was cringing in my seat! All of them seemed to be about love. I was expecting a far greater texture and variety of life experiences considering the title of the piece was “The Letter Project” rather than “The Love Letter Project”.

It’s one of those pieces where it’s hard to pin down exactly what’s missing. Nothing is really wrong with the piece but it just didn’t leave any sort of impression on me…and I’ve forgotten most of it. All that said the piece is a work in progress so maybe a lot of this will change, I would plead with them to change the format. When you decide to take letters out of their context your audience expects innovation! Expects you to do something unexpected with the letters! The first thing that comes to my mind – though it may be a little inappropriate with some of the subject material is improv with the letters. Have them scattered on the stage, get your actors to pick them up and improv. That’s just an initial thought though, but don’t just sit there and read them – that defeats the purpose, no?

Also check out the awesome badge we got at the start!!! Much love!
The Letter Project Button Badge

This is going to be a long post…no?

THEATREclub are anything but expected. Right from the beginning they were loud, messy, unpredictable and energetic. To be honest the storyline (if there was one) didn’t occur to me, but it didn’t seem to matter – I don’t think what they were trying to convey could have fit in any “proper” narrative arc. I think it made their work more genuine; they weren’t trying to cleverly weave their point into someone else’s story – it was their story and our story all at once.

They were everything young people are supposed to be but I don’t think their performance would have made anyone feel like “Teenagers! Run away!” It almost explained the method behind teenage madness. Their emotions were so real and immediate, tangible almost, in that small space everything that ever went wrong for the youth of Ireland seemed to flood the theatre.

One line, in particular, stuck in everyone’s mind. (I could be paraphrasing here, be warned!)

Just when I was old enough to make something of myself the country came crashing down around me.

Boringly enough, I have nothing but praise for the piece! I suppose at a push the children annoyed me but that’s probably more to do with my distaste for children in general more than anything else…Also, the set was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. I loved the set in and of itself but I’m about to hit the 1,000 word count mark so best I wrap things up.

I took a lot from THEATREclub. It resonated with me. The anger, the anxiety, the despair that this really is our last chance…

*UPDATE* Just found this great video with some clips from the show and some people who understood it far more eloquently than I did! (Fun Fact: Jonah was also at the Future Arts meeting I mentioned at the start.)

The Goldilocks Zone by Legitimate Bodies Dance Company @ The Firkin Crane, 19th June 2010

I think I’m going to let this performance speak for itself.😉

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