Fringe festival: the early verdicts
A Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious
Project Arts Centre – Cube **
A BLINDING Glimpse of the Obvious is about love: its physical manifestations, its emotional idiosyncrasies, and, most of all, its cliches. Citing an array of evidence – from Gay Byrne to Jacques Lacan to Fiona Sheil’s mother – the 50-minute piece is delivered in the style of an academic presentation by writer and performer Fiona Sheil and scientist-accomplice Stephen Hughes, who has been enlisted to give a more objective point of view to Sheil’s confessional. The aesthetic is minimal: a table, two chairs, a stack of notes and a pair of microphones; this University of the Heart will not stretch to Powerpoint.
Sheil’s argument is occasionally enlightening (did you know the brain experiences physical and emotional trauma in the same way?) but it is ultimately fatally unfocused. As Sheil reveals the multiple humiliations of heartbreak, the evidence suggested by this rambling performance points to one unfortunate conclusion: love is a losing game.
The CHQ Building, George’s Quay ****
YOU KNOW going in – from the title – that this is silly. Even the libretto turns out to consist entirely of those exotic Scandinavian product names Ikea gives to its ready-to-assemble furniture. And yet, amidst the silliness, composer Tom Lane offers snapshots of human situations: tension between partners, loneliness. Comic but poignant.
At the start, the audience is filtered into three adjacent rooms in the venue, each of which is kitted out and authentically lit as one of those artificially perfect Ikea showrooms (kitchen, sitting-room, bedroom). Then short stories begin in all three rooms at once, the music from each coming round the corners and intermingling in semi-controlled randomness. At the end of each story the audience is rotated and the stories repeated until everyone has seen all three. Experimental, brightly and snappily produced, gently iconoclastic, thought-provoking, absurdist and good fun.
Project Arts Centre ****
ON ONE side of the stage hangs a punching bag, on the other sits an over-sized beanbag, and so Stefanie Preissner’s solo performance provides two responses to life-altering changes and emotional pain: Fight or Flop. Through a nimbly constructed verse text, the effervescent Preissner explains the addictive appeal of analgesia, responding to the shock of leaving Cork for Dublin, or the trauma of heartbreak, or the headache of a barking dog, with a double dose of painkillers.
Preissner’s real subject, though, is a nation slowly dissolving through emigration, gently described as a chemical process of weakened internal bonds that would otherwise hold things together. Director Gina Moxley’s smart and sparing production doesn’t burden that metaphor, although Preissner’s rhetoric, much like the similarly defiant I Am a Homebird, often portrays emigration as the easier way out. Her wry humour supplies a more convincing balance, moving from gruff defence (“Medicine is the best medicine!”) to an optimistic determination to feel pain, to fight it, and to feel better.
Tromluí Phinocchio/Pinocchio – A Nightmare
Smock Alley – Black Box ****