From the Wilde to the wonderful
Under the supervising eye of director José Miguel Jiménez, Brian Bennett, Robert McDermott, Nyree Yergainharsian and Tanya Wilson enact a skeletal bank-heist scenario before handing directorial responsibility to us.
Ciarán O’Melia provides a suggestive design – four defined but empty spaces where the action takes place – and the audience are encouraged to provide props and extra characters with chalk. They have free rein on content, but there is an inherent semiotic significance in the sites of action, which makes certain details easy to predict.
Elsewhere, there are key decisions to be made: where exactly are the characters these actors play and what is their motivation for the crime? Thus begins a Whose Line is it Anyway-style exercise in which the actors become our puppets for an hour and justice (or silliness) will ensue.
To remind us of the more serious intent at stake in the interactive evening, two large screens at either end of the theatre display a series of changing quotes (from anarchist Emma Goldman to The Company themselves), which remind us of the broader political impetus behind this project. The performers see theatre as a site for social change and as their fictional scenario unfolds for a second and third time, the audience is made aware of their complicity in events.
It may be a bit of a cop-out to say that the measure of Politik’s success will depend on your willingness to join The Company in its experimental endeavour, but it does. On opening night, the audience was a fairly well-behaved bunch, but we eventually warmed to the challenge, as our passivity as observers became an unspoken parable of our passivity as citizens – although the broader political significance could be easily overlooked amid all the fun. So, yes, your enjoyment will depend on what you are prepared to bring to the table. Remember, your country, and The Company, need you.
Until Saturday SARA KEATING
The House That Jack Filled
Project Arts Centre – Cube ***
MCNALLY’S HOTEL by the Sea is the setting for Finegan Kruckemeyer’s latest collaboration with Theatre Lovett. It is a “cosy, poky, falling-downy” type of place, but its owner Jack wouldn’t have it any other way. Built by his parents beside a “river as big as the sea”, it is his home, as well as his livelihood: or, as his father put it before he passed away, the hotel is in Jack’s blood.
But when the river dries up, so does the trickle of visitors who keep McNally’s going, and Jack is forced to reinvent himself as well as his hotel. What Kruckemeyer sets up as a Fawlty Towers-style farce is slowly revealed to have something more serious at stake.
Kruckemeyer’s script is joyfully barmy, full of Edward Lear-like nonsenses that follow language and logic down rabbit holes, which may or may not connect coherently to the greater whole. Indeed, the chaos of McNally’s and Jack’s invaded mind is occasionally difficult to follow. A more structured use of voiceover (provided by the ice-creamy voice of Andrea Ainsworth) would have made the narrative divergences and cul-de-sacs less misleading.