Enjoy review: stark and strange, arresting and infuriating

Toshiki Okada’s drifting 2006 play offers a fascinating description of a generation caught between recession and recovery

 

Enjoy
Project Cube, Dublin
★ ★ ★ ★

At a certain point in Toshiki Okada’s drifting 2006 play, translated by Aya Ogawa, a young woman full of complaint and short on compassion recounts dumping her depressed boyfriend. She recognises at least some cause for sympathy: “because well he was a part-timer… barely scraping by… I’m a temp… and a temp is really just the same thing.”

In this intriguing vision of Tokyo, which could really be any city where existence feels precarious, nothing seems permanent.

The dialogue, for instance, is a non-committal patter: “It’s a little, like, too bad, you know.” “That doesn’t have anything to do with anything.” “I mean, whatever’s fine.”

In performance, even inhabiting a character seems like too much effort; instead they are described, adopted and sometimes even swapped between 10 actors. In a play determined to use as many words as possible to say very little, it may frustrate those who require a higher signal-to-noise ratio from their theatre. But as a description of a generation, caught between recession and recovery, it’s quite fascinating, and in the painstaking detail of Zoe Ni Riordáin’s direction, pursuing deadpan performances over minimal design for Rough Magic SEEDS Showcase, the banality of this “lost generation” gets close to hypnotic.

Set in the break room of a comic-book café, which designer Cáit Corkery realises as a non-descript grey tomb, it begins with gossip. A new recruit in her early 20s (Ashley Xie) has been seen out with an older employee, a wizened man of 30, and the “excitement” - not to mention anxiety - it arouses is conveyed by Gerard O’Keefe and John Doran with the flatline chatter of people under reasonably heavy sedation. (Dolan’s garrulous, muted crisis, in particular, is dazzling to watch.)

Within all this evasive verbiage is an accelerated sense of ageism - the “spoiling age” of a woman, the prejudice against part-timers in their 30s - which spills into the vilification of homeless-looking “Jesus types”; people who have slipped through the net of society.
Ní Riordáin nails a sense of contemporary paralysis, where people may have few prospects but plenty of distracting devices, which could serve as a description of her stage. As the sounds of Karaoke bleed in, Erica Murray, Breffni Holohan and Dylan Coburn Gray sing snatches of their dialogue to the tunes of faded power ballads, while the stage transforms under the candy colour of Zia Holly’s expert lights, gradually populated with glitchy dance moves and erratic motion. It matches the play’s downbeat sense that everything has been said before, and better phrased.

That could be an inhibiting thought for any new theatre maker, but the play concludes with a thawing sense that if words themselves become trite, feelings still burn brightly for each generation. Stark and strange, arresting and infuriating, this production seeks encouraging new ways to express them.

- Until Dec 5

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