Review: How These Desperate Men Talk

Enda Walsh’s new play with Corcadorca melts music and theatre down in a dark metal factory

Artist: Enda Walsh

Venue: Graepel Peforators

Date Reviewed: September 20th, 2014

How These Desperate Men Talk

****

Kinsale Arts Festival, Cork

Factories have their own coherence. In this case, the corrugated spaces of the Graepel Perforators and Weavers premises in Kinsale threaten to overwhelm the Irish premiere of Enda Walsh’s new play.

Night and dark and implied danger: uneven surfaces, a torch-led audience mustered towards high impenetrable gates, darkened further by the subterranean growls from an Eat My Noise sound score. Gradually, human fallibility emerges as the production’s core physical and psychological revelation.

Here, human credulity is also challenged, in that tonight we are ready to walk, stand or stumble through a metal-tainted gloom for 75 minutes. This weak resentment dissolves in the accumulating disbelief that anyone could have walked, children and suitcases in hand, towards the gas chambers as obediently as we do towards what Corcadorca calls entertainment. We are walking, but this is no promenade. The growing dystopia of our environment yields a sense of ourselves as herded and helpless. This becomes the experience.

It is compelling but whether it is intentional is arguable, as this susuration of doom embraces without absorbing Walsh’s narrative. Its aura surrounds a diseased family archive that is explored by two players in episodes that are raised above the factory’s grottoes of clocks, its “ear protection zone” and the layers of steel and timber waiting to be perforated and woven.

The problem is that the two experiences are not woven. The stories, re-told at gun-point in an attempt to find “‘something other than what we have”, are engaging. Their intricate and almost lyrical contradictions are evoked by David Pearse and Tadhg Murphy in director Pat Kiernan’s austere approach to emotional complexity. Indoors and out, the lighting design by John Crudden is crucial, illuminating long ominous exterior emptiness and also catching textual references, which resonate even when the huge steel screens screech to an ending. But maybe the text is absorbed: after all, when what we have are the concentration camps, who could be blamed for seeking something other?

Ends Saturday