Futureproof review: Profound dilemmas of identity and autonomy

Committed cast struggles with ponderous phrases and some awkward arrangements

Futureproof at the Everyman: the award-winning play by Lynda Radley is  part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. Photograph: Miki Barlok

Futureproof at the Everyman: the award-winning play by Lynda Radley is part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. Photograph: Miki Barlok

 

***

Everyman, Cork

Presented by the Everyman in association with the Cork Midsummer Festival and the Project Arts Centre, the Irish premiere of Lynda Radley’s Futureproof introduces a raggle-taggle troupe arriving at a gated site.

This is a company of circus freaks, but their baggage-laden gathering has the resonance of a queue of refugees while Paul O’Mahony’s set design initially suggests the rigging of a sailing ship. Here the world’s fattest man, the bearded and armless lady, the twin sisters allegedly joined at the hip, the androgynous George/Georgina, and the mute “mermaid” are led by their mentor and impresario Riley (Michael Glenn Murphy).

The inferred references point up the play’s diffuse focus, which interrupts the narrative as well as emphasising Tom Creed’s directorial latitude. Beneath the production’s accomplished surface the sense of seeking and dislocation suggested in those first moments lingers as Riley, aware of failing public interest, forces his players to transform themselves into something more commercially attractive. A profound dilemma is offered as each character questions his or her identity: the fat man becomes thin; the bearded lady shaves and considers prosthetics; the twins attempt separation; the mute speaks.

Questioning of selfhood

Recognising that god’s marvels are now seen as man’s mistakes the company dissolves into an undistinguished normality in the hope of finding something better than their fairground identities. The transition comes at a cost as Riley, Player King to the end in his gilded shoes, insists on the potential of each transfigured story.

More parable than metaphor, this questioning of selfhood and autonomy frequently floats free of its unstable structure while the committed cast struggles with occasionally ponderous phrases and some very awkward arrangements. Deirdre Dwyer’s costuming matches the changing moods as does Michael John McCarthy’s sound design. But despite these efficiencies, a stronger vocal energy and a determined pace are demanded for this reading of Radley’s challenging enigma of variation in the modern world.

Until June 24th, then tours to Project Arts Centre Dublin June 27th -July 1st