Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster review: Poirot, Maeterlinck and a stoned duck

Dublin Theatre Festival: Nicola Gunn brings ceaseless motion to a restless meditation

Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster: Nicola Gunn’s performance evokes a fractured society. Photograph: Maria Baranova

Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster: Nicola Gunn’s performance evokes a fractured society. Photograph: Maria Baranova

 

PIECE FOR PERSON AND GHETTO BLASTER

Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin
★★★☆☆
Nicola Gunn doesn’t stop to think in Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster, a wry solo performance that brings ceaseless motion to a restless meditation. On a bare white stage before a bare white scrim she points her foot and taps the edge of her performance area, like a dancer stretching at the barre, or someone gingerly testing the boundaries of performance. Perhaps it’s both.

“Consider for a moment this moral conundrum,” she begins in a voice of hypnotic calm, before a tangle of digressions almost derail the thought. Indeed, the conundrum will not arrive until after a consideration of David Suchet’s Poirot, or a recollection of Maeterlinck’s ideas of static drama, while her own performance remains conversely kinetic.

Pursuing apparently random patterns, from yogic stretches to mimetic movements, she recalls running through a park in Ghent, outraged to discover a man throwing stones at a duck. Told from her own perspective, that of the man, and that of his target, what follows is a series of duck variations.

What emerges is a kind of transfixing uncertainty, in which moral philosophy and performance art seem too hobbled by analysis to inform any behaviour

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so, observes Hamlet, another deep thinker, but Gunn’s cogitation is more archly circular and contemporary; the ripples of reflection only make things more ambiguous. The man, we hear, is a refugee. His children are present and assisting. The woman, we learn, is jogging to an adulterous appointment. How morally unblemished is she? Besides, the duck is more bemused than bothered. Or so it tells us.

What emerges is a kind of transfixing uncertainty, in which moral philosophy and performance art seem too hobbled by analysis to inform any behaviour. “What would Marina Abramovic do?” wonders Gunn, acerbically.

The more teasing game of the performance is to ask us to consider alternate perspectives. How secure is that performer/audience barrier? (Not at all secure, you find out.) How does Gunn’s rage appear to another artist? (Less well intentioned or securely hinged than she believes.) How effective is it to translate personal grievance into a self-righteous Facebook post? (872 likes. 396 comments.)

Like Kelly Ryall’s pleasingly retro electronic compositions, sparse and sheeny, Gunn’s performance evokes a fractured society, splintered into automatic outrage, hand-wringing self-consciousness and erratic responses. It’s a ripe target for critique, a surprisingly robust electropop finale suggests, in which Gunn’s sitting duck is recast to be more regal than vulnerable.

Run ended

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