Utopia Ltd review: Two unstructured hours with no end in sight

This open-air festival exploration of colonialism, racism, and immigration is marred by technical issues and teenagers celebrating the end of exams

Utopia Ltd

Cork Boat Club

The most significant difficulty afflicting this Makeshift Ensemble production for the Cork Midsummer Festival is of the company's own doing; it has not anticipated the technological challenges of open-air theatre. The company uses radio microphones throughout the riverside site, which are jostled by movement, disabled by location and assaulted by a rising wind.

Another unanticipated disturbance is unique to this first performance, which unfortunately coincided with vociferous throngs of teenagers celebrating the end of exams, separated only by 100 yards or so of village cove and calmed only by the occasional sirens of Garda intervention.

Makeshift and partners Postmodernsquare (Fin) designed Utopia Ltd as a series of confessional harangues and interrogations on colonialism, racism, justice, immigration, exploitation and genocide, all loosely linked with the humanitarian African engagements of Roger Casement and with more recent social and political activism.

Project originator and director Eszter Nemethi’s articulate cast of various nationalities and Corkonian complaints prowl among the seating and its occupants, most of whom huddle under coats and blankets, only to be surprised in several cases by prolonged questioning from the players that is unintelligible to anyone else.

With a more decisive structure the episodes might have coalesced into something close to a coherent narrative, even if the conclusion would still be that there is no hope of goodness, truth or love here or elsewhere in the world. There is no utopia and, after nearly two hours, there seems to be no end either. The cast turn their backs on the audience and talk among themselves. At eight minutes to midnight it’s time to go, but the shame of leaving a show before it’s actually over is averted when a player returns to ask if anyone wants to “take it from here?”. Nobody does.

Mary Leland

Mary Leland is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture