The Berlin Love Tour/ Ballet Ruse/ My Life In Dresses Reviewed

September 14, 2010


The Absolut Fringe Festival is one time at least where those with a love of theatre can have their boundaries pushed, their minds and emotions expanded and experience a theatre beyond the concrete fourth walls, traditional playwrights and mainstream maladies that mar much of their professional counterparts. There is plenty of shit but also much shinola and while not everything works, most at least attempt something that hasn’t been done before, done to death, dug up and done again.
The first show I caught was from Director Tom Creed who gave us last year’s bi-lingual nugget Broken Heart/ Croi Briste, a multi layered show written and performed by television’s Manchan Magan which exposed and explored the pretensions of the Irish language against the backdrop of a father/daughter relationship. He has struck gold again with The Berlin Love Tour, which uses the traditional guided tour of Berlin, via the streets of Dublin, to probe how we recall and commemorate events that are specific to ourselves and to our nation, events we would rather forget but may remember as a policy of exorcism.

It takes the darkest corner of the human experience and removes the geographic barrier so that we get a sense of the scar left on all humanity by the Nazis, by the Holocaust and by the Cold War. By telling us black is white Creed pushes us to use our minds eye, to really look at our city in a different way, to take note of everything and realise how even the most insignificant of structures may once have had meaning. The parallels between Dublin and Berlin are made clear but as with BH/CB there is more going on here than just a lesson in history or sociology. The experience of the expat is tenderly brought to life by our guide Hillary O Shaughnessy, whose touchingly somber performance made me want to break through the crowd and give her a hug on more than one occasion.

It takes a while to get going but this is where the groundwork for the subtext is laid and is a reflection of the time it takes for a group to put its trust in its guide. This beautiful two hour show made me use my head, use my heart and connected me to my surroundings and my fellow paying punters in a way I haven’t in theatre before…

You know you are doing something right when your lunchtime show preview, which hasn’t even been billed properly in the programme is a sell out…and indeed The Ballet Ruse, choreographed and performed by Muirne Bloomer and Emma O’Kane is a must see for those with a taste for pumps, pirouettes and puffy pink tutus. Comprised of movement, mime and monologue, mashing Tchaikovsky with remixes of Lady Gaga, this laugh out load 40 minute show explores the disgust, anger, shame, desperation, dreams and captivation’s of the girls who were either too tall or too fat to make it as a prima ballerina but who worked and who worked and who worked at it all the same. The choreography was, only occasionally, too ambiguous and had the critic in me searching for the hidden meaning, but as a whole it was a thoroughly satisfying, rib tickling piece of theatre.

Surrounded by a selection of her frocks, a variety of old school microphones, trunks, mirrors and light bulbs Sorcha Kenny has brought her terrific interactive show, My Life In Dresses, to the Cube in the Project Art’s Centre. It’s a book to be judged by its cover, where Kenny reveals just what it is her clothes say about her and gives a plethora of women- and the occasional man-the opportunity to do the same. We have the woman who, to her own detriment, found her favorite dress aged three, the woman who mourns for the dress she never got, a section on dresses made special by a former lover and a heterosexual drag queens first ever guna. The show was compiled by face to face interviews, written submissions from strangers and offerings from friends and family and the show projects the results through audio, video and radio. Some of it works (like when her dresses recount their own invented stories) and some of it doesn’t (like when they sing) but overall it’s a charming, touching, compassionate piece of theatre, which teaches you how to feel good clothed.

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