The Rest is Action at the Project Arts Centre

September 12, 2014


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Watching a show by The Company can sometimes be like being the third wheel in a conversation between two stoners, who have a great passion and knowledge for a subject. You’re engaged and intrigued throughout, but often you lose the thread of their thoughts as they weave into theoretical cul-de-sacs, re-emerging with fresh concepts, which quickly twist with surreal subterfuge. You have some clue as to what they are talking about, but you’re quite a bit cloudy on the details.

The Oresteia meets The Purple Rose of Cairo in this funny, personality driven study of theatrical convention, where the actors play heightened versions of themselves and characters from the source material, nattering over the supposed break between part and performer as if it were a washing line and they were nosy neighbours.

Designed by Mick Cullinan and Stephen Dodd to look like the inside of a lava lamp, where birds darken the long white sheet draped from the ceiling and a red carpet hints at the self-promotion and bloodshed to come, shoegaze and electronic music squares up to early pop, creating a jagged tone, as the sunny dispositions of the performers gives way to their own frustrations before succumbing to the darkness of the characters they embody.

The Company seem most interested in symbolism, from body language to superstitions (the blackbird represents life in the heavens, while religious writing appears intermittently above their heads) and the show is littered with allusions to such actions, the weight we impose on them and their often horrible consequences.

The Oresteia was written to help promote the new Athenian legal system, which was moving away from a practise of personal vendetta to a system of litigation. Here, their’s hints of a modern yet regressive caveat, where the rabble rousing court of public opinion is manipulated by aspiring politicos and the media, whose values seem to twist on a whim, helping perpetrate a continual cycle of violence, the modern-day pertinence of which need not be stated.

Director Jose Miguel Jimenez summons up the far reaches of our subconscious, as figures stride out of the darkness, swirling torches and illuminating an empty stage with flood lights, constructing narratives to help them respond to their lot in life. They draw on the founding fictional figures passed down through our genetic memory (and since the dawn of theatre) from the time of Aeschylus.

Or at least that’s what I took from it. I wouldn’t bet the house on my own interpretation. As is often my reaction to The Company’s work, I spent more time deconstructing what was unravelling before me than being illuminated by it, which is a pleasure in itself.

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