Fizzles at 14 Henrietta Street

September 19, 2014

This time last year, Company SJ and Barabbas were a class apart from most of the work presented in the fringe. In 2014, impressive as Fizzles may be, you can’t help but feel that they’ve taken a step backwards.

With Rough for Theatre I & Act Without Words II, they broke down the perception many had of Beckett as being some kind of linguistic finger trap, frustrating in its obliqueness and inaccessible to those unfamiliar with his oeuvre. Taking us to a secret outdoor location, under the glare of big banking, the savage cruelty of life was impressed on a rain-soaked audience who- if they were anything like me, felt like they’d been on the receiving end of a soul-meld with the overlooked,the dispossessed and the woe-begotten.

The critic Kenneth Tynan said that great theatre occurred when people talked to people, not where actors talked at audiences, and the simple illustrative power of these twinned pieces resonated, not only because we were taken on a physical journey through the back roads of the city, but because they lit up that darkness inherent in the human experience, either through concentrated movement or the delicate balance of Beckett’s words, where they measured the gallows humour with the unflinching starkness of his message.

The aesthetic is faultless once again this year. Anchored by an aptly agonised turn from Raymond Keane, who unfurls his body, his muscles and his joints with a slowness that is bollock-receding in it’s aching execution, 14 Henrietta Street metaphorically winks to the slow decay and disintegration of society, one’s body and one’s mental state. Yet the social conscience of the writer echoes louder on the butcher’s bill of time than in Keane’s unstimulating delivery of the words, via voice over.

While the concept of the production is visually clear, the language seems like an afterthought to the performance and to the location and the competing components never quite gel.

While it manages to leave a damp chill on our spirit, taking us back to the most basic fact of our existence- that we are forever in decay, it only stimulates our intellect, not our humanity.

More instillation than theatre piece, you would want more than one visit to adapt to the richness on offer.


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