Theatre

FOLLOW – Project Arts Centre – Review

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WillFredd Theatre‘s FOLLOW is a largely victorious one-man performance which explores the ‘dramatic possibilities of sign language.’ By interweaving several separate narratives, all involving deaf/hearing impaired characters, it undeniably manages to portray  the unique and subjective experience of each of these characters, within the context of their individual lives, via the combined use of sound, gesture, movement and lighting.

FOLLOW won the Dublin Fringe ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ award in 2011 and it’s not too hard to see why, simply put: Shane O’Reilly has an endearing presence and an unquestionable warmth that would melt even the coldest person’s heart. His physical command of – and comfort on – the stage is as obvious as it is touching (and aided in no small part by the hugely atmospheric set, designed by Sarah Jane Shiels, and hugely atmospheric music, played live on piano and guitar by the talented sound artist Jack Cawley).

Was I confused at times with the chopping and changing between storylines? Yes, I was – and I didn’t exactly feel like they sat perfectly well with one another by the end either – but the stand-outs sections (like the tongue-twisting lip-reading scene as well as the fantastic, underwater baptismal submergence episode) almost entirely made up for the lack of full cohesion between the intersecting stories.

Repetition, the desire to communicate, the despondence resulting from miscommunication, and the experience of isolation are all themes explored here; and they are explored in an imaginative and captivating way, both sonically and visually. I have to admit that FOLLOW thoroughly submerged and baptised me into a new experience of the world, and I was glad to have experienced it, but I did leave feeling like I needed more than the just the symbolic representation of closure which was projected onto the stage floor in the end scene (you’ll see what I’m referring to when you go!).

In other words, I left FOLLOW feeling like I had been dumped, very suddenly – without explanation or warning – by a intriguing and passionate lover who spent a long time wooing me, only to leave me high and dry when I finally said (and signed!), “Yes, I love you too!” But as the saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!

FOLLOW is on in the Project Arts Centre, Dublin until January 26th and goes on tour nationwide after that (for venues and dates click here).

Matthew Barks

Categories: Theatre

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