Fulcrum – Dublin Dance Festival – Project Arts Centre – Review by Stephen McDermott
In July 1982, at the invitation of the Association Internationale de Défense des Artistes, Samuel Beckett produced his new one-act play Catastrophe. In the piece, a silent protagonist stands on a plinth and is moulded by a tyrannical director and his helpful assistant, in preparation for some kind of performance.
The circumstances and nameless characters make the play seem like it could be any of a number of late Beckettian works. But Catastrophe is most notable for the fact that its author, breaking from half a century of writing in apolitical obscurity, specifically dedicated the piece to Václav Havel, who was at the time imprisoned by the Czech government for what were deemed to be subversive activities.
In Dylan Quinn’s Fulcrum, the characters and themes of Catastrophe re-surface in what’s both a thoughtful response to the work and something of a tribute to Beckett himself. Two performers (Quinn and Jenny Ecke) engage in a contest for control as they move across a stage to Andy Garbi’s unsettling soundscape.
In a series of vignettes, Quinn and Ecke invoke the characters of Director, the Assistant and the Protagonist from Catastrophe. The influence is particularly obvious in the scenes where Ecke stands behind a shaking Quinn to recall the situation of Beckett’s play, in which the female Assistant attempts to mould the statuesque Protagonist to her liking. But the piece is more subtly clever than a simple re-enactment of moments from its source material.
Instead, it offers a clever exploration into the symbiotic relationship between oppressor and oppressed, as well as a riff upon themes from Beckett’s entire oeuvre. When Quinn leads Ecke – or Ecke leads Quinn – it resurrects Molloy and Mercier and Camier, while the minutely unsynced choreography in the show’s final third is a tribute to the failure of concurrence that defines much of Beckett’s work.
Ultimately it’s a well-worked response to one of Ireland’s best-known writers, as much as it is to one of his more obscure works. A catastrophe it is not.