The Circus Animal’s Desertion – Samuel Beckett Theatre – Dublin Theatre Festival Review – Oct 4-Oct 8
The piece opens with one actor already on stage. He is on a plinth, laid out with a white sheet over his body, as if in a morgue. There is a small room raised off the floor at one side of the stage. This room contains three musicians. One performer emerges onto the stage and raises the dead man off the plinth. He slowly comes to life and walks to the rear of the stage, where a camera and microphone await. He then sings while an image of his face is projected onto a screen at the back of the stage. A story of a childhood is acted out by the performers, complete with the birth of a baby!
This is a new work by Brokentalkers, who very recently produced This Beach as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival. They have somehow managed to produce a second piece only weeks after the first. This is a very different production from This Beach, with a focus on movement, music and dance. There are five performers on stage, with Martin McCann of Sack taking most of the singing duties. There are three musicians in a small band who are on stage throughout, but detached from the other performers. Music for the production was written by long time collaborator Sean Millar and features violin and cello.
Brokentalkers are an Irish company who often use interviews and other personal information as a source for their ideas. This production had quite a different origin, as it dates back to a meeting between Brokentalkers and Aideen Howard of the Abbey in 2007. They discussed the possibility of making a piece based on the plays of WB Yeats. This served as an inspiration for much research into Yeats and his writing. This production was formally commissioned by the Abbey in 2014. The work is based on many aspects of Yeats, choosing some of the darker elements such as his views on nationalism, fascism and eugenics.
The notes on the performance say this is a response to Yeats’ work ‘physically, working with dancers and musicians to find movement in the imagery and action in his words’. It would be hard to describe it as any one particular discipline, as it touches on dance, music and story telling. The production features a number of segments, each a flight of fancy in a different direction. These brief stories sometimes hold together into a coherent tale while at other times are more focused on movement or dance. One segment amounts to a Fascist polemic by a man in a Mexican wrestling mask. Another one is possibly inspired by ‘The Cat and the Moon‘ with a dancer wearing a Cat Head moving around the stage. The visual element of the production is quite striking and the final sequence is a haunting imagine that really catches the audience off guard. Something quite unusual from Brokentalkers and proof that they continue to evolve.