Extraterrestrial Events – Beckett Theatre – Dublin Dance Festival – Review
World Premiere – Samuel Beckett Theatre – Sat 27 & Sun 28 May 2017
This piece was inspired by the writings of French sociologist Arnaud Esquerre, and his book Théorie des Événements Extraterrestres. Philip Connaughton is listed as the choreographer of the piece, but dance is only part of the production. It explores the world of UFO sightings and what the public see as the ‘tinfoil hat’ brigade. GEIPAN is part of the French Space Agency CNES, and one of their tasks is to record statements from those who say they have encountered Alien life forms or seen UFOs. Connaughton went through the 446 statements and took a number of them that served his purpose best. As you would expect, they are not delivered in a straight forward manner. Well known soprano Kim Sheehan sings the accounts in French (with surtitles) with elements of these often nightmarish accounts acted out around her.
Connaughton’s previous work includes Tardigrade, which won Best Design in the Tiger Dublin Fringe Awards in 2014. He also created Whack!! in 2015, which was a collaboration with Ashley Chen of Compagnie Kashyl. The unifying theme of his work to date is a clear sense of humour and a desire to unnerve the viewer.
There are four dancers on stage, almost for the duration. They are dressed in unusual garb, loose fitting taupe coloured smocks, almost like a nurse in a medical facility. These characters roll around the floor, make human seats for the main protagonist to sit on and at one point, eat carrot sticks! There is another performer, Connaughton himself, who emerges onto the stage dressed in conventional clothing and drinking a coffee. He has stumbled upon this vision and watches it unfold around him with much scepticism.
The music is written by Michael Gallen, who plays simple piano at the side of the stage, which gives space to Sheehan’s powerful voice. The choice of operatic tones will immediately appeal to some and rule out many others, but Sheehan’s singing is very impressive. The set draws from modern images of science fiction. Large pods hang from the ceiling and spurt a jelly like, blue ooze in a manner reminiscent of Giger’s Alien. As ever with Connaughton’s work, humour plays a large part. There were audience members amazed by what was presented, while others seemed to be in on the joke and laughed throughout. Whatever his vision for this piece, he has created something quite bizarre and perturbing. A trip into a troubled mind or an other worldly experiences, your own prejudices will decide.
From Company Philip Connaughton & music by Michael Gallen
Choreography Philip Connaughton
Music Michael Gallen
Performers Zoé Bernabéu, Philip Connaughton, Kevin Coquelard, Michael Gallen, Lucia Kickham, Ryan O’Neill, Kim Sheehan
Lighting Designer Begona Garcia Navas
Set/ Visual Design Luca Truffarelli
Costume Design Emily Ní Bhroin
SFX Designer Grace O’Hara
Dramaturg Gina Moxley
Production Manager Adrian Mullan
Stage Manager Marella Boschi
Surtitle Operator Aran O’Grady
Producer Aisling O’Brien