The first piece on Saturday night was Diceman The Musical. This was a rock musical set in the Dandelion Market in 1978. My first impression was that it was nice to see so many people on stage. Most of the Project Brand New pieces are one or two-handers. This had a cast of six, plus an electric guitarist. It was a pretty traditional piece of theatre about the love-lives of five young people working in the market, with The Diceman looking on and commenting on the proceedings. The music was great and added a liveliness to the piece. The script was funny and clipped along nicely. It was probably only the first scene of longer script. I enjoyed it but I am not dying to see the rest of it.
The second piece was My Body Travels. This was a movement piece with some voice-over text in the first section. According to the programme it was about ‘a misfit who wants to find their place in the world’ which I think is an accurate description of what we saw on stage. It was performed by Matthew Morris and it was a beautiful piece of work. He came onstage wheeling a suitcase and wearing one running shoe and one high-heeled shoe, bring pink hot-pants and a vest. It was amazing how fast he could move across the stage in these mis-matched shoes, always dragging the suitcase behind him! The movement piece, which was complicated and very disciplined, was accompanied by a voice-over that reflected the misfit status of the performer onstage. It was like a running commentary on a hectic, sexually-confused, haphazard life of someone who was struggling to figure out where they belonged. It was clever and funny and fit well with what was going on onstage, both in tone and content.
In the second section, the performer took off his mis-matched shoes, took out a pair of trousers and a crumbled white shirt out of his suitcase and put them on. There was a large rectangle of light on across the stage, like light spilling out of an open door. The section involved the performer moving forward across the stretch of light, then retreating backwards. He repeated this movement for about five minutes, adding hand gestures which to me looked to me almost like sign language, moving forward and back, slowing down and speeding up. It was a little bit odd and seemed to go on too long.
However, it was utterly redeemed by the third section which was truly beautiful. The performer fist removed his shirt and the vest beneath it, then did the same with his trousers, revealing again the bright pink hot-pants. These were also removed leaving the performer completely naked. He stood there a second before begining to move again. It was facinating to watch because you could see every muscle in his body and how they worked together to create the complex movements. It was like a lesson in anatomy! When the suitcase was stood up and open, sand spilled out onto the stage. The piece ended with the performer almost making a nest for himself in the sand. It was very moving, like he had finally found somewhere he felt safe.
I think this was probably my favourite piece of the three night run. I’d love to see it again, I’d love to see more from the same artist. It started off a little bit arch and clever but ended on a very pure and moving note. I loved it.
It’s a little bit hard to give an accurate description of Missing, the third piece of the night, because I experienced it from back-stage. I was one of the shadows at the very end of the piece! From what I could hear and what I saw in rehearsal, it was a very funny script about the serious issues of missing people and homelessness. The audience seemed to enjoy it immensely, judging from the laughs it got. I would love to see it properly sometime.
The next piece, Neuropolis was about a man who wakes up with no memories. He is trying to figure out who he is and what has happened to him. This much was established quickly and neatly at the beginning of the piece when we hear the man being interviewed/interrogated by an official of some sort. There is then a movement section where the man, Henry, encounters strange people who seem to know him and all seem to have an agenda. The other characters (five in total – another piece with lots of bodies onstage!) repeat the same movements over and over again while moving around the stage; one woman keeps pouring water over her head and there’s a man who keeps ringing a little bell. Only Henry is able to alter his actions and reactions as he moves between them. In the end they surround him and each character speaks a few lines, switching between the different characters and we get a hint as to what their relationship with Henry might be.
It says in the programme that this piece is a work in process and that the ‘primary focus at this point has been imagery and atmosphere; answers will come later…’. I think they were successful in doing that. The movements of the actors were very precise and the repetition made it seem like we were in a very odd place. It reminded me a little bit of Iris Brunette. It has a vague apocalyptic feel to it. And it did throw up lots of questions. The audience is trying to work out what kind of person Henry is by what the other characters say about it him. The interesting thing is that Henry is trying to do the same thing!
The final piece of the night was the return of Short Message Service from the first night. Helena and Les came back on to tell us about the texts they had received since Thursday night and also asked the audience to disregard theatre protocol, switch on their phones and text them while they were onstage.
This reminded me of a class in university when the lecturer told everyone to turn on their phones, leave them on the desk and read out any text messages that came in during class. As it happened, a few of the texts read out were from people in the room organising a drinking session later that evening and one member of the class came in late, missed the announcement about texts and then sent a dirty poem to a another classmate. It was very funny. I think the lecturer’s point was that stories can come from anywhere.
The performance on Saturday was similar. The texts read out were for the most part funny, silly, little thoughts. They did make you wonder briefly about the person who had sent them and the story behind them. It did sort being the audience together. It felt like we were a collective. The texts had come from us as a group, and we were hearing them as a group which felt sort of intimate because text messages are generally private things.
Short Message Service is still going on. It has become a durational piece. I’m not sure if that was the original idea, or it has just developed in that direction. They are now asking you to respond to this message – “A Problem Shared is A Problem Halved. Text us and we will reply – +353 (0)87 0906268.” And I can tell you from personal experience that they will indeed reply! And you can keep up to date with them here.
[…] May, I went to Project Brand New and wrote lots about the pieces I saw over the three nights. As ever, I was inspired by the wonderful and diverse theatre that I saw there. (I didn’t […]