Suddenly Last Summer

Feature in Issue 19-2 | Summer 2007

Franc Chamberlain and Cathy Walsh hark back to summer delights at the Cork Midsummer Festival 2006.

Pucá Puppets (Dublin) performed an eerie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline at the Firkin Crane. The puppet platform was an old pool table with occasional extensions which was rotated to give a sense of travel: Coraline walks, it rotates... The large stage space was in darkness, with a sense of the props and puppets around ready to be brought on. None of the puppets or objects were fully visible off the table and this contributed to an atmosphere of eeriness, of something just out of sight waiting to emerge from the shadows. The downside of this was that the sense of foreboding continued throughout and seemed to flatten out the dynamics of the performance. The stage pictures and puppets were lovely and fitted very neatly with the mood of Gaiman's novel and had something of the spirit of Dave McKean's illustrations for The Wolves in the Walls.

There are slow, intense dreamlike images which linger, Coraline walking... a David Lynch moment with two old lesbian thespians and their audience of dogs... buttons for eyes... a mother's arm nightmarishly extending... Coraline being hurled through the mirror, slowly somersaulting to land on the other side, trapped.

Fire and water were key elements in Corcadorca's The Tempest. Performed in Fitzgerald's Park, with the set built into the pond, it was visually striking and there was some well-worked humour in the comic scenes, but this wasn't a strongly performed piece of total theatre. Perhaps the strongest moments were the storm scenes and the atmosphere created by the community choir. Jools Gilson-Ellis was listed as the choreographer but there was little evidence of her work in this performance.

A short walk from Fitzgerald's Park, NoFit State (from Wales) brought their spaceship and Immortal2 to Cork, creating a whirlwind of amazement; an enveloping circus experience. The music is sumptuous, often teasing with references to other things – is this Amelie? Moulin Rouge? Imagine a circus by Jeunet and Caro... There were gorgeously graceful moments founded on great strength and technique, especially in the aerial work. The spectacle was hung on the theme, not really a narrative, of the 'roof people’ who were in a passage between life and death, a liminal space where they have a last chance to live life to the full, to do whatever it is they need to do as they move from mortality to immortality. Aspects of everyday life were worked beautifully into the piece: fighting (boxing match above), loving (stunning physical dialogue on the rope), dancing, and eating, each offering the potential for a transformational moment of happiness. It isn't the story that holds, but the moments and, for the spectators too, there are possibilities for being moved, uplifted, and transported.

In contrast to the multi-performer spectacle and slight narrative of ImMortal2, local boy Ed Malone performed an intense piece of solo physical theatre with verve and passion that was one of the high points of the festival. The Self Obsessed Tragedy of Ed Malone was an autobiographical story of adolescent angst with multiple characters emerging through rapid shifts of action and voice. After a year at Lecoq, Malone's fitness and focus have improved and the intense physicality was sustained throughout the poignantly entertaining show. Ed's tragedy emerges amidst love, pain, confusion, laughter, and saliva, sometimes with the openness of a public confession and at other times with a sense of a secret subterranean narrative.

Stan's Cafe's Of All the People in all the World, was almost a piece of still life. The weighing out of rice and its arrangement in heaps to give a materiality to abstract statistics had its first formal gallery outing in Cork at Triskel@21 Lavitt's Quay. Each grain of rice standing for an individual, with different sized heaps for the number involved in various contemporary and historical activities, poses questions for the viewer. The relative significance of each event, for example, can't be reduced to the number of grains in the heap but emerges from the relation between the heap and the information that the spectator already carries. The presence of performers in brown grocer's coats, weighing the rice and interacting with the audience, provided a welcome warmth.

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-2
p. 19