Sunday, March 9, 2014

VISITANT at Project Arts Centre, Dublin. 19-22 February 2014

Directed by Trevor Knight
Choreography Gyohei Zaitsu
Gyohei Zaitsu, Trevor Knight and Aine O’Dwyer
Music Trevor Knight and Aine O’Dwyer

If a picture's worth a thousand words then The Visitant (as a spectacle of gesture) is priceless. It is extreme, it is powerful and despite some naff acting by the musician/composer Trevor Knight, it is good theatre. No words of criticism like that she's no singer(!) can lessen the impact of Aoine O'Dwyer's harp playing. She's superb on the instrument though admittedly she's no actress either. Indeed, as the narrative progressed both Aoine and Trevor became somewhat of an encumbrance on the stage, somewhat getting in the way of the true hero of the evening, the choreographer and Butoh dancer Gyohei Zaitsu.

The stage production however earns few brownie points in my book. Some significant action takes place on the floor which is hardly visible from anywhere bar the first two rows of the audience. At other times Aoine and Trevor block the view of the dancer completely. A surprising mistake on the director's part as this was essentially dance theatre with no spoken narrative to shift the audience focus and propel the story along.

The costumes were another curiosity. Compared to the rather exquisite attire of the dancer, Trevor sporting an off-the-peg if unusually colourful suit and Aoine's long dress did little for the play's aesthetic resolve.

As for the stage design, a few uncomfortable comments need to be made. Alice Maher is a good and well meaning artist and the ramp in the middle of the stage was a stroke of genius, I admit, but what of the rest? She should have known better. The stage is not a painter's canvass however tempting, nor is it a sculptor's pedestal to make a personal statement. Neither is it about decoration, however inventive. Stage design is architecture focused specifically on the dramatic narrative. The actors' play has a point and the designer's task is to materially extract from the story the elements that make it believable and to put these squarely before the audience. From a transient narrative to conjure up substance within the confines of the stage. In The Visitant however the final effect of the messy electronic paraphernalia higgledy-piggledy all over the place and the elephant of a harp smack in the middle of it all was rather more grating than surreal.

However, to be clear, the glory of the evening goes to Gyohei Zaitsu's performance and the music, both as composition and performance, and I feel immensely thankful for that.

Lighting Design Marcus Costello
Set Design Alice Maher
Costumes Yuni Hong
Production Management Miriam Duffy
Produced by Aisling Murray