Alot of recent theatre seems to be intent on not being theatre. It is either metatheatre, cleverly and self-deprecatingly sending up the notion of theatre, or it is a poor man’s cinema, basing itself on the reproduction of reality in as detailed a way as possible, becoming increasingly technically and aesthetically dependent for meaning. ‘Theatricality’ is something reserved for theatre on the continent, a little antiquated and certainly unfashionable.
Last year I was fortunate enough to see Ariane Mnouchkine’s “Les Naufragees du Fol Espoir” and Daniele Finzi Pasca’s “Donka.” Both productions seemed to wake me up from a theatrical lethargy, reminding me of the elements that make theatre such an enjoyment – it’s reliance on a relationship with the audience, it’s immediacy, and the fascination with watching performance. Both productions were unashamedly and virtuosically theatrical and respectively products of French and Italian theatre that made me wonder at the lack of love for the ‘theatrical’ in Ireland.
Watching Kidding Ensemble’s Cosas I was struck by the fact that most of those involved in the production had an international background and how here again was a piece of simple but ingenuous theatre that delighted in being theatrical. As a 45 minute one-woman clown show it is a brave and unlikely feat to take on for director Marie-Genevieve Linotte, but its gutsiness carries it through to its gentle ending. Whilst lacking some stylistic discipline, Angelica Santander-Castro gives a strong performance in a play that is far from easy to sustain. As a clown show it is reliant on three essential ingredients – expectation, repetition and a twist.
Calibrating the pace and timing is crucial and Santander-Castro succeeds in this, making us feel accomplices(SIC) in her little joys and sorrows. The clown inhabits an electrical-technological world made up of what look like scraps and car-boot sale items arranged and tangled with wonderful imagination into a set by Niamh Jackman. The program note stresses the complete lack of funds and the whole production benefits, as the evidence of resourcefulness is plain to see. But once again I wonder why it is only these brave transplanted individuals from foreign lands who can inhabit the world of make believe, of exaggeration and play that make up the by-gone realm of theatre. Perhaps they have yet to swallow that double dose of phlegm and don the stiff upper lip that characterize us in these isles…