The world is full of good ideas. These ideas are dreamt up or epiphany-ed by individuals or organisations who may just let them remain an intangible thought, or may make them a reality. These good ideas, when realised, may turn out to be great ideas; others do not seem to survive the arduous journey from mind to actuality.
It is a pity that Sylvia’s Quest falls into the latter category rather than the former. Because Sylvia’s Quest is based on what is quite a good idea indeed. Using headphones and handheld radio receivers, a live performer and Dublin city centre as the set, this was a site-specific piece that could have been a walking tour through another world. The protaganist, Sylvia, is a young Bulgarian woman who has emigrated to Ireland as an archeologist but has to earn her living by cleaning. As I placed the headphones over my ears, I anticipated following the footsteps of a character who would encounter the city in a way I never had. This is what, happened, in part. Sylvia trots through Temple Bar and the streets around it, narrating her journey and life, interacting with other, invisible characters and speaking about what she dreamt of doing. However, this is jumbled up with references to Orpheus and oracles, a quest that we never quite get to the bottom to and a labyrinth that I can only hope is less confusing than this plot.
The pity about this production is that it has potential. Watching an actor perform in the midst of tourists, commuters and shoppers that have no idea what is happening is a very interesting one. Following an immigrant working for egg sandwiches and promises in this way allows you to experience an invisibility that such people often occupy. The story here tries to be too many stories at once; Sylvia beats a homeless woman who follows her and then asks to collect smiles from her audience. The technology used is certainly innovative but this didn’t prevent unfortunate battery failures, which actor Elitsa Dimova bore with only the subtlest of eye rolls. If only Sylvia’s quest had not been mixed up with references to myth and the colour yellow, if only her quest had been what others in her situation truly is: survival from day to day and a hope of stability in the future. This could have been a tour that did not show sights but rather a different way of seeing; it could have realised the maxim of walking in another’s shoes. I wish it had.