Wel­come to the new nor­mal, as a trav­el­ling freak show trans­forms

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - THEATRE -

Emer O’kelly sees a brave, am­bi­tious mixed bag in Cork


Every­man Palace The­atre, Cork

PHILOSO­PHERS from Socrates to Jean-paul Sartre have ag­o­nised over the pur­pose and mean­ing of Be­ing. So adding to the store of knowl­edge (or, in­deed, find­ing new ques­tions) could be said to be a gar­gan­tuan task for even the great­est of con­tem­po­rary thinkers.

But, as a par­tic­u­larly ir­ri­tat­ing advertising slo­gan says, ev­ery lit­tle helps.

Play­wright Lynda Radley gamely at­tempts to ad­dress the ques­tion in Fu­ture­proof, a play that did well at the Ed­in­burgh fringe some years ago, and is now at the Every­man in Cork be­fore it opens on Tues­day at Project in Dublin. It’s a co-pro­duc­tion be­tween both houses and the Cork Mid­sum­mer Fes­ti­val.

Radley’s premise is to won­der if sur­vival of the self in so­ci­ety can only be achieved by be­com­ing a chameleon: blend­ing in with the background so as to be un­re­mark­able in the herd. It’s a kind of sal­va­tion, but it comes with a heavy price. Would de­fi­ance by con­tin­u­ing to look for sup­port in the world of Out­sider Odd­i­ties have been prefer­able?

Ri­ley runs a trav­el­ling freak show, some­thing which was wildly pop­u­lar un­til the turn of the 20th cen­tury. But in the 21st cen­tury, the pub­lic’s ap­petite has faded for watch­ing the World’s Fat­test Man; two pretty Si­amese twins joined at the hip; a her­maph­ro­dite who oblig­ingly dresses one side as fe­male, the other as male; an arm­less Bearded Lady; and a mute wo­man with de­formed legs who dis­guises them in per­for­mance as a mer­maid.

His lit­tle troupe on the verge of star­va­tion, Ri­ley has a so­lu­tion: to make profit out of ne­ces­sity, by pa- rad­ing their “trans­for­ma­tions” (as far as pos­si­ble) into “nor­mal­ity”. The re­sults are tragic, pa­raded cru­elly and ruth­lessly for our in­spec­tion.

The howl of in­te­rior pain is a pall in the air as the troupe find them­selves still sur­rounded in their own heads by the end­less point­ing fin­gers. The pain of liv­ing is not so eas­ily ex­tin­guished.

It’s a brave, am­bi­tious play and one hell of a leap from The Art of Swim­ming, Radley’s first out­ing of 10 years ago at the Dublin Fringe which left me dis­tinctly un­der­whelmed. But there is an im­bal­ance in play­ing which even Tom Creed’s al­ways imag­i­na­tive di­rec­tion can’t con­ceal, with Amy Conroy as Ge­orge/ Ge­orgina, Ger­ard Byrne as Tiny, and Gina Mox­ley as the bearded Count­ess Mar­keta rather leav­ing the rest in the shade.

And shade is a ma­jor prob­lem: Sinead Mckenna’s light­ing plot is lit­tle short of dis­as­trous for Paul O’ma­hony’s at times con­fused set. And it would have helped if less of the di­a­logue was de­liv­ered up­stage, as the acous­tic in the Every­man doesn’t im­prove on re­newed ac­quain­tance.

‘The re­sults are tragic, pa­raded cru­elly, ruth­lessly for our in­spec­tion’

Karen Mccart­ney as Ser­ena and Gina Mox­ley as Count­ess Mar­keta in ‘Fu­ture­proof’. Photo: Miki Bar­lok

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