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Peter Craw­ley has his own the­atri­cal chaos the­ory

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

Strictly speak­ing, we should be able to pre­dict to­mor­row’s lot­tery re­sults with ab­so­lute cer­tainty. We just need to mea­sure the ma­chine, the balls, the grooves, the bumps, the tem­per­a­ture, the im­per­fec­tions and so on, then bor­row a su­per­com­puter, fun­nel all those vari­ables into the strict pa­ram­e­ters of prob­a­bil­ity and de­ter­min­is­tic law, and wait for a rollover week­end. It’s that sim­ple.

That’s the the­ory. Science, math­e­mat­ics and even quan­tum me­chan­ics hold that no phe­nom­e­non, how­ever ran­dom, is with­out a pat­tern. Noth­ing is left to chance. But try telling that to the or­gan­is­ers of the Dublin Fringe Fes­ti­val, where – in theme, at any rate – chaos reigns supreme.

Chaos the­ory, the sys­tem which is in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to ev­ery­body ex­cept a car­tel of boffins and any 12-year-old who’s seen Juras­sic Park, is an un­usual sub­ject for a black com­edy or a piece of phys­i­cal theatre. Yet there it is, within the far­ci­cal drift of Mr Kolpert, David Giesel­mann’s com­pellingly be­wil­der­ing play about ter­mi­nally bored and mur­der­ous yup­pies, one of whom is a chaos re­searcher. A “chaos re­searcher”, we’re told, is some­one who re­searches chaos. They’re also fond of jig­saw puz­zles.

But Mr Kolpert doesn’t need to ex­plain chaos to us – it is chaos. And in Tom Creed’s pro­duc­tion, events hap­pen at ran­dom, mur­ders have no mo­tives, the log­i­cal back and forth of con­ver­sa­tion is rou­tinely af­fronted and words dis­ap­pear com­pletely, as though the per­form­ers have lit­er­ally lost the plot.

That’s an as­ton­ish­ing sen­sa­tion in a theatre – in the best way pos­si­ble – be­cause theatre is all about or­der. Life may be a con­tin­u­ing se­ries of plans and frus­tra­tions, a me­an­der­ing jour­ney of ac­ci­dent and in­ci­dent, but watch­ing a play usu­ally gives us some sense of di­rec­tion and unity: we’re all on the same page, we all have a part to play, all will make sense in the end.

At the same time, the theatre is al­ways on the brink of col­lapse. It’s live. Any­thing can go wrong. A cue can be missed, the set can fall down, or – as ac­tu­ally hap­pened be­fore one per­for­mance of Mr Kolpert – four piz­zas cru­cial to the ac­tion can fail to be de­liv­ered.

Ran­dom, a fan­tas­ti­cally hip show from the Swiss com­pany Plasma, also had the thrill of some­thing threat­en­ing to fall apart. Its more chaotic mo­ments, though, were ac­tu­ally a feint. This slick pack­age of live mu­sic, dance and sur­real sci­en­tific episodes was al­ways in con­trol of it­self.

The mu­sic was a give­away too, be­cause mu­sic, as Ye­hudi Menuhin once pointed out, cre­ates or­der from chaos: “Rhythm im­poses una­nim­ity upon the di­ver­gent, melody im­poses con­ti­nu­ity upon the dis­jointed and har­mony im­poses com­pat­i­bil­ity upon the in­con­gru­ous.” And you can dance to it.

The Fringe is a bit of a lot­tery it­self. But be­tween the tight hys­te­ria of farce and the smooth rup­tures of dance, some com­pa­nies are ask­ing if theatre should be a model of or­der or a realm of chaos. There’s a good chance, maybe even a prob­a­bil­ity, that it should be both. pcraw­ley@ir­ish-times.ie Mr Kolpert plays to­day and to­mor­row at Smock Al­ley

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