Peter Crawley has his own theatrical chaos theory
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. firstname.lastname@example.org Mr Kolpert plays today and tomorrow at Smock Alley