Druid Lane Theatre, Galway Arts Festival
A few thoughts on Pat Kinevane’s Silent coming up just as soon as I paint my nails immaculate blue ...
With Landmark armed with Cillian Murphy’s star power, and Paines Plough and Propeller having their international appeal – Fishamble’s Silent is something of a dark horse in this year’s Arts Festival line-up.
Here, Pat Kinevane performs the story of how Cork man Tino McGoldrig lost all his possessions, all his relationships, and eventually his mind. Regrets are not his only property as he sleeps on the streets of Dublin. A sheer appreciation of elegance and performance shines bright in the man’s depressed mind and architects McGoldrig’s tragic fall with aching beauty.
Tino remembers his parents’ fondness for the famous silent movie actor Rudolph Valentino, from whom he receives his name. The silent movie aesthetic shrouds Silent, aligning physical movements with sound recollections of conversations, drawing room piano and flamenco rattles. Kinevane’s choreography is flawless here, granting a magic to these ‘silent’ sequences (which are captioned by placards that he holds up, resembling title cards in silent movies) that mystifies the state of his character’s troubled mind. The most disastrous moments in McGoldrig’s life are depicted in these spaces of the evening, often comically elating their reality but their despair never truly absent. His narrative is a mosaic as opposed to a straight line, collecting fragments from his relationships with his brother, his parents, his wife and son in a non-chronological fashion, often arrested by the charitable clink of a coin thrown into a jar.
Kinevane’s presence is powerful, standing close and face-to-face to his audience. As McGoldrig says of his experiences on the street: “One in six hundred people will look you in the eye”. While there is social commentary here on the life of the homeless (including praise for the volunteer causes that assist people on the street), there is also an address to the mental care organisations that are inadequate in helping sick people. Satirically, McGoldrig holds up his bottle of merlot as if a phone and impersonates an assistant: “If you think you are suffering from schizophrenia – please dial one, or two, or three” or “If you think you are suffering from paranoia – relax and remember: we know where you live”. Indeed, the bravest moment of Silent is a scene when he openly asks members of the audience to raise their hands if they’ve ever been on anti-depressants. The proposed participation is risky but the courage is respected as Kinevane then continues into a speech about how people should not feel ashamed or weak for needing medication to be mentally well.
A request for anonymity – “Remember, if anyone asks I was never here” – may suggest that McGoldrig/Kinevane does not want to be made a heroic symbol for these social criticisms. Perhaps he’d rather that his story not be the stuff of cultural legend but a personal tale shared in confidence. By the time he puts Silent to bed (the last ten minutes may arguably be the best demonstration of Irish theatre this year) he has earned our respect – not only for captivating our senses with an exceptional arrangement of acting, writing, comedy, music and dance but for also encouraging us not to see sickness of mind as something to be ashamed of.
What did everybody else think?