Do you like to think about the future? In Brokentalkers' new production, an elderly performer envisions utopia while a younger performer can't help but meditate on his own destruction.
Project Arts Centre, Dublin Theatre Festival
My review of Frequency 783 coming up just as soon as I don't drink wine in case I short-circuit ...
Do you like to think about the future? At the beginning of Brokentalkers' probing new production, a 17 year old boy stares acceptingly at an urn before, balanced on an unsteady stool, taking hold of a noosed rope dropped from the ceiling. It sets a dark tone throughout; a performance where self-destruction erupts at every turn.
While the teenager, Neimhin, can't help but think about mortality and future as hand-in-hand, a 74 year old woman, Clodagh, envisions the future as a utopia where technological advances will improve people's health and quality of living. The two premonitions seem set to compete rather than co-exist, fuelled by Jessica Kennedy's daring choreography, which sends the younger performer charging aggressively against the older only to miss within an inch. Does she remind him of a reality that he'd rather not think about?
Like the future, the meaning of the exchange is anyone's guess. Under Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan's direction, the two non-actors are neutrally masked and open-read, their actions subject to different interpretations. The intensification of the body with Kennedy's choreography gives Neimhin Robinson a lot to do - crashing across the stage, deforming in rigid movements, carrying his co-performer across the stage. He gives one driven and impassioned turn.
The action plays out on Ciarán O'Melia's grey yet fantastical set, imaginable as the bridge of a starship from Baker-era Doctor Who. The design intends to feel dated, with psychedelic projections from Kilian Water's video design reminiscent of classic Windows Media Player, and Seán Miller's music leaning heavily on 70s synth. All are channelling the attempts of an earlier decade to imagine what lies ahead.
Interacting with this specific point from the past, Frequency 783 suggests that our efforts to envision the future are periodical. Brokentalkers produce the latest in outlandish and wry effects in this respect - transforming a plastic bag into an astronaut's helmet, becoming more precarious with every inhalation; a face disfigured from being bound in elastic bands. Inventions are accompanied with reminders of sickness and death. Yet in Clodagh O'Reilly's self-possessed turn, thoughts on the future can manifest a gorgeous ballad to a robot, while her co-star provides support on glittery synthesiser.
"Why do you keep hurting yourself?" asks Clodagh. "Because I'm afraid of being alone" responds her companion, who then takes us on a forecast through his professional livelihood and failed marriage, up to the point of his death. How can we not think about the future without being aware of the passage of time and the tragedy that precipitates? In the backdrop of 70s sci fi and electronica, Frequency 783 suggests there to be a ritualistic revisiting of our fates, its nihilism indicative of late Yeats. The outlook may not be that bleak. Perhaps Neimhin's pessimism is due to the fact he has yet to be exposed to an adult lifetime of intense feeling and passion, the cascade of which may be suitably represented in a beauteous downpour of crimson feathers.
What did everyone else think?