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Monday, 19 May 2014

SOMETHING TO BE DONE dissected by Hayley

A lump of man writhed on the pallet bed. Encased in a sack, he flip flopped around in an effort to be born. He popped out from his sack and thus began an hour and fifteen minutes of mimed physical, surrealism. I had heard great things about Gabriel McCarthy's award winning ten minute version of this piece, originally staged at Short and Sweet. McCarthy depicted the birth and death of an artist in a beige themed, existential world. No dialogue. Just a man, a stuffed sheep and a bowler hat. 

'Something to be Done' is part Jan Svankmajer, part Mr Bean, and showcases McCarthy's body bending and moulding in an extremely physical piece of theatre. McCarthy is a gifted physical performer, his background in gymnastics apparent. His mime became at times a little too Mr Bean for my liking and felt more mimicry rather than artistry but McCarthy has skill, that much is evident. 

The audio design for the most part was great. At times it was a little behind its cues. I'll cut it some slack on its opening night, but due to the lack of dialogue, it is instantly noticeable if these cues are missed. However, I have no doubt it will tighten up in the later performances. I thought some of the songs might have also been a little cliched, using Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' for when McCarthy was in utereo case in point. Also I would be wary of using Clint Mansel's 'Lux Aeterna'. Unlike the other more generic classical music used, it conjures powerful imagery from major films it has been used in (Lord of the Rings and Requiem for a Dream). My mind was busy recalling the scenes in the films, dragging me away from McCarthy's world.

The program details that 'Something to be Done' is about risk. I'm not sure that came across clearly in the performance. The lack of dialogue in the piece was certainly risky if you can sustain a performance of that duration without speaking or needing dialogue, and some of the falls McCarthy took really made me concerned for his knees. There are times, as audience, you are more concerned for the actor rather than the character and I felt this. This is a physically taxing show. 

I felt like the creator's note teamed with the piece I saw tried too hard to attribute meaning just so the audience would get it. That can read conceptually try-hard, which is fine, but it is a little too easy to ascribe additional meaning to something to make it seem more important. Really, should it be the audience that need to find that meaning and your job to convey it in your piece? It might denote a slight sense of not trusting your material to get the job done. Admittedly I did struggle to find meaning in what I saw, but I had assumed that was intentional as it felt more like Bunuel surrealism than existentialism. Had I just been expected to sit back and enjoy the journey, I may have just been content with entertainment for entertainment's sake. It's the peril of taking a sketch and turning it into a full-length movie. More is sometimes less.

I mostly enjoyed the piece. As mentioned, I think it would have been stronger at ten minutes than as the hour and fifteen I saw. There were times when I drifted off and away from the stage. This could be because I am inherently a language person and I need some dialogue to engage me fully. The weight of the piece definitely lies with McCarthy's strength in physical performance.

If you want to see Mr Bean done as conceptual existentialism and for the most part, done well, then head along to TAP Gallery now to see it. 

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