Engine, Brian Friel Theatre, QFT, Belfast, October 11, 2019
By Conor O’Neill
Tinderbox Theatre Company has built a resolute name and following due to its innovative approach, content and delivery. Tonight sees a different spin even for the Tinderbox experience.
The notion is simple: 20 artists are given what’s as close to free reign from September 30th until the day of the one off performance. As they walked in on the 30th none were aware of what will be performed, that potential is within them both individually and collectively. A basis of exploration, risk, enlightenment, collaboration and craft are the only prompts.
Interestingly this is not created in a vacuum. Engine is part of International TransPoetico Productions’ Manifesto Poetico and the second of three, of the Epic Borders trilogy: each show non reliant on its predecessor’s narrative or having any bearing on its successor’s jumping off point.
There’s nothing other than the twenty artists to see as the clock ticks down and a hushed room begins to fill. No set to note, no atmospheric music to hint at what’s to come. Just the 20 standing in the flanks with no apparent costume or pre-idealised rule.
A white elastic appears: A newsflash informs us the date is October 31st, Brexit day is upon us. The newscaster, Breda Riley is live at the Dundalk border and is a recurrent figure throughout the 40 minute performance.
Next the elastic is stretched in front of an agitated man on the phone sniffling and with nervous tics seemingly having to form an unorderly queue in order to enjoy their brief spasm on his contorting face. Victor McGrath is to preside over the will of Peter Cashey; son John is given exact instructions and the will cannot be realised until certain individuals are all in the office of 134 Millionaire Street, the 20th floor to be precise.
John’s half-sister is showing friends around her new Dublin apartment when the call comes in. She and the two, one unwillingly, depart for Belfast. John is at Mansion Street, uber polite elevator voice Richard welcomes and warns, everything is high-wire and fingernails bitten to the quick, even the soothing voice of our elevator companion holds menace.
In groups and individually, others arrive, most of foreign nationality, some of an ever-changing array of hard-to-grasp nationalities: the border stretches at angles, diagonals and around wicked corners. More news flashes come in, four hour tailbacks are appearing at the North/South border.
An inquisitive detective’s curiosity and bloody-minded determination adds more intrigue and comic effect. A bassline follows, mimics and pre-empts his every step. Breda Riley’s colleague, Gareth is at Belfast port. Extinction Rebellion is using this momentous date to further its agenda. As changing and stretched as the elastic border the plot also contorts and subplots involve the viewer and participants alike.
The physicality of the players, the use of the space and compelling dialogue make for an invigorating 40 minutes.
Neither audience or artists will think of theatre in the same light again.
With demand for the ‘one off’ performance so high, a second night has been added.
Engine will occur again at the Brian Friel Theatre on Saturday, October 12th.
For booking info and more other information on Tinderbox visit http://www.tinderbox.org.uk