First published in The Times, Wednesday August 10 2016
The prologue is delivered by a narrator draped in a white sheet, like one of the ghosts from Scooby Doo, but that isn’t the oddest aspect of this collaboration between two of Ireland’s leading performance companies. The dream-like collage that follows includes a sequence in which the front and back ends of a pantomime horse attempt to pull in different directions and the arrival of a choir singing about decomposition. David Lynch would be proud.
Death and the grieving process are the apparent themes of this show, created by innovative theatre-makers Brokentalkers in collaboration with Junk Ensemble, the dance theatre company. There is a narrative, of sorts, about a teenage boy who was abducted and murdered following an argument with his father. The boy appears in various guises throughout, most notably as a deadpan ghost, observing the reaction and aftermath to his own death.
Pic: Fukoshi Sakaushi
Otherwise, the production feels intensely fragmented: a parade of images relating to childhood and mortality. Some of these have a certain macabre beauty, including the sequence in which the young boy dances and embraces his killer. The action is also shot-through with haunting music, performed by the startlingly large cast, which includes both Irish and local performers.
In snatches the piece does exert a certain icy power, but on the whole it is frustratingly short of content, with the company padding out the 50-minute running time with some familiar devised theatre tropes, including a scene in which two characters run through a word association game.
Pic: Luca Truffarelli
Brokentalkers explored similar territory a few years back in the excellent Have I No Mouth. Yet, where that production, which forthrightly depicted one family’s struggle to recalibrate following a sudden death, really tore into its subject, to shattering effect, It Folds barely scratches the surface. While pleasing to the eye and ear, this piece feels like a sketch for a longer work, rather than the finished product. Even as the huge ensemble gathers onstage at the end, the overriding response runs along the lines of “Is that all there is?”