Tempus Incognit

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Donnchadh O'Conaill

at 11:14 on 27th Aug 2011

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Absurdism, satire, farce and silly puns: each of them tricky things. Deadfish Productions weave elements of each into their play, with uneven results. The production is at its best when most ridiculous: the more serious it becomes, the harder it is to take seriously.

Two characters sit in grey uniforms. The clock behind them periodically whirls, holding up new signs which they take as commands: to work, to converse, to prune a Bonsai tree. So far, so absurdist. The clock overloads and explodes. Bereft of temporal guidance, our heroes must figure out what to do. Tick (Nick Devlin, who co-wrote with the director, Ben Sutton) wants to form a plan, and is slavishly devoted to the horological regime; Tock (Chris Matus) is more relaxed and inclined to ask why such strict rules were there to begin with. The two do a reasonable job of differentiating their characters, though the script could have given them more help. The writing takes a while to find its focus: there are early bursts of manic to-and-froing and some cheesy puns, and a couple of clever comic ideas (as time warps, Tick receives a phone call from the future, and tries to work out how much time has elapsed by measuring their speed and the distance the two have travelled) which are let fizzle away.

Nevertheless, there is energy in the writing and performances, but this gradually seeps away as the conflict between the two becomes clearer. Tock disappears into the fridge in search of food, Tick has a conversation with a talking cake (more puns, some rather tasty - sorry). Tock re-emerges to lecture him on the value of a life not lived to a timetable; a clock repairman (Keira Hall) shows up to argue the opposite side. By now the play’s message has drowned out the comic invention, and the last fifteen minutes or so are leaden. It’s difficult enough to stage engaging debate in the context of a realistic staging, but almost impossible in a production where the characters and their world are so thinly drawn.

That initial high-jinks give way to a more sombre theme isn’t, in itself, a problem. But the serious side of the script felt like a wrong turning. The charming comedy and cardboard set wasn’t able to support the weight of the script’s ambitions, and a show that began promisingly wound down long before its end.

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Helen Catt

at 12:21 on 27th Aug 2011

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This was a charming production of absurdist theatre, taking infectious joy in the ridiculous and whimsical. There was an enchanting style of innocent slapstick that you might expect in the better children's tv shows along with some gentle more adult humour. Kiera Heil, as well as his role as the Cake, also gave a very funny performance as the Confession Worker who had trouble controlling himself at the prospect of cake.

The allegories were sometimes dealt with quite a heavy hand, but this is something that is often to be expected in this style of theatre. However, in a piece this short, clarity is important, so it is understandable for the author to want to ensure the message hits home.

There's a definite charm to the performances of Nick Devlin (who was also co-writer) and Chris Matus as Tick and Tock, whose rigid boundaries get shattered with the breaking of their clock. The way the two different characters respond to this newly found freedom is very believable as they manage to convey both the fear and the excitement of being truly free. After the initial humorous treatment (“We could kill ourselves” is the light-hearted suggestion of a method of dealing with the crisis), Nick Devlin gives a good portrait of a man who has all his previous convictions destroyed. The use of the grey make up and grey clothes for those who were yet to come to terms with their freedom gave a visually impressive contrast between the bright colours of Chris Matus' new outfit, an interesting representation of his enlightenment.

There is much to be enjoyed in this little foray into metaphor. It is in short, a thought-provoking, original piece that has been well executed by both the actors and the producer. The set has a charming character that matches the feel of the piece very well. The piece is worth watching – it may not radically change any of your views on the world, but it is an entertaining romp into the world of fantasy.

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