Ignition | Theatre Review
The MAC, Belfast • Friday 08 June ’18
By Conor O’Neill • Photography: Ciaran Bagnall Design
I’m literally scratching my head, grasping at straws and almost lost for words. Almost. Tinderbox Theatre Company’s along with their project The Play Machine present Ignition, a piece of theatre sure to leave you dumbfounded, and unnerved.
The concept is fairly simple: 12 creative minds are given five days to construct a piece of theatre, from initial idea to the fruition of two performances. Patrick J. O’Reilly sits at the helm as director, Jen Shepherd produces while the stage is managed by Natalie Murphy. The program notes don’t offer any indication of a loose theme to leap from or whether the team, all graduates from The Play Machine’s inaugural training school, were given a blank canvas. What is apparent from the off is O’Reilly’s signature love of movement, minimalism and, of course, playfulness.
Many, if not most, creative endeavors are typically governed by a democracy of one. Not so here. I’m not sure if the intro blurb suffered a typo but the named and pictured artists in the program features 13 souls. Only six are described as being pure actors, the other seven hold that title along with others such as director, producer, theatre-maker and in some cases an amalgamation of all these traits and talents.
Some might argue ‘too many cooks’ and all that, but with Ignition this confluence of ideas synergy and above all energy makes for 40 minutes of intrigue, confusion, shock, claustrophobic panic and disgust which can only leave the viewer questioning what and/or who came up with this, and, what it has to say about modern life?
All of O’Reilly’s work that I’ve seen has hinged on reflections and sparked conversation on the world around us. Forever trying to highlight the macro by way of the micro, The Company, credited as this piece’s creators, have honed that down to a knife edge. Insects are the focal point of much of tonight’s lens. 12 performers come into view from darkness, six male, six female, though gender seems to be an ambiguity as we weave our way through four movements. The narrative seems to be that of the individual rising only to be dwarfed by the mass. Dialogue is to be used tersely. Of the 40 minutes, only maybe three are occupied by discernible speech. And of those three minutes, English takes a backseat to a whole plethora of national and regional tongues. I’m far from a lingual authority but to my ear, French, Spanish and more exotic languages take to the fore.
What language doesn’t deliver, movement, aural delights coupled with frightening grumbles and manic, twisted, shattering explosions of sound prompt the feelings though nothing is ever implored, suggestion and the use of the viewer’s imagination is key. Music plays its role. From Joy Division type electro intros to hard techno and what can only be described as a few moments regal pomposity drive the tale forward.
When not concentrating on a character or on choreographed collective sequences the shadows thrown by the cast are mesmerising. Hues from diminishing whites to red, a spotlight here and greys all melt with the shimmering mass of flesh casting an ethereal mood to this piece.
Created in five days, Ignition is guaranteed to stay with you for a long time.
Ignition runs until 09 June. For booking details phone the MAC’s box office on 02890 235053 or visit www.themaclive.com