EFR - Reviews of Entrails

Entrails

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Naoise Murphy

at 08:08 on 23rd Aug 2016

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As the début performance from Parachute Dance, ‘Entrails’ is an accomplished piece of work. There are definitely elements that could be improved, but overall, it is an engaging study of bodies, trauma and memory.

The piece is directed and written by Róisín O’Brien with choreography by Róisín O’Brien, Yui Ming Emily Wong and the performers, Jenny Geertsen, Emily Neighbour and Kayla Tomé. It is inspired by Joseph Heller’s novel ‘Catch 22’ and some shared themes were evident from the start. The traumatic event at the centre of the work, the catalyst for the emotions portrayed by the performers, was evoked with just the right amount of ambiguity.

However, the blurb states that the creators also worked with ideas about ‘how our bodies unconsciously work to protect us from harm, irrational structures and illogical situations.’ One issue I have with the work though, is that this is not particularly evident to someone who has not read this description. With this in mind, the piece makes more sense, but a stronger narrative, or perhaps some additional text would make this much clearer and help the performance to cohere as a whole. Invoking a source text as rich and fascinating as Heller’s novel should offer so many more opportunities for the creative interweaving of text and dance.

The exploration of shifting power relations throughout the work is compelling to watch. Each of the performers holds their own, and they move together seamlessly. The audience are treated to a vision of bodies under incredible pressures, and the effects this has on relationships. Sounds effects are used to great effect to evoke this; recorded voices talking over one another increasing in urgency, the frantic sounds of trains or machinery suggesting danger.

Lighting is simple but effective, the use of spots stands out as a powerful moment. Props are used inventively – an overcoat which imbued the wearer with power, goggles to suggest the wartime setting and the crucial parachute, our only hint to the nature of the traumatic incident. A plastic hand and foot placed carefully in the corner at the beginning created one of the most striking moments when they were discovered.

Fragments of sentences – "Remember? We were here… Help them…" – echo through the performance. The text has a beautifully haunting quality. O’Brien’s treatment of grief and guilt is particularly touching. This culminates in a moving tableau ending, offering little hope of the trauma suffered by the characters ever fading.

A compelling if obscure piece of work, ‘Entrails’ is an exciting study of the horrors of war and the resilience of human beings.

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Ryan Bradley

at 10:00 on 23rd Aug 2016

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Parachute Dance’s debut show ostensibly deals with reflexes, self-defence and a bloody plane crash. Once this idea asserts itself, the production can be moving and thought-provoking. However, it is still hurt by puzzling, frustrating displays of pretentiousness. In the earlier portions, our three dancers simply point at the audience for several minutes. As the silent seconds grow in number, the motion becomes tedious. This is a great shame. After all, the concept of a dance piece centred on a plane crash is a ripe, refreshing one. Indeed, the convulsive riving which recurs throughout is wonderfully macabre, allowing glimpses of the haunting show which ‘Entrails’ could be. Sometimes, ‘Entrails’ is this show, being blessed with three immensely talented performers who contort and emote with considerable skill in Róisín O’Brien’s choreography. In particular, Jennifer Geertsen should be singled out for praise, delivering smug and anguished expressions with ease. In these moments, great promise lurks around the corner, winking coyly as it titters. Ultimately, promise escapes, leaving awkward repetition to reign supreme.

Posters for ‘Entrails’ declare a connection with Joseph Heller, boldly stamping the show as “inspired by the novel 'Catch 22'”. In truth, the link is slightly tenuous. Presumably, the crash victim is intended to be the character of Snowden, but the concept would benefit from being more general. Although billed as a dance show, the production improves with the introduction of dialogue. The injection of a narrative drive comes late, but it sharpens everything, introducing a much needed undercurrent of sense. Although a clearer theme is a benefit, abstraction can be meritorious. At times, the work resembles Beckett’s ‘Quad’ or ‘Play’, but a familiar, quiet period of circularity does a disservice to the final product. It carries on for far too long, inviting exasperation and boredom.

However, the show is entirely salvageable, potentially requiring some rewriting and redirection to smooth its edges. For a debut, ‘Entrails’ is an admirable effort on occasion. The music, evoking ‘Boards of Canada’ and ‘Locust Toybox’, establishes the solemn mood effectively. The moments which resemble more traditional dance are well done. In the end, the show does not work well enough, buts its raw, patchy nature is often deliberate, forecasting a potential which is never reached.

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