Galway International Arts Festival: House party vibe recreates the playfulness and magic of home


A preamble establishes the theatrical language of this delightful show, which arrives at the Galway International Arts Festival after many successful festival outings. Geoff Sobelle, the show’s creator, dressed in a casual shirt and jeans, invites the audience to consider the first place we called home: the people in it, the shape of the building. Then he starts messily constructing a wall from a wooden frame and a plastic sheet. From nowhere, a bed appears: he gets in and pulls the blanket over himself. When the blanket is pulled back, he has disappeared and instead there is a kid waking up. It’s magic.

he elaborate set by designer/collaborator Steven Dufala is constructed in front of us: timber frames of stud walls make a kitchen, a dining room. Upstairs there are bedrooms and a bathroom. Seven people who have lived in the house all populate it at the same time, not seeing each other, performing mostly in movement and mime. People hop in and out of the shower, one after another.

The child keeps getting their height measured on a doorpost, with a different parent each time. At one point a performer wears a black dress, the atmosphere changes, and everybody’s movements become heavy with grief. In due course, audience members are lured into the act, given a graduation outfit, a wedding veil, a birthday cake. A random man gets given a (prop) baby. There might be more than 20 extra people on the set, like a big house party. Chris Kuhl’s lighting design is pure fun, rigging fairground lights over our heads.

Director Lee Sunday Evans steers the rollicking enterprise like Neptune controlling chaotic seas. Music by Elvis Perkins sets mood, sometimes with a lyrical ballad, sometimes more stealthily. The show is a meditation on home, but there is no sermonising on the subject, unusual in this era of heavy-handed political theatre.

Instead, a sort of exotic and ebullient mindfulness, where the idea of home is conjured spectacularly in the mind. It is whimsical, poignant and clownish with a thoroughly good-humoured positivity — a quality I associate with a certain kind of American-ness.

This is a superb engagement with the possibilities of liveness and the pleasure of communal experience; the theatre creating a spectacular home for inventiveness and for play.

Ambitious vision of dancing with the light

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Satori from Australian choreographer/director Lewis Major. Photo by Chris Herzfeld / Camlight Productions

Satori and Unfolding at An Taibhdhearc, Galway
until Saturday, June 23

Australian choreographer/director Lewis Major unites dance with lighting in this graceful double bill which gleefully relishes its futuristic technological mood.

The first part, Satori, has four dancers working with illuminated light tubes: a square turns into a pentagon, which later resembles a grave. Strenuous choreography folds bodies and light around each other like live origami: ‘satori’ translates loosely from Japanese as ‘awakening’. Tom Kitney’s lighting design is playful, colourful and charming.

In the second part, Unfolding, the dance is enhanced by a busy lighting plot from designer Fausto Brusamolino, creating a high-tech contemporary laser-light sculpture feel. At one point, two dancers appear dramatically suspended on a revolving beam. Dry ice thickens the air, particles catching the light. There is some fantastic pair and group choreography; the dancers’ technique is uncannily perfect. In the finale, the dancers are almost nude, clothed simply in light patterns, in an arresting form of anti-nakedness. James Brown’s score has much variety, sometimes a piano-melody dominates, sometimes a hyped-up beat.

This is a thoroughly ambitious vision of what dance and light can do. I occasionally found it a bit too dark and wanted to see the dancers more clearly. But this is frontier work, and Major is pushing its possibilities to a fascinating edge.

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