Friday, January 20, 2006

Absence and Presence

Andrew Dawson at the London International Mime Festival, ICA

For a long time, I have been searching for that one performance that would reinvigorate my appreciation for theatre. I see so much mediocre Shakespeare, fledgling collaboration, and pseudo-performance art, that I often find myself fatigued by being an audience member. I'm usually keen to give each piece a judgment on the basis of its own merits, taking into account things like time, incomplete/uneven talent in a cast, or weaknesses in writing. All in all, I'm too forgiving.

Andrew Dawson didn't need my forgiveness.

Perhaps I'm swayed by the sheer emotion of my experience while viewing this piece; I'll admit that I cried quite a bit. However, my emotional indulgence is beside the point. In telling the tale of his father's death, he has told the tale of himself, and their relationship. Dawson has woven together a show that is subtle and honest, one that surpasses its own subject material. Here is a case where mixed media has a place intrinsic to the show. His physicalities were enchanting, but they also comprised huges portions of the script where words would never have fit. I'll stop raving here. I usually find glowing reviews to be tedious...

In any case, I overheard some spectators in the lobby after my transcendent experience, decrying his efforts as 'drama therapy'. They felt manipulated, because the subject matter was too universal: everyone has lost someone they love. Normally, I might agree; I've seen enough people masturbating themselves onstage in my day. But that doesn't fit this circumstance.

This very easily could have become a horrible, heavy-handed wank, So what keeps it from being gauche?
When it comes down to it, the show isn’t about his father dying. It’s not even about death, but rather life.

How do we negotiate those memories, those insufficient moments that meant nothing on their own, into a tapestry of life and our relationships?


Blogger Leo Straub said...

"Theatre" people. I always spelled it the American way, but if you're in London, you get a free pass...

2:46 PM  

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