Friday, 8 November 2013

Just when I thought it couldn't get any stranger...

Experimentica Day Two
Chapter Arts Centre
Thursday 7th Nov

Day two has really put the EXPERIMENT into Experimentica and I am still trying to get my mind around what I witnessed. Here are my initial thoughts on Thursday’s antics:

Cian Donnelly: Strawberry Necklace

Without a doubt the weirdest and most inexplicable thing I have ever seen, in or out of a theatre. Cian Donnelly's Strawberry Necklace was a surreal combination of storytelling, electronic music, song, projection and movement. 

Dressed in a costume made out of sacks with oddly hilarious Crocs on his feet, Cian Donnelly’s masked character took us through a series of completely bizarre episodes of his life. With the help of a few props and his creepy sculptures the oddball scarecrow took us on a trip to his own little world that Cian describes as “a fictional space where nightmare-lyricism and melancholic humour co-exist.”

I really don't know what the desired effect on the audience was - I really wanted to laugh, sometimes out of pure nervousness and occasionally because what was happening was really funny – especially when the masks elongated nose wobbled as he sang. I was also creeped out by the weird Pinocchio-esque clown particularly when the text took suddenly sinister sexual turns. 

In contrast to his nightmarish appearance and occasional disturbing comment the character seemed somewhat hopeless and in need of a real friend – one not made from debris. His strong South African accent emphasised the lyricism of the spoken word as you really had to listen hard to understand the seemingly disconnected statements. 

Despite my confusion around the piece it just won’t leave my head, I think I may forever be haunted by the sack-clad creature. I want to know more about the world he lives in, why he is so odd and where did he learn to sing like that?! 

Each moment took us on a new adventure, each more surreal than the last. I almost can’t articulate just how mindboggling the piece was. If you want to take a macabre trip to Cian’s wacky world please visit his website:

Tim Bromage
Walking into the smoke filled theatre space I really didn’t know what to expect from Tim Bromage’s homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. I certainly wasn’t expecting a smartly dressed man to walk onto the stage – his head covered by what looked like a huge brain!

After walking along a suitably dramatic corridor of light Tim took the mask off and cheekily addressed the audience casually. He perfectly established the mood of his piece which flipped instantly between informal conversation and dreamlike sections of formal spoken word.

Filling us in on some of the history and true stories thought to inspire the book, Bromage clearly took pleasure in being able to share one of his passions with the group. He really shone when he told us about his obsession with Sherlock Holmes as a child, he and a group of friends even decided to stage a production in which he was sadly overlooked for the role of the great detective and instead ended up portraying the hound. 

The more performative elements (possibly readings from the book?) were delightfully spooky. Under a cold spotlight Tim recited highly dramatic pieces of text, at his feet a mound of sacks covering what looked like a body, which intermittently churned out gusts of smoke. 

Intermingled with this format were some odd actions, such as putting a plastic spoon in a glass, which seemed completely unconnected to what was being said. These may be little clues to aspects of Doyle’s work or life, they may have only held significance to Tim himself. Either way they added something mysterious to the event and helped to build the magical atmosphere.

As it seemed Tim was about to continue chatting to the crowd a loud and abrasive alarm sounded. Borrowing an illusion from a magician’s toolkit Tim reached too far into a small box on the table to bring out a clock. The alarm continued. Tim reached in again and again comically pulling a whole set of alarm clocks out of the table. This sadly signalled time up on the performance – I really wanted to hear and see more of this charming and alluring piece.

Thursday has left me wanting more, what will Friday bring?

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