Player’s Review: Danae

The most interesting performance to watch in Danae is that of the audience. A man clad in black introduced us to the theatre by informing us that we were free to walk around the space. Apart from this, and a poster on the wall summarizing the story of Danae, we were not told what to expect. After reading the sign people started to wander tentatively around. First, I sat down opposite a pregnant girl sitting in a confessional-like structure (Fionnuala Gygax). She led me into a discussion about whether she should have a choice about having a baby. This highlighted one of the themes of the piece: the exploration of one of the premises of the Danae myth, which is that a woman’s body is purely a vehicle for patriarchy and a depository for male desire. Most people gravitated towards a mattress in the corner, where the most interactive of the actors was located (Roisin Barron), accompanied by a blow-up sex doll and platter of grapes. She would choose various audience members (always male) and get them to wear a strap-on, blind-fold, or handcuffs (or all three). I overheard her having a kind of sex-therapy session with one guy.

At the beginning it was interesting to see how repressed many audience members seemed to feel in what was meant to be an experimental space; they stuck together in groups and looked at a loss. However, about twenty minutes in, people started to relax and enjoy themselves. I wandered over to the centerpiece: a girl standing on a platform surrounded by fringed curtains of gold, undressed by this point (Alison Ryan). I fed her grapes, which she seemed to appreciate.  A phone would ring at intervals until someone picked up, which I did at one point. On the other end was a congenial voice (Andrew Oakes) that asked me how my day was, and to put my hand on the oracles’ knees (Matthew Malone, Breffni Holahan and Matthew O’Dwyer), and assure them they were going to be okay. They remained impassive. Others were instructed to feed them bananas. By the end the focus had somewhat gone, as if the audience had run out of things to do, and people where mainly chatting amongst themselves.

The set, designed by directors Sarah Stührenberg and Aine Tyrrell, was fantastic. Catherine Bell did a great job with the lighting, which was very atmospheric and highlighted the various focal points. The actors were impressive given the unpredictability and proximity of the performance, never wavering from their parts. The experience was a mixture between being guided and directing ourselves, an interesting experiment in the role of the audience, and a challenge to perceptions about theatre and the female body. ‘I thought I was going to see a play’ one audience member said to me. Danae is more of an anti-play, and definitely one of the more interesting pieces of theatre I’ve seen in Players. It’s enjoyable too. Go see it. And don’t be afraid to use the bananas.

★★★

Sorcha Gannon

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