Komedia @ Southside, Edinburgh
August, 2000

Overheard from an audience member exiting after the show: "I have absolutely no idea how to judge that, but I think it was quite good!"

Damian Wright plays Antonin Artaud, railing against all kinds of convention and logic, confronting his double, dining with Hitler in a Marx Brothers-esque exchange (he becomes "Arto Marx"), and so forth. For an hour Wright occupies the small stage hung with muslin and swinging, veiled lamps, often entirely in blackout; at the opening he enacts a strobe-lit silent-movie scene, complete with caption placards; frequently he tussles with Louise Davis's sound sculptures of everyday noises and varispeeded voices.

Wright's script is written in an Artaudian glossolalia in which ideas run into each other in mid-word like a motorway pile-up; the character describes himself at one point as a "psycho-Quasimod'Artaud", for instance. Rather than alienating, though, this draws us into his scuttlings around his own inner labyrinth, and conveys the notion that there is too much going on in Artaud's head to come out straight and linear. Wright the performer, too, flits from mood to mood in terms of temperament and vocal delivery at the high speed his text requires. Much of the action takes place with him in a crouch or even supine, making it impossible for those beyond the first couple of rows in Southside's smaller space to see much, but by a stroke of luck this contributes to rather than detracts from the fascinating complexity of the piece.

Written for the Financial Times Web site,

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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