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The Chairs

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Imagine throwing a party and nobody came. That's kind of what happens 
in Romanian absurdist Eugene Ionesco's absurdist classic, revived here 
in an Irish-accented pop-eyed take on proceedings by the wonderful 
Sligo-based Blue Raincoat company, who apply their trademark physical 
tics to the play's conscious sense of its own ridiculousness.

As the Old Man and Old Woman await their guests in a semi-circular room 
where the much admired Orator will hold court to their salon, the Old 
Man sits on his spouse's knee like some ancient ventriloquist act, as 
the couple discuss the apparent destruction of Paris, just who is 
pulling the strings is never quite clear. As a succession of invisible 
'guests' arrive to be seated in a makeshift auditorium, is this red 
letter day an elaborate construction to survive the last days on earth 
with dignity and marbles intact? Or, on a more theatrically practical 
level, is it merely good economics to not have an actual cast of 
thousands appearing in the flesh?

Either way, Niall Henry's production suggests that John Carty's Old Man 
and Sandra O'Malley's Old Woman's final hour holding court to the great 
and the good is also their finest. When Ciaran McCauley's Orator 
finally appears, his seemingly meaningless presentation becomes a form 
of sound poetry that goes beyond words.

The most telling part of the play comes at the end, when, the Orator 
finished and the couple dead, we hear the coughing, shuffling and 
fidgeting of an audience leaving. Such noises off mirrors the real-life 
audience's behaviour in a manner that speaks volumes about how much 
theatre-goers  are prepared to invest in apparently difficult works 
like this.

The Herald, June 11th 2012



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