Saturday, April 13, 1996

REVIEW:Dedicated (Project Arts Centre)

It's okay to take bits and pieces from other people's rituals and use them for your own ends", says one member of Desperate Optimists in the course of Dedicated, the London based Irish performance company's latest production. In context, the remark is intended to offer an ironic explanation of why another group member has wandered the stage, alternately blowing gusts of cigar smoke and spraying water from her mouth.

Naturally, the observation also has wider implications, about the importance of bricotage in contemporary culture as well as about self respect, something, the show suggests, that can only be generated from bits and pieces of other people's rituals.
In keeping with this cut and paste outlook, Desperate Optimists' performance style involves, a kind of DIY techno in which basic strip lighting and tacky, guilded props share the stage with digital photographic manipulation - performed by photographer Amanda Harman seated at her Macintosh - and live turntable mixing from DJ James Molloy.

Eschewing the usual crutches of theatre, such as plot and characterisation, Desperate Optimists instead build their fascinating show on more challenging, more unsettled, dramatic foundations. The evening is structured around a series of ironic rants about greed, poverty, hate and oppression. Each of these is framed as a "communique" - a message created by an underground political organisation, destined to be posted off to semi randomly chosen individuals - all of whom are linked together to create an image of humanity as an angry, terminally alienated species.

It is hard to know how the CEO of Bank of Ireland and the owner of Brown Thomas will react when they receive manila envelopes filled with tapes and colour laser copies of the show from Desperate Optimists. Perhaps these postcards from the edge will change their lives, perhaps not. What is certain is that this artfully slack, episodic structure allows performers Christine Molloy, K. Michael Weaver and Joe Lawlor to create an extraordinarily fresh and vivid evening of lo fi aesthetics and hi fi cunning.

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