Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At Volcano Theatre

Volcano Theatre company- After the Orgy , , July 1, 1998
Volcano Theatre Company toured an earlier version of After the Orgy in 1994. This version is sharper, with an almost wholly different text. This is a show (rather than a play) that addresses the empty postmodern world through text, technology and spectacle.

The first impression was of the enormous screen, like that of a television, that acted as both a barrier between audience and stage and a surface on which a rolling text was projected. Additional levels appeared behind this almost like veils on which, or through which, texts and images could be seen according to the lighting. The opening was simply stunning: a Nietzschean text ran smoothly over the giant screen while a struggling, infuriated Spaniard, Ususpended in a straitjacket-like harness over the stage, screamed out the words in his own language.

The disembodied/written text could be read and understood the embodied/spoken words were obscure. Words and body, the very tools of drama itself, were set in opposition though it was clear which was the most authoritative a perfect enactment of the little man caught within patterns of dominance and language of the text's declaration that there will come a time when man will no longer be able to despise himself. The two 'actors' Juan Carrascoso and Cill Lyon spoke to the audience but neither made any connection.

A brilliant, hard and glittering tour de force, the show explores and explodes the voyeurism of television though its parody of that medium's stream of images, each following on the other without narrative thread. A multitude of different screens and videos, a rock band appearing and disappearing as backgrounds dissolved into foregrounds through the use of lighting: all this made the performance a series of visual and auditorv events rather than a linear narrative about character, of repetitions, cliche's a world lacking a centre was mirrored on a stage lacking depth, boundaries, duration.

At the heart of the show was an exploration of the voyeur, passively consuming and exploiting spectacle. This explains the controversial porn video which played throughout much of the show on a small television set, suspended, like Carrascoso, above the stage. It also explains the camera-rape of Lyon (its farcical replay making clear its reference to Peeping Tom). This incident was the most (only) disturbing part of the show, the audience drawing into easy identification with familiar territory, only to be wrong-footed into recognising their complicity in the exploitative values of the spectacular world.

The use of the porn video was peculiar in its effect. Set in competition with so many other visual stimulants meant that the fantasy of full identification with the camera as subject and total domination of the image as object was impossible. This completely disabled it of erotic potential. The fat woman fondling enormous lumps of flab in the form of her overdeveloped breasts just looked ridiculous. In his dark glasses Carrascoso was a dead ringer for Foucault, 'interviewed' by Lyon so we saw both individual and giant image floating over his head. The sidelining of the individual was perfectly enacted in the refusal to engage with the audience even to the extent of refusing definite closure. The end was left 'hanging' (the final word of the text) as Carrascoso was again hoisted into the air.

The go-go dancer who had danced non-stop throughout the performance was left dancing long after the two 'actors' had bowed to the camera and left the stage, returned to take their call (again to the camera) and left for good. They faced away from the audience who, sidelined bv the process, had no proper end or place to applaud to demonstrate their recognition of the end of the illusion. After the Orgy is an unsettling drama as testified by some of its discomfited reviews. It is no surprise that Nightingale should single out Volcano and Frantic Assembly in his booklet as 'the most imaginatively exhilarating of all' smaller scale theatre.

Reviewed by: Jeni Williams

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