Kidding Ensemble presents 'Cosas' at filmbase.

Kidding Ensemble presents 'Cosas' at filmbase.

Clowning is a restrictive kind of art form, imposing strict discipline and conventions on its practitioners - no speech, expression broad rather than nuanced, a tendency towards the absurd, a clear and uncomfortable incongruity between the individual and the environment.

Angelica Santander, the lone red-nose in Cosas, bent on employing a kind of scrap-yard technology to transcend her immediate circumstances, uses her face like an instrument – wide eyes, cavernous mouth and scintillating teeth, particularly apt for exuberance and bemusement – but it remains to be fine-tuned, the range limited and repetitive. Her physical presence waxes and wanes. The opening consists of a fussy moment when, masked from view, she appears to be adjusting a vital component in her travel machine – the actions are small, indecipherable. Her gait for the most part is subdued, and, given that she is permitted only a few mouthed words, she needs to compensate for her muteness by other means of expression.

Santander feels her way into the role, progressively more confident – this is a clown in the making – and there are shafts of brilliance in some of the set pieces: Cosas grappling with the intolerable burden of the TV set she doesn’t want to leave behind; Cosas flummoxed by mechanical failure; Cosas driven into a tearing rage by the intransigence of the technology; Cosas poring over the manual, succumbing to boredom and distraction; Cosas with clip-board, absorbed in the mechanical task of a check-list.

Niamh Jackman’s design both fascinates and irritates. As a visual artist, working in sculpture-installation, she has revelled in creating a world of appliances-turned-contraptions. She’s had fun with vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, TV set, wire mesh, plastic tubing etc. The eye of the spectator is never still, catching a glimpse of yet another gadget and wondering if it will serve as an integral part of the narration or not. When it doesn’t, it seems to distract Santander from the central act of story-telling. Sequences, like the discovery of a pepper-making machine, zapping through a variegated sound-scape (Roger Gregg), exploring the gizmos in the travelling machine are stretched out too long. A lot could be jettisoned.

It’s an exacting piece for one person. The addition of a stage-hand at a late stage, visibly and obviously manipulating the ‘machine’ is unfortunate, in that it dilutes the concentration on the solitary world of Cosas. Perhaps what was needed was either some more sophisticated working mechanical parts (bring on Heath Robinson) or a simple theatrical device that required the actress/clown to do it all.

The addition, at the finale, of another clown smacks mostly of being a device to give the piece an ending. The narrative does imply that Cosas has emotional and physical needs that cannot be satisfied entirely by technology, but the ‘exit in pursuit’ seems gratuitous, rather than earned by what has gone before. The common thread of what is required in Jackman’s design, in Linotte’s direction and in Santander’s performance is greater rigour, economy and conciseness.

Derek West

  • Review
  • Theatre

Cosas by Angelica Santander

6 - 17 September, 2011

Produced by Kidding Ensemble
In Filmbase, Dublin

Devised and performed by Angelica Santander

Directed by Marie-Geneviève Linotte

Set & Costume Design: Niamh Jackman

Lighting Design: Colm Ivors

Sound: Roger Gregg