Dublin Theatre Festival: Politik

'Politik' by The Company as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2012. Photo: Patricio Cassinoni

'Politik' by The Company as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2012. Photo: Patricio Cassinoni

The Company set out a year and a half ago to educate themselves about politics. Not unlike many young people, they had found themselves detached from politics. The only exception to this was every four years, when it was time to vote – in much the same way that unfit people take an interest in athletics when the Olympics come round. They visited the headquarters of the four main political parties in Ireland with the intent of joining all; they joined none. What was repeatedly said to them by all parties was that they had ‘great ideas’ but that it was difficult to make changes in so restrictive a system.

This led the members of The Company to ask: why involve yourself in a system you can’t change? It is this idea that seems to have inspired Politik, which applies this very question to the act of going to the theatre. Oh yes, this is an interactive show. Entering the Samuel Beckett Theatre, this is evident from the outset. The stage is gone, and the audience can choose to sit where they will, in a variety of seats, couches and bar stools. There is a rather unnerving quote on the two screens at either end of the theatre: “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” We sit and hope we won’t be made to dance. The Company make their entrance with an energetic dance routine before somewhat breathlessly explaining the political research behind the production.

A series of scenes is then enacted, telling a simple story of four people coming together to rob a bank. The scenes take place in four distinct places, of which the audience is a part: a café, a bank, a disco and a hideout. There are arguments and betrayals and it ends with a stand-off at gunpoint. And then it begins again, but this time the audience has control. We create a set and props using chalk; audience members become part of the cast; we add lisps and twitches to the actors’ character traits. With each addition, the story is acted out again, until, at the very last, The Company themselves are replaced. And this does not become stale or boring, repetitive as it may sound. This is largely due to the talent of the four performers, who are funny, quick-witted and make improvisation look easy. While the idea of letting the audience control the story is by no means a new one, the structure and means by which The Company go about it keeps it lively and interesting, and means that the audience really does get involved.

However, without hearing what had inspired The Company in the first place, one would be forgiven for asking what relevance politics had to anything. Of course, having heard it, minds race to find connections. Is this an allegory of a country’s politics? Are the four performers meant to represent the dominant political parties of Ireland? (They are robbing a bank, so this last theory seems to make sense.) The mistrust between them, the double-crossing and the deals made: is this politics in action? Are we, by chalking in a gun rack in the corner of the hideout, becoming politically active? The nature of the show and the relaxed atmosphere (we get a tea break halfway through, tea provided) means that we don’t need to worry about it too much, but neither do we leave with much political motivation. Politik certainly succeeds in empowering the audience; we discuss, we suggest and we make decisions. This is a system in which we can make changes and see them play out. The Company have created an environment in a theatrical space that they would like to see in a political one. But Politik confines this to the theatre, and disregards how it may apply outside it. While we certainly get dancing, we don't get much revolution.

Clara Kumagai

  • Review
  • Theatre

Dublin Theatre Festival: Politik by The Company

3-6 October 2012

Produced by The Company
In Samuel Beckett Theatre

The Company: Brian Bennett, José Miguel Jiménez, Rob McDermott, Tanya Wilson and
Nyree Yergainharsian

Costume, Lighting and Set Designer: Ciarán O’Melia

Choreographer: Emma O’Kane