Carpet Theatre presents 'Pigeon' at Project Arts Centre. Photo: Emma Haugh

Carpet Theatre presents 'Pigeon' at Project Arts Centre. Photo: Emma Haugh

Carpet Theatre presents 'Pigeon' at Project Arts Centre. Photo: Emma Haugh

Carpet Theatre presents 'Pigeon' at Project Arts Centre. Photo: Emma Haugh

Pigeon is a play with masks, without words, but with a clear, satirical narrative for the times we live in. Ciarán Taylor and the members of Carpet Theatre evoke a recession in the suburbs through a form of physical theatre, close to dance, in which the movement and expression are orchestrated and syncopated. For nearly an hour-and-a-half there is not a single pause in the comings and goings. Three doors feature on the set: one never opens but another closes. The action is restlessly committed to a perpetual, mesmerising rhythm, played out in a compulsive nervy frenzy.

Photo: Emma HaughThree masked figures struggle to cope with the paraphernalia of daily living, to a sound-track of soulful saxophone (original music by Cawley, O’Mahony and Wickham) and percussive sounds (saw and hammer), a persistent neighbour-dog, yapping on cue every time the front door is opened, and a disturbing sighing wheeze that punctuates moments of high angst. The Man is simply not coping: he’s inept at everything he turns his hand to and he’s getting no help from the other two (a woman and another male).

The irony of Alyson Cummins’s design is not apparent at first. An unremarkable box set represents a housing-estate home, complete with net curtains, nondescript wallpaper (barely covering the cracks in the plaster) and flat-pack furniture. The audience is afforded a view of an attic, harbouring cardboard boxes. It’s when the flap falls off the letter-box and the chest of drawers starts to disintegrate in unruly fashion; when landline and mobile play out an intrusive duet of rings and chimes; when the laptop and the ironing board crash and that dog just keeps up the yelping that one realises that the Man (Karl Quinn), his partner (Ruth Lehane) and son (Pau Cirer) are living in a unmanageable Kafkaesque madhouse, where tensions are constantly taut and where, apart from the attic – which affords some brief respite as a storehouse of nostalgia – peace of mind is unthinkable.

Photo: Emma HaughThe plot, as such, is about secrets, snooping, domestic power struggles. The Man plays a furtive game with the stream of brown envelopes that drop through the letter-box; the woman is on constant alert to work out what he’s up to. While she hoards Lidl offer leaflets, he’s trying to conceal the letters in a drawer that keeps collapsing. This is a gimcrack, shoddily constructed world – even small things create the stuff of anxiety and neurosis. The ultimate catastrophe in this household is economic; foreclosure and repossession are inevitable. The bizarre comedy has turned to tragedy.

Pau Cirer’s masks distance the characters from the audience, yet allow for sufficient eye-movement to achieve some degree of empathy. They offset the unremarkable costumes; combined with the perpetual movement, the effect is bizarre.

Carpet Theatre, in its training (École Jaques Lecoq keeps recurring), in its extensive touring (beyond Ireland and Wales to eastern Europe), in the eclectic mix of nationalities (Irish, Dutch, Spanish) seems akin to Footsbarn, absorbing influences and ideas as it goes and ending up here with a piece that is both riveting and unnerving.

Derek West, like the Man, frequently submits himself to the ordeal of assembling flat-pack furniture and knows all about frayed nerve-endings.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Pigeon by Ciarán Taylor and the Company

22 May – 2 June, 2012

Produced by Carpet Theatre & Mermaid Arts Centre
In Project Arts Centre

Devised by Ciarán Taylor and the Company

Masks created by Pau Cirer

Design: Alyson Cummins

Lighting Design: Sarah Jane Sheils

Music by Jack Cawley, Mischa O’Mahony and Steve Wickham

With: Pau Cirer, Ruth Lehane and Karl Quinn