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Red alert: Gonzo theatre's back!

Friday, 19th May, 2017 11:06am

Red alert: Gonzo theatre's back!

Now there's a blast from the past. Cavan readers may be forgiven for thinking that the Gonzo Theatre had departed on the same plane that actor Rex Ryan clambered onto at the end of their last major production, the exquisitely penned 'Pilgrim' back in 2014.
Aside from the comical 'House Party' show at the launch of the Townhall's arts programme, the Gonzo has curled up on its stash of glowing reviews for an extended hibernation.
With Townhall Cavan set to close for refurbishments in late 2017, Philip's shifting focus away from creating in-house productions, and back to a reinvigorated and reimagined Gonzo Theatre – hence the latest show, 'Red' which is part of the Townhall's festival of performance art 'What if'.
In the course of our 20 minute chat, the Cavan writer repeatedly speaks of experimenting. 
Philip explains that he has been influenced by visual artists, particularly the renowned American artist, Robert Rauschenberg who was also a stage designer.
“I was nearly envious that he didn’t have to worry about a plot structure and character development – he was just creating these wonderful things for audiences to see and experience.”
Incidentally Rauschenberg had White Painting and Black Painting and yes, Red Painting series.
“Red represents so many different things – it's a powerful colour, it's charming, it's dangerous, its mischievous, it's bold, it's full of energy, it's beautiful – so why not create a show which has all those elements?”
To achieve this he lured Shane Carroll, Nicole Beck, Natasha O'Reilly and James Lawlor into the Townhall early each morning with the promise of yoga and communal breakfast before trying to create an ensemble piece. Talented filmmaker Darren Kelly and composer Peter Denton have also been recruited.
For inspiration Philip put a call out on Facebook for members of the public to participate in interviews, and then mined their memories and thoughts sparked by the colour red.
He's thrilled by the interviewees' “wonderful” stories some of which will feature as recordings in the live show. They have also inspired themes the ensemble have explored.
“A lot of themes are arising in it, from power to desire to sex to lust, to danger to lipstick to red communist politics. It's like a series of dreamlike vignettes that we're creating.”
He's fighting to suppress the inner playwright's desire to insert a plot or the traditional narrative structure, and is channelling all his energies into directing. 
“I think evolution of the stage design will happen – I think that is the story, in that we are creating a painting.”
It all feeds into the fact that theatre is primarily a visual medium.
“In Irish plays, American plays and English plays, the people who come to the shows are called the audience because we're so used to literary plays and hearing the words spoken. But in the every other language in the world, the people who come to the theatre are called spectators - so it is a completely different type of show - and that's what I want to push more.
“After going to those galleries I thought, why not create a moving painting on stage and explore the colour spectrum – so the idea is to do seven shows and this is Night One: Red.”
He views this as a long term objective over several years and ultimately perform the entire series in one festival.
This weekend should make for an enthralling reintroduction to the wonderful world of Gonzo.

Night One: Red will be staged on Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20 at 8pm. Tickets €10 online/€15 on the door.

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