Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project

October 21, 2016

***

Casement’s not quite the party animal

 

The Project Arts Centre is turning the big five and 0 this year, and intends to celebrate all things Project with the excellent series, Project 50. The party kicked off last night, and the first Project 50 guest to arrive was Roger Casement in the guise of ‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project’ by Fearghus Ó Conchúir. Like many who often arrive first to the party, Casement’s not quite the party animal. Indeed, ‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project’ falls victim to a number of party no no’s. It might be reasonably good looking and exude bundles of energy, but this piece of dance theatre isn’t properly dressed for the occasion, often lingering far too long in the telling, which is often less interesting, visually and choreographically, than it should have been.

 

If the historic Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist, heroic human rights activist and homosexual, it’s the latter that receives the lions share of Ó Conchúir’s imaginative response. Indeed, the bullet riddled referencing of his execution, along with the lengthy list of those charged and executed during the 1916 Easter Rising, feels tacked on, as if his homosexuality were the real crime for which he was executed. 

 

Lengthy segments of mixed success dominate throughout, including a long opening sequence which explains the meaning behind the bones in the title. Fascinating it may be, but not fascinating enough to justify how long it takes. Not that slowness is a crime in itself, but there often simply isn’t enough, visually or choreographically, to sustain real engagement. Indeed, early sequences are characterised by a choreographic looseness, with synchronicity best being understood in terms of broad strokes rather than exhibiting any refinement. The resulting whole generates a lot of energy, with human chains sweeping about the space. But if there’s a lot of wrestling, sweat and heavy breath, its lack of invention and often unfocused scattering of movement robs it of much of its power.

 

A series of duets shifts things from the collective to the individual and things improve for a time, even if focal points become even more scattered. Yet if the collective body is frequently less interesting than the individual bodies that comprise it, they too are often problematic. Individual movement sequences fight for attention, making the whole look too busy with too much going on, and often not enough of it visually or choreographically as interesting as it could be. Shapes and patterns are again often loose, driven by a wild, relentless energy, but it all dissipates quite quickly after a while. Indeed, at times the sense looms that, choreographically, ‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project,’ just threw itself together in any old thing rather than dressing itself up for the occasion.

 

Which is a pity, for there are some sublime moments, with Liv O’Donoghue being particularly engaging, consistently offering subtle motifs and movement patterns that provoke engagement. As does a kilt clad Philip Connaughton. A duet between Mikel Aristegui and Matthew Morris opens up a sexual conversation that draws you in with its humanity and intensity. Theo Clinkard’s t-shirt routine suggests imaginative promise, as does Bernadette Iglich’s work with a golden shroud. But the promise never quite arrives. For despite some terrific moments, as when the trolley tours the stage with all aboard, ‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project’ unimaginatively settles far too often for the easier option, such as wrestling on the floor or moving piles of speakers about.

 

If there’s an honesty to ‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project,’ an attempt to be raw, sexy and dirty in response to Roger Casement’s life and his life after life, it’s never quite raw, sexy or dirty enough. When the curtain’s finally raised, what’s revealed might sparkle, but its a dull sparkle and not all it might have been. You expected more. You know there’s more. So much more. There’s more than enough glimpses given in ‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project’ to testify to that.

 

‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project’ by Fearghus Ó Conchúir runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of Project 50 until October 22nd

 

For more information, visit Project Arts Centre

 

‘Butterflies and Bones: The Casement Project’ by Fearghus Ó Conchúir is part of the Arts Council’s ART: 2016 programme

 

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© 2016 Chris O'Rourke