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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2018: After

After by Liv O'Donoghue. Image by Jason Byrne


The Space Between The Notes

The end of the world. The end of a relationship. The end of meaning. All this and so much more are explored in Liv O’Donoghue’s extraordinarily impressive “After.” A multi disciplinary work built loosely around the seven stages of grief, “After” engages with physical performance, film, theatre, and text to interrogate endings, the end of things, and the end of times.

Both a philosophical and psychological meditation, O’Donoghue’s eschatological investigation covers a lot of ground. On the surface it may seem like little more than a documentary filming of a theatrical performance, or its live streaming with accompanying images, but this deceptive simplicity conceals some wonderfully rich depths. Running alongside its theme of the end of days is an exploration of framing, and of the artist as frame maker. From the outset O'Donoghue, a sort of unmoved mover or director-God, hovers inconspicuously with her circling angel, cameraman José Miguel Jiménez, framing the end time experiences of couple Kip and Clara. Through text, images, and movements, a sort of stuttering vocabulary emerges that attempts to articulate, and provide commentary on, itself another framing device, their experiences. In doing so O’Donoghue frames and questions the act of communication itself, along with that of memory, exploring what's within and outside of the frame, the act of framing, as well as the limitless interpretive possibilities inherent in juxtaposition.

After by Liv O'Donoghue. Image by Jason Byrne

Indeed, juxtapositions provide the cornerstones of “After,” ideologically and theatrically. Past and present, love and loss, passion and banality all richly play off one another. As does the juxtaposition between what is seen on screen and what is seen in performance, what is thought and said with what is felt and shown. A clever device that often triggers fresh interpretations, especially when what is being said and shown is not as innovative or as interesting as it might have been. Images of melting polar ice caps as Sketter Davis sings The End of the World can border on the trite and predictable. Yet juxtaposed with bodies slinking into a depressive state and something intriguing happens. It’s as if O’Donoghue and cast have taken often familiar ideas, words, and images and rearranged them into something akin to a fresh melody. One in which, even if the notes are often familiar, what inhabits the space between the notes is raw, visceral, and cuts through like a razor blade. Made immediate and palpable by an impressive Kip Johnson and a sensational Clara Simpson in this meditative, and often durational feeling performance. One impressively supported by Sarah Jane Shiels' lighting design and Kevin Gleeson's music and sound design.

If the last stage in grief is acceptance, in “After” acceptance is informed by resignation rather than hope. Yet it’s a resignation tinged with humour. Just ask the dinosaurs. They can tell you a thing or two about extinction. Indeed, there’s some extremely interesting things going on in “After,” which has much to say about before, and during, as well as after. And about framing and juxtaposition. You don’t have to understand it all to enjoy it. For “After” triggers endless interpretations, and confirms O’Donoghue's reputation as a truly democratic artist.

“After” created and devised by Liv O’Donoghue in collaboration with the cast, runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until September 15.

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