Home is where the heart is. And hotels, like the five star Marker Hotel, want you to feel at home. But it’s the nature of hotels that they are places you pass through. Liminal spaces between here and elsewhere. Sometimes between your private and public selves. For some, they are places you get stuck in. In Ailís Ní Ríain’s “I Used To Feel” one woman’s hotel room becomes her mind made manifest. As are our inabilities to fully communicate in this thought provoking, site specific production.
Indeed, it all looks like Tracey Emin’s My Bed, except for looking far more staged. Here, on the fourth floor of The Marker Hotel, performer Alvean Jones lies on a double bed surrounded by empty pill packs, left overs from room service, crisp bags and a wine bottle. Your guide to her room informs you she hasn’t left the room for three days and the physical evidence would seem to support that. As Jones gradually begins to move a live clarinet, played by Kate Romano, performs a haunting composition by Ní Ríain. In what follows Jones channel hops through a series of distractions, her pills, a Christy Brown book, the TV, all the while breaking into sign language outbursts. Meanwhile, clarinetist Romano hovers nearby playing a superb call with no response. The contrast between the two performers couldn’t be more stark. Jones looks exhausted, weary, fed up, unaware of the clarinet and it’s playing. Romano, in her black dress and orchestral finery, looks elegant and firmly focused on Jones. Ní Ríain’s music could be articulating thoughts, offering a call from a ghostly or spiritual entity from beyond, articulating an unrelenting migraine, or incessant impulses. You’re never quite sure, even when Romano finally fades back into the darkness.
Wherein lies the strength of “I Used To Feel.” The inability to clearly communicate, reinforced by sign language which excludes those without the skill, opens up another space suggesting rich interpretative possibilities. Which are almost compromised by the outburst of one spoken word towards the end which seems to want to contextualise the experience. Lodge it and limit it within a specific given, losing much of “I Used To Feel’s” interpretive richness in the process. For “I Used To Feel” is at its suggestive best when it invites you to bring whatever baggage you have into the room and see what you might find there. For like Jones and the pain she obviously carries, you can check out anytime you like. But can you really leave?
“I Used To Feel” by Ailís Ní Ríain runs at The Marker Hotel as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until September 23.
For more information, visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2018