A Small Slap
Should you find yourself perusing the Fringe programme and alighting upon “Patchwork” by Louis Deslis (page 83), you could be forgiven for thinking; 'Mon Dieu, here we go again. Another one person, semi-confessional, drunken odyssey through Dublin leading to some life changing realisation. It probably has an empty stage with some cheap looking lights. And uses a suitcase and a mobile phone for props.' And you would be absolutely right. And utterly wrong. For “Patchwork” is indeed a one person confessional that follows the same, predictable format. But if you're thinking 'merde,' you'll be screaming 'je t’aime' by the end of it.
A Parisian in Dublin playing at being a Parisian in Dublin, Deslis is as quietly conflicted as they come. An uneasy pink panther, showing far more panther than pink, Deslis is unsure of himself, his sexuality, his nationality, and Irish people. Especially the Irish language. On a night out with as stereotypical a group of Irish friends as you’re ever likely to meet, Deslis learns of the Bataclan attacks and everything goes into spiral. As observations mingle with recollections, Deslis frantically recalls childhood friends and enemies, and that special mon ami, who might well have been at the concert. Frantically seeking news, Deslis is forced to ask what does it mean to be French, or to be himself, and, by extension, what does it mean to be Irish?
As is often the case with one person performances, it’s rarely a journey so much as a personal encounter. And Deslis makes sure he’s someone you’ll want to spend time with. Under Tracy Martin's superlative direction, Deslis becomes a veritable tower of babel, alternating accents and languages with ease. All complimented by a rich, physical vocabulary articulating passion, space, and contradiction all in the same moment, making Deslis a joy to watch. If Katie Richardson’s music and sound risks overextending itself at times, Richardson pulls it back to the right side of just right, delivering exactly what's needed. Matthew McGowans onstage lights might indeed look cheap, but McGowan makes them look far more expensive, milking them for everything they're worth.
Even though “Patchwork” is smart, funny, and hugely insightful, it fizzles out rather than ends, having opened up several engaging pathways but only adequately resolving a few. Indeed, you might be no clearer on what Deslis really makes of the Irish, or on where it all goes from here, but there’s no denying “Patchwork's" tiny gesture of hope. One that reveals Deslis as a unique and engaging new voice showing some seriously impressive talent. A small slap that packs quite a punch, “Patchwork” is the perfect way to spend fifty afternoon minutes.
“Patchwork” by Louis Deslis, presented by Red Bear Productions, runs at the Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 on Sept 14, 19, 20, and 21.
For more information, visit Project Arts Centre or Dublin Fringe Festival 2019.